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My Abusive Father (chapter 10, the most difficult yet)


After we returned from our day trip to Atlanta Daddy was hyper focused on me “getting rid” of Elspeth.  As time passed and I continued to refuse to find a new home for her, Daddy started threatening me with taking her to the pound. I wanted to take Elspeth and run away. I’d go to bed at night thinking about where I could go. But, I knew that wasn’t realistic. Listen, I was barely 17 and I didn’t know anyone in my town to ask if they wanted a dog. Plus, how cruel for Daddy to not only take her away but to make it my responsibility to give her to someone. I just couldn’t do it. Why was Daddy taking away what I loved most? This was a breaking point for me as I saw Elspeth as my last connection to Momma and soon both would be gone forever. I hated Daddy for doing that to me.

There were many times Daddy had threatened to take our dogs away especially when we weren’t behaving the way he thought we should. I had hoped this was just another one of those times and in a few days he’d be onto his next obsession. However, he was serious this time and made sure every single day he was home to remind me. I was afraid to go to school because I thought Daddy was going to take her to the pound while I was gone. And even though he threatened, he never did. I guess Daddy had some kind of compassion. He did make my life a living hell until a home for Elspeth was found. Daddy was incredibly talented that way.

One morning as I was in the bathroom getting ready for school Daddy kept yelling for me. He wanted to see me about something and he needed to see me immediately. But, he always needed me immediately, so why was this time any different? Also, I knew he was just going to pester me about finding a home for Elspeth which certainly was not an immediate issue.  I needed to get ready for school and I was going to be late if I didn’t hurry. I hollered back at him that I was coming once I finished getting dresses. Well, how do I say this? That was just plain dumb of me. What the fuck was I thinking? It was a steadfast rule to NEVER holler back at Daddy and certainly NEVER was it acceptable to keep him waiting. So, to say he hit the roof as a result of my response was an understatement.

I had no idea where Daddy was in the house when he called for me but with in seconds of me answering him, he broke open my bathroom door and started screaming. I had just gotten out of the shower and had a towel wrapped around me. When I heard the door crack and slam open, I couldn’t imagine what was happening. I just screamed in fear until I saw it was Daddy. I couldn’t believe he was so angry with me. He told me how dare I sass him (i.e hollering back at him) and how dare I keep him waiting. I started  to tell him I wasn’t dressed and just needed to get dressed. He didn’t like my response and pushed me into the vanity. I fell back into the corner of the counter, lost my balance and fell backwards with me falling to the floor and my hand falling in the toilet. Honestly, my first thought was thank G-d I had flushed. Not wanting Daddy to hit me while I was down, I got up as quickly as I could.  I stood as talk as I could and got into his face. Angry, I waved my arms and yelled, “What the hell was that for?” I suppose he thought I was going to hit him when I was talking with my hands because he ducked. I laughed and told him to not worry because I wasn’t going to hit him. He pointed to the hallway and told me to get the hell out of the bathroom. I walked slowly into the hallway all the while keeping eye contact with him. While in the hallway wrapped in my towel would you believe we stood there in silence just staring at each other for a good 15 minutes?  Finally, I told him I needed to get to school. He pointed his finger at me and said, “Oh no missy! You don’t tell me what to do!” I told him I wasn’t. I was just saying I needed to get to school. He started yelling that because of my attitude he was going to dumb Elspeth somewhere himself while I was at school. I yelled, “So you mean to tell me you’re going to punish a poor helpless dog because of something I did? Oh, that’s smart!” Yes, I know. I realized right after that slipped out of my mouth that I had in essence called Daddy stupid. You know how in a cartoon when a character is running then suddenly they realize they’ve run right off of the cliff? And they look at the viewer and go, “Uh oh” right before they fall?  Well, that’s exactly how I had felt. But, instead of retaliation Daddy told me to get the hell out of his sight and get dressed. I knew that meant something from him would come later but I needed to hurry to get to school.

I got dressed in record time and went downstairs to grab breakfast on the way out. If I left right then I would just make it in time for school. However, guess who was waiting for me in the kitchen? Nope, not my knight in shining armor by any means that’s for sure. Yep, it was Daddy and he had reloaded and was ready to attack me some more. I thought he was going to continue with the argument from earlier but instead he was pissed I didn’t wash the dishes before putting them in the dishwasher. He held up a plate to show me it was dirty. However, he didn’t say it was dirty. He simply held up the plate and asked me what was wrong with it. I actually thought maybe it was cracked but when I looked I didn’t see anything wrong. He told me to get closer since I couldn’t see. I still didn’t see so I asked him what was wrong with the plate? Daddy felt I was being stupid and shoved the plate closer and closer to me until it was in my face. With the plate shoved up against my face he said, “Now do you see it? Now can you see the crap you left on the plate?” I started crying and told him I needed to get to school. He told me I didn’t deserve to take the car to school because of my attitude. I told him I had already missed the school bus. Daddy didn’t give a shit and said, “Sounds like you have a fucking problem.” I asked him if he would take me. He laughed and said, “Oh, you’re good. You talk to me the way you do and take advantage of me. All you do MaLea, is hurt me and then you expect me to do things for you. I can’t even begin to explain the pain I’m feeling because of you. You’re going to have to find your own way out of this one. Like hell am I giving you a ride!”

The rage and the hurt I was feeling was indescribable. I knew I hadn’t caused this situation even though like usual I felt guilty it had escalated this far. What seemed to always baffle me the most was how Daddy could instigate and be the cause of a situation but then take on the emotions of the one he was hurting. How in the hell was I taking advantage of him? Was he not doing that to me? And it was my attitude? What about his out of control behavior? How dare he take claim to my pain!  There was nothing I could say to him. I grabbed my things and I ran out of the house. I was hoping a neighbor would be home and able to take me to school. After going to two neighbors the third one was able to take me. But just in my “MaLea’s gotta hide everything that was happening” way, I sucked my emotions deep into my gut and pretended nothing was wrong. After all as much as I hated school it still was 7 hours of peace for me.

Listen, I had felt sorry for Elspeth having to also live with all of that tension in our house. She was home alone all day and when Daddy was home the yelling was so intense it usually sent her under a table with her tail between her legs. It wasn’t a good environment for her and she didn’t deserve it. But, I was a teenager who saw this dog as my rock. She was the reason I didn’t want to kill myself. To me she somehow lessened my pain of Momma dying and the abuse of my dad. She sat next to me while I cried and licked my tears away. And she lied with me when I was afraid. I know I grew into an increasingly angry person and I am not proud to say I used Elspeth to let out that anger at times. However, all she did was love me and my entire package whether good or bad. She made me feel appreciated and valued. And the thought of Elspeth being taken away meant I’d no longer be valued, appreciated and loved for who I was. Instead, I’d be ostracized, called names and be penalized for who I was. The thought of not having those moments with my dog to take me away from the other was really painful.

As Daddy was threatening me more and more to get rid of Elspeth, my sister came to the rescue. Of course I didn’t think so at the time because all I could see was my beloved dog was being taken away. My sister called me one afternoon when I got home from school. She tried to explain to me there was no way to change Daddy’s mind so it would be better for us to find her a home where we would know she’d be happy. But, I could only hear Elspeth was being taken away from me which wasn’t what I wanted.  I did not want to hear anything about her going away. No matter how hard I fought against it, there wasn’t anything I could do to keep her.

One afternoon my sister called to tell me she found a home for Elspeth. It felt like the worst day of my life. My sister kept reassuring me that it was the best for everyone. I wanted to scream, “But it’s not the best for me! What about me!? Doesn’t anyone see me?” My sister told me the gentleman wanted to meet Elspeth that coming Saturday and would take her that day if he liked her. I had no choice but to agree.

