Driving away from Daddy’s house was so hard for me. I knew I’d never be welcomed back and he’d never trust me again. He felt I had betrayed him and his trust of me was gone forever. There was never any gray areas with Daddy. You were either on his side or not on his side. That saddened me. I loved Daddy and I needed him. OK, I wanted him. I wanted to have a parent. Why did this have to be my life? Had I done something so terribly wrong in another life to have deserved this? What lesson was I to learn over all of this pain I was feeling? It all didn’t make any sense to me. And even more so, why would my own father want to hurt me like he had done?
As the professor’s wife drove me to her home she graciously allowed me the time to sit quietly as I stayed deep in my thoughts. I was so hurt. I was angry beyond words. I wanted my Daddy. I wanted him to go to hell. So many emtions rushed in and out of my thoughts. What broke my heart more than anything was I knew from that point forward my father would see me as another one of his enemies. I knew what my fate was going to be when I left because I saw what he had done to so many others when they had no choice but to leave. He threw people away like they had no worth as he’d continue his life with no regards for who he left behind. He did it to his own mother, brothers, wife, his eldest daughter and countless friends. And here I was the next in line. Knowing that was my fate and I was going to be tossed out with the others devastated me. It was what I had been trying to prevent and there I sat along with the others so easily tossed away.
As I began to think what I was going to do next my thought was interrupted. The professor’s wife had pulled into her driveway and parked on a dirt path near the front door of her house. It was a two story wooden home that was painted white and built in the early 1900’s. Directly across the street from her home was an even older cemetery that was surrounded by a brick fence with a tall iron gate. Behind the old cemetery was the college I was attending which made my life so much easier since I didn’t have a car. It was so awesome to not have to get up two hours before a class because I had to catch the bus. Those days were over and I loved it.
She and I carried my luggage into the house through the front door. Oh my gosh, I will never forget her home. The pink living room was large with a wonderful fireplace and cool double doors that opened into a nice size screened in porch. Since the professor’s wife loved to go garaging every Saturday morning, her home reflected it. Her entire porch was stuffed with her many, many finds as was every room in her house. To the right was the dining room. Every flat surface in that room was covered with papers or odd finds from a garage sale. I could only tell that room was the dining room because of the chairs surrounding what appeared to be a long table. Even the buffet to it’s left was stacked with items. Next to the dining room was the best orange kitchen I had ever seen. The orange counter tops and the psychedelic orange floors clearly showed the last time that kitchen had been updated. And just like the other rooms all of the counter spaces were covered with a chaotic array of kitchen items and nicknacks of some sort. From the kitchen you entered into a little hallway with old green carpet that once I was assuming was shag. If you took a right and went down a few stairs you entered into the den which was converted from a porch. All three walls were filled with those old crank open windows which reminded me of my house in Atlanta. Back in the hallway if you walked forwards a couple of feet you reached the bathroom that I would be using. It too was a fabulous orange which included the same orange counter top as the kitchen and a wonderful orange toilet. As she showed me the bathroom she told me rule number one of the house. I was to take a shower before her husband and never flush the toilet while he was in the shower. She explained about the lack of water pressure and how angry that made him to lose his water pressure. Relieved to be in a safe place where I could attend school, I willingly promised to abide by all of the rules. However, in time their rules would become as controlling as Daddy and would eventually force me to find another place. But, for the time being it was perfect.
Back in the hallway you could go up about 6 stairs to a landing and where there was another room. It too used to be a porch. That was my room. It had a curtain that hung down from the top of the doorway. That was my door. One main reason there was no door was to be able to get the heat and air from the hallway since the room had no air vents. But, really the only way I would get heat and air was to leave my curtain totally open to allow the air in my room. But, I could only leave it open when I was home and in my room. If I wasn’t, I had to leave it closed. So during the hot months, my room was boiling and vise versa during the winter. Another reason I proposed was It would allow my room to be seen and assure the owners I was respecting their property. There again I would have slept in their living room if they had wanted me to, so these little things at first were not an issue for me.
If you were to walk back onto the landing there were another 6 stairs which went up to the owner’s bedroom and a spare bedroom. I didn’t go up there much at all since that was their space.
After the professor’s wife helped carry my bags to my room, she encouraged me to get some sleep and unpack in the morning. I would soon learn the professor’s wife would go to bed by 10:00 at night so the night she came to get me from Daddy’s was a long night for her. Once she was done explaining everything to me, it was almost midnight by the time she went to bed.