That week went by far too quickly. It was Friday night before I knew it and possibly my last night with Elspeth. Daddy was home to make sure I didn’t screw up anything and would actually make the exchange. Daddy tried talking to me but I ignored him. I didn’t want to be around him and spent my Friday night in my room with Elspeth. It truly was the one time he allowed me that time alone. I didn’t sleep the entire night. I just laid in bed holding Elspeth and telling her how much I loved her. I told her I was sorry and hoped she’d forgive me for giving her away.  The night didn’t last long enough and morning came way too soon. The gentleman was coming early and while I was waiting for him to arrive I sat on the stairs holding Elspeth and kissing her. I didn’t want to let her go. Daddy walked by a couple of times but thankfully didn’t say a word. I was so angry at him and if my eyes could shoot daggers, they would have.

Around 9am a young looking gentleman walked up to our front door and rang the doorbell. I stayed sitting on the stairs holding Elspeth. Daddy hollered from the kitchen for me to answer the door. I didn’t move nor did I answer him. After the gentleman rang the doorbell again Daddy didn’t say a word to me and went to answer the door.

The gentleman was in his late 20’s. He looked like a nice guy. As soon as Elspeth saw him, all she wanted to do was to greet him. I wanted her to stay with me so I continued to hold her. Daddy told me to let her go. I did. She ran down the stairs and as the gentleman squatted down to her level, she jumped up on him giving him lots of kisses. Elspeth was so excited she ended up pushing the guy to the floor. The more he laughed  the more kisses she gave him. There was no doubt in my mind at that point that I was looking at her next owner.

Daddy moved Elspeth off the guy and helped him up. Then he began asking him a series of questions. “You aren’t  planning on keeping her outside are you?” and “How do you discipline your dogs?” and “What vet do you use?”  Oh, yeah, now he cared? Just the other day he was going to take her to the pound. I was raging mad and all I wanted  to do was throw my dad across the room. Daddy interrupted my thought and told me it was time to say goodbye. I gave Elspeth one last kiss and hug as the guy told me I could visit her anytime. I couldn’t watch Elspeth leave. Daddy tried to comfort me but there wasn’t anything he could do except bring Elspeth back.

I visited Elspeth at her new home a couple of times.  They called her, Elsie, and she was happy. She had a nice yard to run around and she had a wonderful place to sleep in the house. She seemed comfortable and most of all, loved. The last time I saw her the owner had to call her to come to me. She was sleeping and preferred to stay asleep. I was surprised when she seemed to not recognize me. I realized visiting her would be too hard for me, so I never saw her again.

Literally days after giving Elspeth away, Daddy told me he needed to talk to me. Holy shit, what now? Could he possibly take anything else away from me? Could he possibly take away anything else that gave me security? Well, G-d dammit, he could. He told me his finances were really bad and he couldn’t afford to have an office and home. So, he had the brilliant idea of moving to a nearby town where he had his office. He felt the place was large enough to use one of the rooms as his living quarters. However, the catch was there wasn’t enough room for me. OK, so what the fuck was I supposed to do my loving and dear father? I’m so happy you made sure you had a roof over your head. He then told me we had to be out of our house by June 1st which was only in two months. And guess who was responsible for packing everything? You got it. That would be me because of course Daddy had to work. But don’t worry, Daddy got his due in the way in which I packed. On each box I packed I labeled it from the room it came. So, if I put a whole bunch of dishes in a box, I wrote  “kitchen” on the box. Listen, I didn’t know what I was doing and was by no means the organized type. And on top of that I just wanted it done. However, secretly, I loved when Daddy got frustrated when he couldn’t find his stuff. I may have written the room on the box but what the hell was in the box was anyone’s guess. Ha! ha! That was for me to know and for Daddy to find out. Passive aggressive? Who me?

Anyway, where was I going to live? It was nice of Daddy to think of me. So now that Elspeth was gone, he could get rid of me? Could he have made it any clearer he wanted me gone? I just wanted to be a part of a family who loved me unconditionally. Why couldn’t I have that? I often dreamed of being in one of those families.

Daddy told me I’d needed to think about a solution on how I could stay in the same town so I could graduate with my friends. Honestly, did I even have a choice? He clearly had no room for me. Hell, if I lived with him I’d have to sleep in his bed which I was not going to do. G-d help Daddy if he ever had to be responsible for his own family. He always put it on someone else and well, I was his convenient choice. School should have been my priority. It was when Momma was alive. But not with Daddy. You know what my responsibility was with him? My responsibility was to “help” him with any and all things so he could freely go fucking around. Point in case, I not only had to pack up the house but also figure out where I was going to live. Oh yeah and there was that little itty bitty thing called SCHOOL! And by the way Daddy wasn’t going to give me any money for rent to live during my senior year, so I had to think outside of the box. And I really had to HOPE TO G-D someone had the compassion to help me.

The next few weeks after giving Elspeth away were really the hardest of my life. I went to school crying many of the days. I was scared. The feeling of being alone and responsible for only myself was incredibly overwhelming. What was I going to do? How in the fucking hell was I going to find a place to live with no money? What did I know about finding a place? Listen, I HATED crying in front of people so going to school and not having the control to stop crying was the worst thing ever for me. A few of my friends were concerned and asked what was wrong.  I told them my problem. One of them suggested I see if there’s a student at  our school who’s parents would allow me to live with them for my senior year. It was a great idea but who in the world would agree to have me stay in their home for an entire year? That just seemed so unrealistic.

Getting closer to summertime my sister suggested working at a Jewish camp for the summer. I felt overwhelmed as I knew I couldn’t take on one more task. If I had known which camp and had known what to do, I might have been more inclined. But, my priority was to find a place to live the next year. Oh yeah, and I had to pack up our house. I just can’t even begin to explain the emotions I had built up inside. Even to say I was scared was an understatement. I felt I couldn’t rely on anyone and was in such an incredibly lonely place. That was a terrible gift Daddy gave me. He fed me lies for years and gave me that insecurity to trust no one, not even family.  I think the only reason I kept going instead of just killing myself was because I did have this drive to somehow prove Daddy wrong. No matter how often he kicked me down, I seemed to always hold onto this push to keep going. Even if I was on all fours, I kept moving forward. To this day especially as I reflect on what happened to me I don’t know how I did it. I was so young and did not deserve the cards I was dealt. But, it was what it was.

My happiest day was when a family had offered for me to live with them for my Senior year. In fact they lived just down the street from me and their daughter who was also going to be a senior was such a sweet person. Their offer really gave me hope in others. Listen, living with Daddy was like living under a dark cloud. He saw everyone as the enemy and uncaring. So, that was how I learned to view the world too. And then their were these strangers who were willing to help. I was overjoyed.

By mid June (later than he wanted) our house was completely empty and Daddy had moved into his office in the nearby town. I wasn’t ready to say goodbye to the last house Momma had known and I wanted to stay there a couple of more days. And since we/I had two days before returning the key, I was elated Daddy gave me permission to be able to stay in the empty house for that time. A friend stayed with me and we slept on sleeping bags in the living room. I spent time walking around the empty house remembering the good things that happened and I took a mental picture of each.

When my two days of saying goodbye were at an end and it was time for me to leave another chapter of my life. I walked through the house one last time thinking I’d find a left behind item of Momma’s I could take. All the rooms were empty though and only my memories could fill them.  The last room I said goodbye to was our library. It was a room Momma loved. Books for her were a sign of richness as she felt reading gave a person a great wealth of knowledge. However, that wasn’t the memory of that room I would keep so close to me. It would be another one that became so poignant when I got older.

I stood in the middle of the room and started to remember that day. It was a few days before Momma went into the hospital (where she stayed until her death). She asked me to help her walk to our spare bedroom which was our library. The tumor on her spine was making it very difficult for her to move her legs. As I was helping her by holding her arm, I asked what she needed. She said she wanted to show me something. I helped her sit on the couch. Her face grimaced from the pain but she never complained. She asked me to get the family photos because she wanted to show them to me. I was surprised because Momma never did this with me. Well, at least not so formally. Starting with the first album we went page by page as she told me about each relative. She shared many stories that I had not heard. I was confused by her sudden need to tell me things I wouldn’t remember later, but it seemed important to her. See, Momma never told me the seriousness of her illness. I did not know she was dying. Even though I didn’t know, I could feel my time with her was fleeting. Only later did I realize it was the last time Momma and I would talk and the last time we smiled together.



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Posted by on September 7, 2011 in abusive fathers


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My Abusive Father(chapter 9)

Momma and Elspeth. Momma was gone one year later.

Around February of 1987 Daddy started talking about wanting to move back to Atlanta. My parents had lived there during the sixties until we left in 1981. My sister and I were born there and liked living in a bigger city. At that time it certainly wasn’t as big as it had become as it still had a small town feel.

Listen, when my parents wanted to leave Atlanta, their decision seemed sudden. So, I shouldn’t have been surprised when without warning Daddy said he wanted to move back to Atlanta. It was why he wanted to move back that baffled me. I was eleven when we first left and moved to a very small town further South. My parents said we needed to move because it would allow us to have more quality family time since Momma’s cancer wasn’t going away. But, that was the cover up. The real reason was Daddy owed a lot of people money and he needed to get out of town and fast. So, for him to tell me he needed to move back to Atlanta didn’t make any sense in regards to his law practice. There were enough people in his circuit who were still living there who would have remembered Daddy. Having thought it through I just knew it had to be because of a woman or two or possibly three. But, hey, I didn’t care if he moved to Atlanta. That would mean he’d be far from me and I could possibly have some level of peace in my life.  However, it wasn’t my luck and he had wanted me to move to Atlanta with him.

Here’s the thing. Daddy never could pull off any of his ideas and I knew that fact. However, I couldn’t take the chance that this time could be different because the last thing I wanted to do was to move with him.  The possibility scared the hell out of me. I was going to be a senior and I had great friends. I knew my school and had teachers I trusted. I was NOT going to move to Atlanta with Daddy. That would have meant he’d be home more often. And home more often equalled having to endure more of his wrath. I knew I had to do whatever I could to get out of moving with him. I just had to come up with a plan and one that would benefit him so he’d agree. I just had to think hard and think fast for an idea.

As Daddy spoke about moving to Atlanta more and more, I got angrier and angrier telling him I didn’t want to go. I told him I wanted to graduate with my friends. He didn’t care. He tried to tell me how wonderful it would be in Atlanta because there was more opportunity for him to be able to afford more things for me. At 17 years old I was very accustomed to Daddy’s dreams. He always had these quick plans and made promises for a better life. I knew this time was no different. The more he pushed on this issue, the more I pushed back. And because I never relented on voicing my opinion about moving,  I paid a high price for it. In many ways though I knew it couldn’t have been any worse than my life had already been.

It was sometime in the Spring of 1987 when Daddy came home one day to tell me we needed to visit Atlanta to start looking for places to live and to look at schools for me. I just kept telling him the same thing over and over again. I did NOT want to move to Atlanta. He ignored me and told me he had already made plans for us to go to Atlanta the very next day. He had called an apartment building to make an appointment for us see one of their flats  and he called a school for us to tour. So, I had no choice in the matter and he was done talking about it.

I was so upset  because there was a special event happening at school that same day and I had paid my own money to attend it.  But, I knew Daddy wouldn’t care about that because it wasn’t his money he wasted. So, I told him I had school the next day. Listen, when it came to my dad I really wasn’t sure he knew I had to go to school Monday through Friday. When it came to Daddy, who knew what he knew and didn’t know. And remember when it came to my dad, he came first.  So, me having school was irrelevant to him. And sure enough when I told him I had school the next day, Daddy looked at me and said, “I don’t give a shit. This is about our future and you aren’t going to ruin it for me. This is when we’re going and I’m done discussing it.”

OUR future my ass! It was about his future and I had to go for a reason that benefited him. But, once again, I couldn’t figure out what he was scheming. And why in the fuck would his future be ruined if I went to school instead of with him? Why was it so important I keep him company on a day trip. Who was the grown up?

How insensitive of me to think school was supposed to be about my future! Oh, gosh, how easy it is to forget that it was never about me. MaLea, you idiot! It is NEVER about your future. You are a nothing but a cheap pawn to be used to advance Daddy. Can’t you get it into your forgetful and stupid mind? Why fight it so much? If I had only accepted Daddy’s ways and helped him achieve his goals, then maybe my life would have been easier. But that was a risk. Would they have been easier or better? Probably not and I would have been so unhappy.

I was so angry with Daddy and more than I had ever been in the past. When did he make these appointments? Why didn’t he give me the common courtesy to let me know more than the day before? My brain hurt from all of Daddy’s sudden plans and sudden changes. I felt as if I was falling out of a plane with the land underneath me being moved farther and farther away. At times the ground would be in my reach but quickly move farther away again.  The madness of falling without the ground  putting an end to it made me begging for the ground to appear even if it meant it would have killed me. In that same way my life was pure unadulterated torture and I just wanted the hell to come to an end at whatever cost.

Now I have to explain something. When Daddy got angry with me I wasn’t allowed to go sit in my room unless he gave me permission. So, that meant I had to sit with him in the den while he watched TV even if I was upset. I was never allowed my own space when Daddy was home and I always felt trapped with no place I could escape. It was the worst feeling and there wasn’t anything I could do about it.

After Daddy told me I had no choice and he was done discussing moving to Atlanta, he went into the den to watch TV. Not able to go to my room I had no choice but to join him. While sitting on the couch and pretending to watch what he was watching on TV it dawned on me Daddy had not said what school we were going to tour the next day. I got suspicious. There was no telling what he had in his head at the moment he made the appointment. It was remarkable how easily swayed he was by his women and usually anything Daddy did was the result of what one of his girlfriends said. And G-d help us all if one of his girlfriends challenged him because that was a huge motivating factor.

I knew I had to be careful how I asked Daddy. Plus, he was busy watching TV which was a major no no to interrupt him at that time. See, a long standing rule was as long as his show was on, I wasn’t allowed to make a sound of any kind. Let’s say I had a glass and if he thought I set it on the coffee table too loudly, oy would he would get angry.

During a commercial I asked him the name of the school we were going to tour. He ignored me. I asked again and pretending to be interested in the commercial he suggested I wait to see when we got there. I wasn’t satisfied and I pushed him to give me the name. Finally, he told me and got hopping mad! OK, I went down right ballistic. I was furious and couldn’t believe he was choosing a school that went against every part of my upbringing. What the hell was he doing?

The school he wanted me to attend was the Yeshiva (an Orthodox, Jewish school). The fact that he and Momma had raised me to want more out of my Judaism than the customary women specific roles, I couldn’t believe he wanted me to go to a Yeshiva where I would have had to abide by their traditional ways. Did I get beamed into a different family because that was not the philosophy I was taught? What the hell?

I know what I am about to suggest sounds crazy but come on. You see who I had to deal with. But, I absolutely felt Daddy chose the Yeshiva as a result to an argument he had with a one of his girlfriends. See, he rarely dated Jewish women and usually he dated women who were very Conservative Christians. Because he’d claim he was strong and knowledgeable in his religion (which was a joke) he’d constantly harass and degrade his girlfriend’s on their religious beliefs. I had a feeling he had probably gotten into an argument with one of them by telling them how bad their religion was. They in turn challenged him because they knew he never went to Synagogue. Well, like hell was he going to increase his attendance to Synagogue so in his unique mind he figured sending me to a Yeshiva would show his girlfriend who was right. Listen, I could never rule out the most outrageous ideas when it came to my Dad and because of his outrageousness, it was better sometimes to never know why.