When she left and I was alone in my new room I kneeled on the floor, rested my head on the bed and cried about all that had happened that evening. Even though I truly had been on my own for years, it was now official. And oh my G-d was I scared. I had no real plan for myself and I literally had .50 cents in my pocket. What the hell was I going to do? No one had any obligation to me as their daughter. I wanted someone to be there for me and to love who I was unconditionally even when I did something they didn’t approve. This was my dawning moment that my own father was not the person I had created in my head. As sad as I was with that realization it was the first time I was angry at him. Dam-nit I was not going to fail. I refused to give my dad that pleasure. I promised to succeed in spite of my adversities. Listen, it wasn’t as if I had a choice. But, I do think in the back of my mind I had hoped that my dad would realize what he had done and would come for me. I just knew that was going to happen and sadly I had that hope for another 15 years.
When I first left Daddy’s house I was an incredibly shy person who jumped out of my skin at any sudden noise. One afternoon I was washing dishes at the professor and his wife’s house. I did whatever I could to help them out. So, if I saw dirty dishes in the sink, I washed them. Well, I didn’t realize the wife had walked into the kitchen. As I was washing a cup and looking out the kitchen window, I heard a voice come from behind me. Not expecting it I screamed loudly and jumped almost throwing the glass in my hand across the room. I never realized how jumpy I was until then. The professor’s wife apologized and laughed.
And as I was becoming closer to the family of the professor who I worked with in the Jewish youth group I began noticing how I had lost so much of my social skills because of the fears I had developed from Daddy’s abuse. Man, I had no idea I had been beaten down that far. I soon would start referring to that family as my adopted family as they would welcome me more and more into their lives.
While living where I was I found great solice in being with my adopted family. I was lonely at the professor and his wife’s house. They were cautious and kept me at arms length. On the other hand my adopted family invited me to eat with them most Shabbats and during most Jewish holidays. It meant the world to me to have them in my life as well as me having a place to go. By them opening their hearts and home, it allowed me the opportunity to witness how other parents didn’t insult their children nor did they hit them. In fact there were actual parents who got upset when their kid’s had NOT done their homework. My bit of sarcasm there.
I never understood why my adopted family was so kind to me. They without any reservations made me a part of their family. I was always amazed my adopted mom would call me if she had not heard from me in a while. I wasn’t used to being noticed or should I say not noticed. It felt so awkward to me. Often while at my adopted family’s home my adopted mom would be able to sense when something was wrong and would ask me. Do you know what that was like? Folks, it was weird to me. I felt I didn’t deserve it. I still believed I was stupid and a screw up, so why would someone care? But, there were parts of me that felt it was nice. I secretly liked it. Not knowing much about me she embraced me with all of my weirdnesses and put me in situations (even though it scared the living hell out of me to be spoken to by others) to help me become social again. She would use any community event to get me involved. For a while in the beginning being involved and meeting strangers sent me into a terrible panic. I will never forget when she once asked me to help her with a project at the local Jewish community center. Well, there was a woman there who I found out later was known for her very revealing shirts. The only way to explain her tops were they were basically drapes with a very low necklines. Because of it you couldn’t help but to look. It fascinated me on how she kept her boobs from popping out as it didn’t appear as if she wore a bra. Anyway, that lady was standing next to me one day. I felt awkward and nervous by the silence so I tried to make small talk. I couldn’t believe what I ended up saying. I was such an idiot. I was thinking it was good to start a conversation with saying I liked something she was wearing. Now listen, I did like the color of her shirt but was that what I said to her? Uh, no! Instead I said, “I like your shirt. It’s so revealing.” What was I thinking? Just open mouth and insert foot why didn’t I? Oy! She looked at me like I was crazy. And man that was not going to be the last time my mouth would embarrass me.
It was so wonderful to have this adopted family and a sense of sanity in my life. I didn’t have to worry about Daddy coming home and yelling at me if he was in a bad mood. I didn’t have to fear when he was going to shove me. And best of all I didn’t have to run as fast as I could the second he called my name. My life had peace in it. I learned how to laugh again. Once when I was over at my adopted family’s house the mom, two of her boys and I were playing a board game. The mom was trying to explain a rule to the older son who didn’t seem to understand what she was telling him. After she had explained it, she was looking for a response from her son letting him know he understood. When he didn’t say anything the mom said something like, ” Surely, you know what I’m saying.” And without missing a beat the older son said, “Shirley? What does Shirley have to do with this?” OK, so maybe you had to be there. But, we all laughed so hard we had tears in our eyes. Another time we were playing Pictionary and I was partnered with my adopted family’s father. I suppose that would make him my adopted father. I can’t even begin to tell you how nervous I was. That meant I’d have to interact with an adult which was so hard for me to do. I wasn’t used to him and I knew I was going to say something dumb. But, once the game started and we started trying to draw our subjects, all we did was laugh. To this day I will never forget those times and more importantly I will forever be grateful to my adopted mom for helping me get out of my shell and become a much better me. She saved my life and gave me the opportunity for a new one. Not only did she help me get away from Daddy, but she also gave me many wonderful and incredible gifts. I can’t possibly name them all but one was giving me the courage to live beyond my abuse even though I don’t think I ever told her about it. She lovingly accepted me with my quirks and all. She taught me a lot and gave me many new tools which have helped me in raising my own son.