Here’s the thing. Whether Daddy fully agreed or not with how Momma raised me Jewishly,  still was a visible supporter giving me very solid roots in the Jewish Conservative Movement. When my sister (who’s 7 years older than me) was an early teenager the Conservative Synagogues around the country where just starting to allow girls to have bat mitzvah’s where they could read from the Torah and women were beginning to have the same responsibilities as the men in the Synagogue. So by the time I started Hebrew school, there was never any doubt I would have the same responsibilities as my male counterparts did. I could stand on the bimah while the Torah was open, even read from the Torah, wear a kippah (skull cap worn in Synagoue), a Tallis (a prayer shawl worn during certain services) and tefillin (worn on the head and wrapped around the arm and worn at certain times too) and best of all be counted in a minyan (for a full service to take place there must be at least 10 men present in Orthodoxy. If there isn’t a minyan certain important prayers cannot be recited. ) At any rate all traditions once reserved only for men, the Conservative and Reform movements allowed equal duties to the women.

In Jewish orthodoxy which was the belief of the Yeshiva school Daddy wanted me to attend in Atlanta I would not have been able to do any of those customs I was used to doing. From my perspective I proudly earned being allowed to do those customs through my many years of studying. Daddy sending me to a school which wouldn’t allow it, he was taking away my own rights as a Jew. And because the yeshiva which rightfully reflected the Orthodox teachings had separate required roles for the men and women, I felt all that I had proudly earned was going to be unfairly taken away simply because I was a girl. On top of all of that Daddy had always told me he had disagreed with the Orthodox belief of the separation of the men and women roles. Why was he taking on another  belief? I tried to figure out Daddy’s crazy ways but I should have known better. There was just no way to do it. His decisions and thoughts were dependent on many factors. That being his mood of the day, who he had spoken to who impressed him, who he wanted to impress and last but certainly not least which way the wind blew. With so many inconclusive variables there was never a way to know what he was going to do or suggest at any given time.

The morning we had to leave for our day trip to Atlanta Daddy woke me very early in the morning. And when he did I was shocked he was already dressed and ready to go. There was never a time I could remember when he finished his morning routine so quickly. In fact he barely allowed me time to get dressed and eat breakfast. Oh, G-d Dammit! Why me?

During our 3 1/2 hour trip Daddy tried to convince me how wonderful it would be to live in Atlanta. However, instead of talking about a definitive plan he made, he spoke more about the dreams he hoped would come true. Listen, parts of me really wanted to believe his over the top dreams. I thought if at least one of them came true then maybe he would be happy and get off my fucking back. But there again, I wasn’t too sure Daddy could live life without creating chaos and arguing with everyone. It seemed to be his foundation. As he spoke about what he hoped to happen by moving to Atlanta I just kept quiet and began thinking how in the hell was he going to afford moving if “we” didn’t have money. I had money in my savings account but I needed it to buy my school supplies and food. I knew I couldn’t afford to offer it to Daddy or I’d be really trapped. The thought of having no money and solely relying on him scared the absolute shit out of me. But, I could tell Daddy was hoping I’d offer. I hated myself for not offering.

Finally, we arrived in Atlanta. He told me he needed to first visit someone he knew and he really needed to get there. That was never good. See Daddy had a very bad habit of visiting people who were professionals and were very busy at work. He usually never told them he was coming so by no means did he ever have an appointment. His excuse was always he had urgent business in the area and there was no time to call. And because of his pushiness,  I mean persistence, he expected to be seen which wasn’t always  possible. But, those people always knew why Daddy was there. They knew because he was so translucent. He only went on social calls when he needed a job and money. Daddy never invested himself in friendships nor could he see how developing a friendship would help. Daddy never invested in any relationship but he expected others to want to invest in him. He never understood why no one would. He’d only say that he was the only sane person in a world of crazies. G-d forbid he recognized it was him who was crazy. I just don’t understand how he could justify the entire world was crazy except for him. That’s just not normal. But even though I continued to think in my head the kind of person Daddy was, my heart was always pulled to wanting to please him. I hated the conflict between knowing he was an abuser and then simply wanting to make him happy. It was a constant struggle which kept me paralyzed from being able to walk away from him for many years to come.

Just as we hit Atlanta we hit traffic on one of the major highways.  Daddy had become increasingly agitated. He started swerving in and out of the traffic nearly hitting one car after another. I held onto the dashboard and told him to calm down. He told me to shut the fuck up because he knew exactly what he was doing. When I told him he was scaring me, he yelled I hadn’t seen nothing yet. Daddy was in the far left lane when he quickly started switching lanes heading to the right like a maniac. He needed to get through 5 lanes of pure traffic so he could get off at the next exit. I was terrified and wasn’t ready to die or even worse to be severely injured. Here’s another bit of information about Daddy. He didn’t believe in seat belts. He felt they caused more injuries than an accident so, he would never allow me to wear one. This was why when he was switching lanes my body was being thrown left and right. I held onto the car door with my right hand and the arm rest with my left hand the best I could to keep from possibly hitting my head on the passenger car window. After all I knew what it was like to be pushed into the car window. I didn’t want to know the force of hitting it from an accident. The only solution I had was to hold on, close my eyes and hope for the best. Each lane Daddy forced his way into caused another rash of horns to go off. It felt like an eternity but he did make it to the exit he needed. And when he did he looked at me with a conniving smile and said, “And you had the absolute nerve to doubt me?” He then yelled back at the cars on the highway, “You mother fuckers! You all go to hell!” as he drove off the exit ramp. I yelled at him to stop it and to take it easy. There was a scary evilness to him that I couldn’t understand. I just wanted him to stop driving so wild and to relax. But of course my suggestion just set him off more and he yelled back how dare I tell him what to do. For the next 30 minutes Daddy remained irate and yelled at me until we arrived at the office of the first person he needed to see. Gosh, I can still see to this day his face when he was angry. His eyes were seriously bulging out from the sockets and they’d get very intense. The way he’d look at me was scary and always made me feel he could explode at any moment.

Daddy parked the car and got out. He opened the back car door and took out his suit jacket. After he put it on he started checking his pockets and briefcase for all of his needed supplies before slamming the car door. He never said a word to me and walked into the office building. As usual I had to wait in the car. And because he was mad at me he didn’t leave me the keys to be able to roll down the windows. At least it wasn’t too hot but it was still a little warm. I’d open the car door ever now and then to cool off. I did that  for 2 hours when he finally came back. The wait was excruciating for me. I hated to sit and do nothing. Life with Daddy was a total waste of time and it made me want to scream with aggravation.

When he returned to the car he was no longer mad at me but that wasn’t always a relief because as long as he was mad, I was his target. This time though he was angry at the person he had come to meet in the office building. From what I gathered from what Daddy was yelling was the guy would’t see him because he didn’t have an appointment. The weird part was he was in there for two fucking hours! It took Daddy that long to figure out the guy wasn’t going to meet with him? I had guessed by how mad Daddy was this was the person he was relying on to help him get work once he moved to Atlanta. You know, it drove me nuts because he always had all of his eggs in one basket. The sad part about that was Daddy had such a way with people (and usually not good), he was lucky to have that one basket.

As we drove to our next destination in Atlanta I had to listen to Daddy rant about his financial problems. Those were the times I felt guilty and thought I should have offered my own money. However, there was always something that held me back from offering. Regardless, I felt guilty I couldn’t take care of him. I know it’s warped! Daddy was the parent, the adult. It was his responsibility but even understanding that I couldn’t get rid of my guilt.

Our next stop was the tour of an apartment. Just before we got there, Daddy’s attitude changed. He started to get happy. Can you see how crazy a person could get in Daddy’s presence? He was like a yo yo and it was anyone’s guess if he was going to be up or down.  When his mood was on the up, he said, “You know Perkison (a nickname my family used to call me and a name Daddy rarely used after Momma died), it will all work out. What’s happening to us is bashert (meant to be) and we can’t change the path it wants us to take. Sometimes it is a hell of a ride and we just have to hold on.”

When we pulled up to the apartments, I was really baffled that Daddy was willing to live in a flat. Let’s just say he wasn’t exactly the perfect fit for communal style living but what did I know. The apartment we toured was neat. It was in the 60’s style I loved but wholly shit was it small. It was two bedrooms and one bathroom. Typically that would have been fine for two people but not for us two people who pretty much disliked one another. OK we hated being under the same roof with one another and then to live in small living quarters on top of that? Were you kidding me?  That would be a resounding, hell no!

Daddy seemed pleased with the apartment. I had assumed it was all he could afford. And the fact he was always obsessed with image, he felt he had to live in a certain part of town. However, my dad’s perception of what was considered to be a fine area to live was not usually what was considered fine by others especially by the very folks he was trying to impress. While heading to our next stop Daddy was getting excited about being in Atlanta. It seemed so crazy to me because he had no real plan. All he had was a hope and a dream with nothing to back it up. It really was sad because time and time again he just kept setting himself up for failure.

We stopped for lunch before heading to the Yeshiva for a tour. Because I was wearing shorts Daddy told me I needed to change into a skirt. Um, what skirt did he propose I change into as I didn’t know to bring one. He never said I needed to dress a certain way? If he had, ok, I would have been pissed but I would have just worn a skirt. Why didn’t he say something when we left the house? OY, I knew this wasn’t going to be good.

I told Daddy I did not know I was supposed to bring a skirt. He rubbed his head in total disgust of me and while his face rested in his hands, he asked,”Why in the hell wouldn’t you bring a skirt and why in the hell would you think it was appropriate to wear shorts to an Orthodox place?” OK, so those were two loaded questions that I knew were dangerous to answer. What could I say that would make him not be pissed? Ooh, Ooh, I have the answer! NOT A G-D DAMN THING! So, I just sat there in silence. Well, let’s just say he wasn’t happy with that at all. He grabbed cups, a thermos and other items that were near him in the car and started throwing them at me. Oh, did I tell you Daddy was still driving? Well, he was and as usual like a maniac. As he threw whatever he could find near him at me he screamed,”What good are you? You are worthless! No wonder you stink in school. Your brain is always out to lunch and you can’t do the simplest of tasks. You’re just worthless!” To attempt to calm him down I told him if he took me to a store to buy a skirt, I’d pay him back. He answered,”Damn straight you will pay me back. Maybe then you’ll learn!”

We ended up at a department store that was having a bodacious sale. I found a skirt that I actually liked. It was only $4.00 and I even had enough money in my own wallet to pay for it. I think Daddy had hoped it wouldn’t have been so easy so he could have taught me a lesson. At least something worked in my favor! On a side note the skirt I bought that day I absolutely loved but because it reminded me of that day, I hardly wore it.

It was around 2:00pm by the time we got to the Yeshiva. I was so tired and just wanted to go home. Before we went into the school Daddy told me I was to straighten up and to act thrilled I was there. OMG! Are you kidding me? Act thrilled? How the hell do I do that especially after being yelled at for 2 hours and then being told I was worthless? And now I’m to smile and wave my hand over my head and go, yippee, I’m thrilled to be here? Daddy told me if I didn’t then it would keep me from getting accepted in the school. And because he couldn’t afford to pay my tuition to go there, I’d need to do what I could to make them want me. Now wait a minute. What the fucking hell? We were only supposed to be touring the school not me “selling” myself. And there was no way in hell I could even qualify to get into the school with my grades anyway. Who was Daddy kidding? I felt like I was in la la land with no sense of reality to be found.

An administrator from the Yeshiva took us around for a tour. It was nice. The class sizes were small which allowed the teachers to help each student. However, I could not accept the role I’d have to take as a girl. I had never been told because you are a girl you have this set of ways. It went against every fiber of my being and I resented it. I remember looking at many of the students  wondering if they were accepting their roles or if they were screaming on the inside to get out. While we were walking around Daddy would knock me with his fist when the administrator wasn’t looking. He wanted me to ask questions and to show I was interested.  But, there was just no way I could pretend. This school wasn’t a world that I felt comfortable in living. I knew I’d fight it and constantly challenge my position in it. That wasn’t fair for me or for the respect of the Yeshiva. It just wasn’t realistic.

I watched Daddy as we toured the school.  The way he carried himself and spoke to everyone at the school, he was a different person than than the one I knew. I hated that persona he was portraying as it was oh so damn charming. He even walked differently which made me nauseous just watching him. His attire included his suit and tie, a fancy hat and his shalayle. It was his costume. All of it put together helped him play his part effectively. I often wondered if others really believed him though. I don’t know but I think they knew something wasn’t right. I say that because when we were touring the school and when I wasn’t doing as Daddy wanted he’d hit me with his fist and whisper all kinds of crappy things to me when no one was looking. I eventually started to cry and get angry. I was embarrassed. Daddy looked at the school administrator, threw up his arms and said,”She has been acting so erratic since her mother died. I apologize. This is why I think it’s best to have her in a Jewish school. Her mother would have wanted it for her.” OMG, I could just feel my rage boiling up. Daddy was a fucking liar and he knew it. I knew if I said what I was feeling they would have had to call the police to stop me. And I knew Daddy would have used that opportunity to stand there dumb founded acting innocent to what he called my “crazy” behavior. I didn’t want to give him that power. So, instead, I excused myself and sat on the curve by the car until Daddy was done with his tour.

I was shocked Daddy wasn’t mad at me when he came to the car. Instead he hugged me and told me it was time to go home. His hug pissed me off because I knew he did it because he felt the administrator might have been watching. Why couldn’t he fucking do it because it was the right thing to do? And because the administrator was possibly watching I couldn’t react in the way I wanted. I knew his hug was fake and part of the persona he wanted others to believe. I could feel my insides wanting to explode and yet I was couldn’t let it out.

On our way home from Atlanta Daddy told me I didn’t have to move there. And if I didn’t want to move there, he wouldn’t move there either. But, if that was my decision he would need to “close down” our house and he’d move to a nearby town. I asked him about my beloved dog. He told me I’d have to find her a home because we wouldn’t be able to keep her. I was devastated. Elspeth, who was my lab mix, had stood with me through all of the crap. She was my only constant through Momma’s illness, her death and Daddy’s outbursts and visits home. I couldn’t live without her. G-d dammit I knew Daddy had a catch when he said I didn’t have to move to Atlanta. But, I would never forgive him for making me give my dog away. Not only was she my constant but she was Momma’s too. Elspeth represented so much to me. We brought her to the hospital to visit Momma just weeks before Momma died. As we rolled Momma outside to see her, she swore Elspeth wouldn’t remember her. But, of course she remembered her as she ran up to her, carefully crawled into her lap and licked her all over. It was the only time I cried as Elspeth made Momma laugh for the first time in a long time and for the last time. And because Elspeth carried a piece of Momma in her, the thought of not having her anymore really upset me. How could Daddy do this to me? I had not been able to cry about Momma dying but Daddy taking my dog away broke my heart. I cried all the way home from Atlanta.

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Posted by on September 5, 2011 in abusive fathers


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My Abusive Father (chapter 8)

Me and my sister. I was 3 and she was 9

We were at the beach and Daddy demanded I play.

OK, so, there was something I had not mentioned in my stories which has to be included. Before I get to that though I want to commiserate with all the parents out there. Remember when your children were young and they’d tell you what they wanted to be when they grew up? My son changed his mind many times which was of course common. For a while Judah wanted to be a superhero. He wanted to go out and save people which I have to admit made me proud.  I could just see my son wearing his long impressive cape with the letter J on it. Then he switched between wanting to be a cop and a policeman. Oh, you didn’t know there was a difference between the two? Well, according to my son a cop has an office and doesn’t deal directly with the bad guys. I have to admit, I wasn’t so thrilled with him being one of those considering the danger factor and the lack of pay for such danger. However, he changed his mind again and more currently Judah wants to be a lawyer. The first time I asked him why he wanted to be a lawyer he said it was because they got to wear suits with a tie. Then that evolved into him wanting to be the governor of GA so first he wants to be a lawyer, then a judge and then a public speaker so that he can become governor. Don’t you know this Jewish mother certainly liked that latter idea best however, I won’t be holding my breath for it to come to fruition as of yet. As we all know a child can meet someone, read about a character in a book or see someone on TV to help swayed them on what they want to be when they grow up. It’s part of growing up to be ever changing and curious.