The year I lived at the professor and his wife’s home it was a pivotal time for me. I was transitioning from the person I was to the person I would become. My adopted family was there every step of the way and I have a great story on one of the times they helped me. I was at the professor and his wife’s house alone while they were out of town. The house made all kinds of weird sounds that I hated especially when I was alone there. This one night I was downstairs in the den watching TV. Now as I mentioned before, the den was surrounded by windows. Well, I had fallen asleep while watching TV but was suddenly woken up to the doorbell ringing. After ringing the door bell, they tried the door handle to see if it was unlocked. Thank G-d it was. It was at least 2am. To say it scared the living shit out of me was an understatement. Of course, I had envisioned someone trying to break into the house and wanting to kill me. The fact that being by myself made me nervous as it was but then thinking someone was at the door that early in the morning threw me into a panic. Listen, at that time I was terrified of my own shadow, so it didn’t take much beyond that to terrify me. I was standing in the downstairs hallway when someone pounded on the windows in the den. Holy crap was I scared. I couldn’t get out of there fast enough. I could feel my heart racing. But, guess where I ran? I ran upstairs to the professor and his wife’s room because they had a lock on their door. OK, what do I always yell in those damn scary movies when the person runs upstairs? Yes, I yell, “DON’T GO UP THOSE STAIRS!” And what do I do? I run upstairs.
I locked the bedroom door and made a pallet on the floor. I tried to go back to sleep. I tried so hard to not think about who might be outside. But then the doorbell rang again. That’s when I called the police who arrived 20 minutes later to check things out. All they could see was someone had been there because the side gate was unlatched and left open. I knew the gate was closed because the professor was meticulous about leaving it closed. Well, that certainly didn’t make me feel any better. I was almost in tears I was so afraid. The policeman assured me he’d drive past the house through out the night to check on things. I would have loved for him to offer to park in front of the house all night. OK, yes, I even asked him if he would. He looked at me as if I was crazy to have asked such a question.
The policeman left and I ran back upstairs to their bedroom and locked the door. I tried again to go to sleep. I did pick up the phone once to call my adopted family but I didn’t want to disturb them so late at night and I stopped. But, once I heard a tree limb hit the window sill I couldn’t find the phone fast enough to dial their number. Meanwhile, it was 2:30 in the morning by this point. The father answered the phone and while he’s talking to me I was thinking, “Oh, please come and get me and let me stay with y’all.” Just as I thought that he offered to come get me so I could stay at their house. Well, then, I felt bad and told him I’d hate for him to do that so early in the morning. OK, so that was a stupid thing to have said. Here, I woke this person up in the middle of the night. What else was it I wanted him to do?
About 15 minutes later he arrived at my house to pick me up. I had locked myself in the professor and his wife’s bedroom. But, it was perfect their room over looked the front of the house. So, I looked out the window until I saw my adopted dad’s car pull up. That was when I grabbed my over night bag, opened the front door, locked it and ran as fast as I could to his car. As we were driving away the father smiled and said, “You know, I bet this wasn’t the smartest thing to do if someone was trying to break into their home. They could be watching and know now that you’ve left, they know nobody is home.” I didn’t care though. All I could think about was I was safe.
When I got to their house I went down stairs to sleep on their couch. The mom had already placed a set of sheets on there for me to use. As soon as my head hit the pillow I felt a sense of calmness and most of all I felt safe. The security I felt that early morning, I so longed for myself. I wanted to feel safe. It was how I used to feel when my mom was around. Just about to fall asleep I felt my adopted mom place a blanket over me. I quietly cried for the family I missed.