As you might have figured out, Daddy didn’t interpret things in the same manner as other people. In our home if either me or my sister vocalized what we wanted to be when we grew up, we were bound to that forever. It didn’t matter if I was 6 years old at the time. It was like a promise to Daddy and he expected it to make it to fruition. And not only did he expect it but he’d advertise it to his friends, colleagues and anyone else who would listen. I always hated when he told other people because that meant I couldn’t change my mind. Not that I ever remember Daddy saying something to me but as a kid I knew once he told other people, I’d disappoint him greatly and embarrass him if I wanted to do something else. Meanwhile when I think about my own son and his many changing professions over the years, I’m struck by how out of touch he was with a child’s development. Come on! It’s not like you saw me me go out and get Judah his cape with the letter J monogrammed on it when he wanted to be a superhero. OK, so I did tell my friends and family and I did choose to have a “Superhero’s” theme for his birthday party that year but it was all in fun. Oh and yes, I did get him a cute little suit with a tie but that was for his own enjoyment. Never did I etch any of his career du jours in stone. However, I did have to think about my dad and he remember was by no means the normal dad.

So, when I was 6 years old I made the biggest mistake of my life. I told him I wanted to be the greatest and best bagpiper in the world. Why didn’t someone, ANYONE stop me for such an idiotic statement? I know I was just a little kid but even at that age I should have known better. I should have known what that would have done to me when I grew older. OY VEY! What was I thinking?

Let me explain how it came to be that I said such a thing. Oh, I know it was normal. I was just a kid. But, remember that was NOT Daddy’s interpretation. So, when I was 5 I’d have to take a nap after school. Daddy would be home and while I “napped” he would go into his office to play his records.  Two things here I have to mention. First, when Daddy played his records there was never such thing as keeping the volume down. And because he always had to have the volume cranked up to as loud as it could get, Momma forbade Daddy to play his bagpipe records when she was at home. It also didn’t help that she absolutely loathed the sound of bagpipes.

Now, most parents would understand while their child was napping or at least trying to nap it was quiet time for everyone. But for some reason Daddy didn’t get that important memo and we can’t forget life revolved around him. His concern was not to make sure I was getting my rest but instead to fulfill his need to hear his music while Momma wasn’t home. From the mind of a 5 year old it was the perfect excuse for me to get out of having to take a nap. What kid wouldn’t have used that opportunity? Any idiot would have recognized that fact. I will refrain from taking to word “idiot” and placing it with the word “Daddy” but you get my drift. I don’t know how many children could have slept through the loud noise anyway especially when their dad’s office was right next to the child’s bedroom.

Listen, initially I went to Daddy’s office to get out of taking my nap but in time I chose to go for another reason. I loved watching Daddy’s excitement when he saw my interest in his music. He was so happy and was loving during those times. I hardly ever wanted to spend time with him because he was so grumpy and mean. But on the days he played his bagpipe records I loved being with him. I had fond memories from that time. And yet as I remember those times now I can more clearly see how Daddy manipulated me into saying I wanted to learn how to play the bagpipes. I understood being a redheaded, Jewish girl was a unique combination in itself but add bagpipes and gosh do you have a combination. But I can see where Daddy had a much bigger plan in mind. FIrst and foremost it was certainly payback to Momma who hated the instrument. Nothing like being tortured by her own daughter when she’s practicing daily. OY! I’m so incredibly sorry Momma!

Back to Daddy’s plan though. I can see how he was scheming so early in my piping career, “How can I get my daughter to learn to play the loudest damn instrument on the face of the planet so it can bring attention to me as her dad and get me recognized? And the thought just crossed my mind by her playing the bagpipes because it’s so unique, it could help me get business for my new law practice!” And so his plan began with me falling for it hook, line and sinker. Especially after Momma died me playing the pipes became Daddy’s obsession and he used it to his full advantage to attempt to bring him notoriety and above all, to bring him money. What began as an instrument of love turned into the instrument from hell.

When I first started playing the pipes I had started a correspondence with one of the finest bagpipers. He was an older gentleman who lived with his wife in a small, cold town in Wales. Just a month after Momma died Daddy had a grandure idea that my correspondence of this piper would be his ticket to bringing him the notoriety he had longed for and wanted for so many years. If only Daddy could figure out the perfect way to get him and his wife to come visit, he would be given all kinds of accolades which once again in Daddy’s mind meant it would get him the business.

Daddy had always thought bigger than what was realistic. In his mind he would get the British consulate, the local University president and the mayors from our surrounding cities involved to make it a huge affair. Bagpipers would come to our town from all over to see this amazing piper. The piper would be recognized but even more so Daddy would receive huge amounts of fan fair for knowing this “famous” piper and for having him stay in our home. People would flock to Daddy wanting him to represent them in their divorces, criminal cases and other matters where an attorney would be needed. Daddy would become a sort of celebrity in our area because of this one bagpiper from Wales.

What Daddy failed to think was what if all of those people he wanted to get involved didn’t even know this piper, then what? It wasn’t as if piping was so popular that any Tom, Dick or Mary would recognize his name. But that was irrelevent to Daddy because he was certain his plan would work.

There was a catch though to his plan. And don’t you know by now there was always a catch. I always was suspicious because he was never thinking of the welfare of anyone else but himself. And with that meant a lot of bulldozing over other people including me, his own daughter. As a teenager I was well aware of that fact and tried to protect myself the best I could.

A month after Momma died and during the time Daddy was pressuring me to do his taxes that was when he had come up with his outrageous plan to bring the piper and his wife over from Wales. He sat me down for a serious talk and said he had to do something because he “ was in a do or die situation.” Basically, if he didn’t start bringing money in from his law practice, we were both going under. I didn’t know what that meant but boy did it sounded terrible. Of course when he sat me down to discuss anything it was usually a long, drawn out process. But, when it came to his lack of funds and his needing ways to figure out how to get money fast, I knew they would be hours and hours long. During this long meeting when he told me of his idea and how he knew it would bring him lots of business, I was very skeptical. I knew it would cost lots of money. Lots of money he didn’t have and would have to find. So, not only did he need money because as he said he could barely keep us afloat but then he needed money to even arrange this great plan for it to even work? It just didn’t sound good. When Daddy told me “we” had hit rock bottom and if “we” didn’t do something soon, we were both in deep shit trouble. Again, I didn’t know what that meant but I knew I didn’t want it to happen. Deep shit just sounded so ugly.

When Daddy started telling me his idea in more detail on how he was going to make this plan work, my immidiate thought was, “hold on because here comes the roller coaster ride! Everyone get ready and fasten your seat belts for we’re all about to be a part of Daddy’s psychological up and down roller coaster.

Daddy really believed he could bring the piper and his wife to our city and present them in such a way people would have as much interest to see them as they did with wanting to see British royalty. He’d get people like the consulate and the University’s president to plan events where folks would pay to meet him. His biggest idea was to have the local mayor give a ball in Daddy’s, oh I mean the piper’s honor.

Because Daddy needed an income, he decided having them come that upcoming summer would be perfect. However, it was only 4 months away and I just couldn’t conceive how he was going to successfully pull it all together. But, Daddy believed this piper alone would sell his idea so he had plenty of time to arrange it.

I hated the thought my summer was going to be taken away because I would have to help Daddy with his over the top idea. I loved my summers. There wasn’t any school. I could relax. Even if I had to work 4 jobs it didn’t matter as long as I didn’t have the pressure from school. And Daddy was going to take it away. On top of that I knew I’d have to carry a large part of the load of whatever Daddy was doing. In other words what was I going to be fully responsible for doing and then screwing up and then blamed?