While living with the professor and his wife, I was learning to recognize my abuse and Daddy’s controlling behavior. Well, actually I was able to recognize it in others first before I could see it in my own father. But, it was a start. I was also trying to learn how to live without being controlled and abused. I know that sounds crazy but those were my norms. That was what I knew good or bad. OK, it was just plain bad but it was my way of life I had become accustomed to living. And sadly not having that obstacle in my way, I felt like a fish out of water. It was the weirdest, strangest and craziest thing. For a while there I’d even beat myself up to fill the void by hitting myself in the head and calling myself stupid when I couldn’t do something correctly. You know as I think about how I was I just can’t imagine how crazy I must have appeared to those who met me back then.
The other part of being on my own was I always wanted to please everyone around me and especially my adopted parents and the professor and his wife. I felt they were doing so much for me, I needed to return the kindness and do what I could to help them. After all, I had no money, but I could at the least offer to help them when they needed it. Listen, there was no doubt I should have reciprocated in some way but not to the extent of it becoming a detriment to my own obligations. But, I was so eager to pay them back as if I could have. I would have never said no to either of them. They had done so much for me.
Once my adopted mom asked me to meet her in a specific location at the college so I could take her son to the dentist. She made it clear where I was to meet her and the time I’d need to be there. She explained how tight the schedule would be and how important it was I meet her in the correct place. Here’s the thing. No matter what I did for my dad, I never did it correctly. As time went on and his anger and abuse increased I had become incredibly nervous about doing what he wanted correctly. In that nervousness I would end up messing up the task. So, when my adopted mom asked me to help her which I wanted to do, my insides were in knots. I knew I was a screw up and could never do anything right. Daddy made that clear to me for over 5 years of my life. And now someone who had helped me so much, it was crucial I didn’t screw it up. But, my nerves were getting the best of me, so guess what I did? Well, I ended up going to the wrong location to meet her. By the time I remembered and ran to the correct location, my adopted mother was so angry with me, she took her son to the dentist herself. I was crushed. I hated myself for screwing it up. Why couldn’t I do a simple fucking task? What was wrong with me? I was a fucking idiot that was what was wrong with me. And here was this wonderful person and her family who had done so much for me and I couldn’t even give something back to her. I beat myself up about that for months. I knew I was never going to see or hear from that family again. As I walked home that day I kept repeating to myself what an idiot I was. I had screwed it all up like I had always done. I was heartbroken and felt so bad . My adopted family trusted me and relied on me and I failed them. That was a heavy burden I put on myself. I could even hear my dad’s voice telling me what a loser I was and how what I had done was another reason why I’d amount to nothing. I cried and cried about it because I wanted nothing more than to show my adopted mom how I appreciated her and her family.
I was in shock when my adopted mom called me to ask me over for dinner. I couldn’t believe she wasn’t mad at me anymore. I couldn’t understand why. Daddy would have yelled at me, hit me and yelled some more. And then he would have not spoken to me for days. I was not used to being forgiven. And not only forgiven but she gave me other opportunities to redeem myself. And even though there were other times I screwed up, she continued to trust in me. Over time my fears lessened and my confidence rose. More importantly, I worked very hard to get rid of Daddy’s voice in my head where he was ridiculing me and calling me names.
As time passed Daddy started calling me at the professor and his wife’s house. I was nervous to talk to him. The professor’s wife tried to tell me I had a choice to not talk to him which was so hard for me to understand. He was my father. I felt because of that I didn’t have a choice. If the professor’s wife was home when I was talking to Daddy and if Daddy started screaming at me, she’d tell me to nicely say,” I refuse to be treated this way, so I am going to hang up. When you calm down, only then will I talk to you.” I could do it with her support but when she wasn’t there I endured a lot of Daddy’s screaming sessions. I just really wanted his love and kept trying over and over again. Here’s the other part of it. I hated Daddy for what he had done to me but I wasn’t ready for anyone else to hate him. My goal was not to bad mouth him or to do anything that would possibly jeopardize his law practice. In many ways I felt the need to protect him and I continued to for many more years. However, I had taken my first step of finally living away from him. As a result I was learning to acknowledge I was living on my own and I was gaining the confidence to do it. That was a lot for me initially considering what it finally took for me to leave. Listen, I know it was difficult for those folks around me who cared and couldn’t understand why I couldn’t just walk away. But, only now have I begun to tell my full story. There were so many factors and fears. There was noway I could have ‘just walked away’. I had to get to that point on my own. Leaving Daddy and no longer allowing him to physically abuse me anymore was my first and oh so HUGE step that I made. My next step I’d have to make would be to stop allowing Daddy to verbally abuse me. And as you will see, that too was a process which would bring me great pain, relief and strength beyond what I ever knew I had.