I have to admit he was good in making it all sound exciting  And of course in order for those things to happen successfully he told me I needed to buy into his plan. OK, so how much was it going to cost me? I asked him what that meant. He told me I would have to write the piper a convincing letter to get him to come for a visit. After all Daddy’s plan could not work without him or my letter. He told me my letter could make or break the deal. Daddy felt in order to persuade him and his wife I’d needed to promise I’d eat, drink and sleep the bagpipes if he’d come. Well, the fact I was 15, soon to be 16, I just didn’t have that kind of passion for the pipes. But wouldn’t you know it, Daddy reminded me of my desire to become the greatest bagpiper. I responded by telling him I was 5 when I said those words. He didn’t care. I said them and they were etched in stone as the holy grail. I was afraid to get involved in one of Daddy’s schemes because his ideas never worked and they always backfired. And when they didn’t work, it was always because of something I did or didn’t do.

I asked Daddy how long was he asking for them to come and stay with us? I wanted to know how much of my summer I’d have to give up. I thought it was a reasonable question. He got angry and told me I should be thankful for just having that piper willing to give me lessons. He said while they were in our home, I was to wake everyone at the crack of dawn by the sounds of me practicing the pipes and I was to put everyone to sleep from the sounds of me practicing on my pipes. He told me if I didn’t do that, I’d single handedly ruin his entire plan preventing us from keeping a roof over our heads. OY! This was not going to be good. I just knew it.

After several hours of Daddy wearing me down I felt I had no choice but to tell him I’d do as he said. At that point I just wanted Daddy to shut up. To solidify the deal he made me sign a contract he had drawn up promising I’d spend every waking hour playing my pipes to show the visiting piper I had the desire to become the world’s best bagpiper. The contract had a lot more in there but I will refrain from giving you heartburn with all of the crap Daddy wrote. And did I sign it you ask? Yes, I did and finally he stopped torturing me with having to sit and listen to him any longer.

The next morning Daddy was excited about his plan. He kept talking about all of things he was going to buy us because the piper’s visit was going to be an overwhelming success. He was loving and caring that morning and he even reassured me we were going to be OK. I was skeptical which always made him angry. He saw me as the bubble popper but I just felt I was being more realistic. Plus, after many years of hearing so many of Daddy’s wonderful plans and witnessing each one’s failure, I couldn’t be hopeful.  That made him mad too.

Two months later Daddy wasn’t so confident anymore which made him on edge and very worried. He didn’t have a commitment from the local University’s president or from the British consulate to pay for the piper and his wife’s visit. They didn’t know of the piper and really didn’t see how him coming would be beneficial to the community. Daddy in great Daddy fashion insulted them by basically calling them idiots for not knowing about this wonderful and great piper. Listen, we aren’t talking about Yitzhak Pearlman who was widely known even if you didn’t play the violin. However, we are talking about a bagpiper where only a select few would know who he was. Why would Daddy have expected it differently?

He was desperate to find a sponsor to bring the piper and his wife over. I had already sent my letter to them requesting they come for a visit. In the letter Daddy made me promise we would basically role out the red carpet for them.  Little did Daddy know it wouldn’t be that difficult at all to get them to commit to coming for a visit. See, it really didn’t matter if my letter was inspiring at all. Once they read they wouldn’t have to pay for anything, they were convinced.  That’s all it took. And so they eagerly waited to receive their tickets from Daddy and even called to push him along. However, down to the wire of needing to send them their airline tickets, Daddy was still void of a sponsor.

He was stuck and felt he couldn’t back out. He had too much riding on it he would say. But he was at a point he had to do something so he began reaching at straws. He started calling lawyers he knew who had Scottish last names but to no surprise of mine that didn’t work. He also called the mayor of a larger neighboring town to see if he could get their support. Their only offer was they would give the piper a key to the city and acknowledge him during a counsel meeting. Daddy was disappointed because he really needed the money but he took their offer anyway because he had no events set up to honor the piper. This would become the one event.

By the time it was May Daddy had promised the piper and his wife they’d be receiving their tickets. When they didn’t receive them they began contacting him to complain they wanted their tickets. They were quite insistent for being our guests. Daddy was scrambling to find the money. The good news was Daddy found the money to bring them over just in time. The bad news was Daddy had to ask a girlfriend for the money to pay for it and would have to pay it back. But for Daddy, the first hurdle was over.  And so, the piper and his wife were officially coming to visit.

Now, Daddy had his own perception of the piper and his wife. He assumed because the piper was an older gentleman who had won many top piping competitions and awards, he was not only of the upper class but very accustomed to it as well. The image Daddy conjured up of this piper and his wife were much different that the two people who arrived at our home that summer. It certainly was an experience and only one that Daddy could create with his outlandish ideas.

Well, people, when the piper and his wife arrived they had no apprehensions to tell us what and where they wanted Daddy to take them. They were quite a pair and I don’t mean in a good way and definitely not of the class Daddy had thought. They actually reminded me of the Clampett’s from the Beverly Hillbillies. It was as if they had never traveled or knew much about the outside world. They had no concept how large the US was as they requested to be taken to Washington DC and New York. First that wasn’t an option but when Daddy told them how far those cities were from us, they were in shock and disbelief. They were odd. It almost felt that our “free invitation” was being stretched as far as they could stretch it without any regards to us. They were a kid in a candy store wanting to do whatever it was they wanted to do. I was astounded by their ignorance and lack of class. I wasn’t expecting the made up royalty Daddy had made up in his head but I certainly did not expect what we saw. They expected their every need to be catered to and to be taken where ever they wanted to go. Since I wrote (well, dictated) the letter that was sent to them, I knew they were not promised such grander plans. For such little people in stature they certainly had a way to make their presence known. I was fascinated.

There was one thing the piper and his wife loved about the South and that was our weather. At over 100 degrees they would enjoy going outside and walking around with their faces facing towards the sun. As time passed they would go outside, roll up their sleeves, open the top buttons on their shirts and roll up their pants to expose more parts of their body. They wanted their friends to be impressed with their tans when they went back home. It was very comical and I couldn’t imagine what our neighbors thought. Even though they loved our heat, they had never experienced humidity like we had which added to the heat. We noticed they were only able to sun for about 10 minutes at a time before they needed to go inside to cool off. Daddy tried to explain to them to be careful with being outside too long because of the oppressing heat. He recommended they drink lots of water. One of the days during their visits they wanted to go for a walk. They asked how far it was to the nearest shops. I told them it was too far to walk because it was a good 5 miles down the road. They were excited the shops were that close and insisted they were going to take a walk. I contacted Daddy at work because I was worried. G-d help me if the very people who were going to make Daddy money had died from heat stroke, I would have surely been in a shit load of trouble. Daddy told me to let them go , wait about 15 minutes and then pick them up. After waiting the designated amount of time I headed out to get them. When I pulled up to them as they were walking they were very relieved.

There were a few days Daddy took them sightseeing. He took them to an old plantation to show them the real South and not what they had seen on TV. They loved visiting the assorted stereotypical places. One city which had lots of wonderful historic sites for them was a good 45 minutes away. To us it wasn’t that far but to them for some reason they had in mind they would have been able to walk to all of the assorted tourist sites from our home. As we continued driving they could clearly see that was not possible but it floored me they would be so upset by it.  Along with touring Daddy took them to local government buildings to introduce them to the local dignitaries. Daddy had it in his mind that the dignitaries were impressed by him bringing over this piper and his wife but honestly, they didn’t care. They didn’t know who he was and really weren’t interested. It was incredibly sad my dad wasn’t able to read people properly and as a result would only make himself look bad.  I guess it was good he didn’t know but that alone was so damaging.

Listen, to see Daddy, the piper and his wife who all had strong and unique personalities going at it like three rams continuously head butting each other was a site to see. Because Daddy wanted to show them off in order to try to get more attention for himself he took the piper and his wife to meet a variety of people in our community. They really weren’t interested but it wasn’t as if Daddy gave them a choice either. Those days were great because I didn’t have to go. I used that time to visit my friends and to nap. With no one being home, I was able to lie and say I played my pipes (when I really didn’t). Listen, I was not a great piper and certainly NOT the piper Daddy had built me up to be. I hated practicing in front of people and I certainly didn’t want to practice in ear’s shot of someone who was an excellent piper to say the least. I tried anything and everything to get out of it.

After 3 weeks of them staying with us their visit was coming to an end. I was ready to see them go. I clearly wasn’t willing to put piping as my top priority and I was tired of the conversations revolving around piping. A few days before they were to leave I was about to walk into the dining room for breakfast when I heard Daddy, the piper and his wife talking. I stopped when I heard them say my name and I stood very quietly in the hallway so I could listen. The piper was telling Daddy how disappointed he was in my lack of drive in wanting to play the pipes. He felt I was a different person than who I represented in my letters. Daddy agreed with him and added to what he said by telling him d he was also dissapointed with me. The piper went on to explain how his own father would use a switch to hit his fingers when he didn’t play a piece correctly. He spoke about how much of a cattle driver his father was and how there never was the option of not practicing when he was growing up because his father would have killed him if he hadn’t. Basically, the piper had no life. It only revolved around piping. It sounded like a crazy upbringing. But more than anything, it angered me that the piper was suggesting Daddy just needed to whip me into shape with harder methods of discipline just as his dad did to him. I couldn’t believe my ears when I heard the piper say he is grateful to his dad for doing that for him.  GREAT! All I needed was another person to support Daddy’s already abusive behavior.  Daddy told the piper he was beyond angry because I was such an ungrateful daughter. To that I remember the piper responding, “Ashamed.” I was fuming while over hearing their conversation and so wanted to barge in to stop them.  Hearing Daddy comiserate with the piper about more forceful methods to get me to do as he wanted made me sick. Did it not matter to any damn person that my mom had died only 5 months before and I had been basically abandoned by my dad who when he was home was verbally and physically abusive? OK, no one knew about the abuse but hearing how the piper condoned that behavior it amazed me that no one at least gave me the benefit of the doubt of losing my mom. I really thought I was in a bad dream. How could so many people not care? Each person Daddy brought into my life never would acknowledge my pain because of my loss. I hated that lonely and isolated feeling as I heard more crap coming from Daddy and the piper. Why in tarnation did my piping matter so much to the piper. He didn’t care.  They were there because they were opportunists who  received a free trip to the States. They weren’t there for me. They expected to be “limousined” around and treated like royalty. They never paid a dime for anything. In fact if we went out to eat, they expected Daddy to pay. Even their souvenirs they expected to be paid by Daddy. It was incredible. They had already over stepped their boundaries but then they had the nerve to add to my already hellish life? What was it to them? Why were they being so mean?

Needless to say, the piper and his wife’s trip was uneventful and unsuccessful for Daddy. And even though he personally found our guests from Wales to be “low life, greedy bastards” my dad was still able to find a way to blame me. If I had only done as our contract said, then things would not have turned out as they did. Daddy did like the the pipers advice to try to get me to play my pipes more. I hated the piper for doing that to me.

Having shared all of that you can see how my piping was a perfect pawn.  Whatever he was conjuring up at the time, another demand rolled on down. Well, during my Junior and Senior year in high school Daddy had a new plan. I had to bring my pipes to any and every gathering we were invited to regardless of the wishes of the host and/or hostess. I HATED it. It was so incredibly embarrassing. Like a dog, when Daddy gave me the signal, I was to play my pipes.  I remember begging him to not make me take them. He’d always yell that he was the one who got me the pipes and if I wanted to keep them I was to play when and wherever he wanted. I don’t remember any event or dinner party we attended when the guests appreciated it. I suppose Daddy’s master like behavior was a huge turnoff and easily angered those in attendance.

I clearly remember one of the time Daddy made me bring my pipes. We were invited to a family friend’s house for Thanksgiving. They had a lot of people there which was the perfect set up for Daddy to show off. He had this way about him when he felt superior than anyone else. It always started with him lighting his cigar. He’d never ask if he could. He’d simply do it until told otherwise. Then, once it was lit, he’d demand I get my pipes and perform. So, there we were at our friend’s house. I was always waiting for the next shoe to fall as Daddy was always picking a fight with someone. This particular night though he kept to himself. He attempted to light his cigar but several people there told him to put it out. Oh my! How do I say this? Daddy didn’t like that very much and I could see revenge in his eyes. He turned to me and motioned with his hand. What the hell did that mean? I just sat there in a passive and aggressive way waiting for him to talk to me like a human being. Because I didn’t do as his hand movement commanded, he angrily told me it was time for some piping. I didn’t want to do it. It felt wrong and obtrusive. Daddy was pissed by this point and in a demanding tone told me I was to play for him. The hostess who was standing right behind Daddy told him to stop demanding for me to play. She added that there were a lot of people there and because the pipes were so loud it really wasn’t a good time for it. She was trying to help me. He got angrier at me and started threatening me. The other guests didn’t like Daddy which I knew would come back to haunt me. Finally I did as he demanded and in tears I got my pipes and played. I looked at my Dad as I played and I could see he really was clueless to the feelings of the others. He was able to twist the course of events in such a way that it never put any responsibility on him as the wrong doer.

On our drive home that Thanksgiving evening he told me I had behaved like an ass and should have done as he demanded. He said the only reason the others got mad at him was because I didn’t do as I was told. If I had, then he wouldn’t have had to force me to do as I was told and the others would not have seen him as the fool. Daddy then went into a rampage on how my piping was my ticket to success. He told me I needed to use my playing of the pipes to my advantage but because I was such a fool, I wouldn’t listen. When I asked him how playing at a damn Thanksgiving dinner was relevant, let me just say I hit a raw nerve in him. He started driving the car like a wild maniac. Each time he’d make a turn the tires would screech and felt as if the car could flip during any given turn. When we pulled into our driveway, he stopped the car. Still with his unlit cigar in his mouth, he turned towards me. He shoved me against the car door on my side, got right up in my face while pointing his finger and said, “I want you to hear me and hear me loud and clear. If you know what’s good for you, you will bring your pipes and play them whenever and where ever I tell you to. And if you don’t you will pay a heavy price for it. You are my private piper and even if it’s during breakfast at our house, if I say jump, you are to only ask how high. Do I make myself clear?” The rage in his eyes exemplified how disassociated he had become. I was scared. OK, I was terrified. Regardless, there were many times I found the Chutzpah to stand up to him. I think it was the fact I was a teenager more than anything.  As Daddy was in my face pointing his finger I sat up and told him to get his damn finger out of my face. He got closer to me and put his finger on the tip of my nose. His finger on my nose was like that last feather to fall and break the camels back. The only way I could explain how I was feeling was just like when you feel nauseated.  Your mind tells you not to throw up but  your body takes over forcing you to throw up. Your body knew just what to do and your mind had no control. My rage was the same. It had built up and had to get out. And with my body in control I twisted his finger in such a way where the palm of his hand was facing upwards. Then, I pushed downwards and towards in a direction his hand did not bend naturally. It was a self defense move Daddy had taught me when I was a little girl. I could have easily broken his wrist. I never understood what possessed me or gave me the strength to fight back except my feeling of rage could no longer stay plugged. It had to come out. Ultimately, I never saw what I did as self defense. I could only see it as participating in his abuse. I hated myself for losing control. I hated when I felt that rage and believe it or not I never knew from where it came. I know now. Hello!!!

I never hurt Daddy and always stopped myself before I could do something terrible. I say always but I only fought back 3 times.  And even though I felt bad for what I had done I knew I couldn’t show that to Daddy. I had to look strong regardless.

After I let go of Daddy’s finger I sat straight up and looked intensely into his eyes. I couldn’t believe what I saw. I actually saw a man who was scared of what I had done and could have potentially done to him. He clearly was larger and stronger than me but with the rage I had building, my power to hurt my dad must have been overwhelming and way beyond my comprehension. Today when I remember those few times I stood up for myself, I proudly give myself a high five and a “you go girlfriend”. But back then all I could feel was guilt and the lack of understanding for how I could have had so much rage inside me to want to hurt my own dad.  I loved him and didn’t want to ever hurt him.


Posted by on August 31, 2011 in abusive fathers


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