Well after accidentally hanging up on Daddy, I thought it would be best to not call him back. Listen, he wasn’t like most people (as if you haven’t figured that out by now) where he’d cool off as time passed. Nope, his anger would escalate. But not calling him back had nothing to do with him and everything to do with me. I didn’t want to deal with his temper tantrum, so I made the unusual decision to not call him. I had chosen to take the control. In the past I would have called him right back to apologize. It wasn’t as if I debated the idea either. I just didn’t want to deal with him and so I didn’t. I even thought about taking my phone off the hook so he wouldn’t have the chance to call me. But, he was the kind who would have called the operator, acted all frantic and worried making the operator think I had been attacked by a burglar which would have convinced the operator to check my phone line. Then, if the operator told him it was off of the hook, he would have called the family who owned my apartment to ask them to check on me. And because he didn’t have their phone number he would have called the husband at work and made a HUGE production out of it. So, knowing what Daddy was capable of doing I would do whatever was necessary to keep him from bothering/contacting any of the people who were providing for me. I was terrified he would ruin all that I had worked hard to have as Daddy was known for his destruction. Also, more than anything it totally nauseated me of how he’d pretend to be concerned about me when in reality he was only concerned about me when he needed me or my money. I wanted to keep Daddy away from those folks who had done so much for me. I never wanted him to insult them or say something out of place which I thought would ruin all that I did have. Listen, Daddy had a way of harassing people. My greatest fear was that my adopted family and the family whose garage apartment I was living in would have found it easier to get rid of me so they wouldn’t have to deal with Daddy. So, I did whatever I could to keep him separated from them.
Listen, even though I wanted to keep that separation it was hard for me. I felt guilty during holidays when I was invited to other people’s homes and Daddy was excluded. And yet I had a valid reason to exclude him. The thing was I wanted to be proud of my Dad and I wanted more than anything to have him in my life. But, I was learning that the way Daddy wanted to be involved in my life was of course not healthy but it also wasn’t conducive to living my life as I needed.
Once I did allow my guilt to wear me down and I broke my rule of keeping Daddy separated. It will forever be engraved in my brain the one Passover my adopted mother asked if I wanted to invite Daddy to join them/us for one of the Seders at her house. She did not know about Daddy’s abusive behavior as I never had told her. However, she knew there was something not right with him. Not that she ever said anything to me but I could sense she knew. Anyway, I remember feeling so confused. I wanted him there but I was afraid of how Daddy would behave. I didn’t want my adopted parents to hate me if Daddy behaved badly. Sadly, I was used to blaming myself and reaping the consequences if something went wrong. But that was my own projection never my adopted family’s. Even though I knew of Daddy’s great potential to make an ass out of himself, I still wanted to be with him especially during the holidays. Oh, how I tortured myself with being afraid of what I would say “might happen” (when in essence it always happened) and me wanting to be with my Daddy.
My adopted mother never expressed her anger or dislike for my father even when she knew he was neglectful. Instead, she remained neutral. Now, that didn’t mean she refrained from giving me advice. But, with the advice she never said anything bad about Daddy and only made suggestions that were good for me. I think at the time I wanted her to tell me how wrong Daddy was so I could stop blaming myself. However, I can see where I needed to come to that realization on my own. And the truth of the matter I’m not so sure I could have accepted that honesty about Daddy at that time anyway.
After going back and forth I ultimately decided to invite Daddy. But as usual because of my decision the weeks leading up to the Seder were excruciating for me. I was beyond nervous and worried because I couldn’t know how Daddy was going to behave. He could make an ass out of himself and in turn would make me feel so embarrassed. Then as I started thinking about what could potentially happen I got mad at myself for having invited him. What the hell was I thinking? Why did I do that to myself? What could I have potentially subjected my adopted family to and how would Daddy treat them? Why did I feel sorry for Daddy so much that I had that need to invite him? Dumb, Dumb, Dumb, I was!
The night before the Seder I remember wanting to numb myself with whatever drugs I could get my hands on but I was so frustrated because I no longer had those contacts to even get any. It was the first time in years I had that need to be wasted. I realized it had been triggered by my fear of Daddy. What the hell was wrong with me? That night I couldn’t stand all that was racing through my head. I was the problem! I knew it was me who was allowing Daddy to continue to hurt me over and over again. Where was my strength to stop him? I wanted the madness to stop! My head continued to race with so many thoughts that I couldn’t control. In the past it was the drugs that would help me. How easy it could have been for me to go back to that drug induced madness but I knew I couldn’t. I couldn’t ruin my life that way. But, how do I control my thoughts? How do I learn to stop allowing Daddy from controlling me? G-D DAMNIT! I LOVED MY DADDY! I wanted my Daddy. Why in the fucking hell did I want him so much? No father should ever treat their child in the manner he treated me. If I knew that then why was I letting him? As so many of these thoughts rushed through my head I sat in my apartment and started to bang my head against the wall. When the thoughts wouldn’t stop I’d hit my head harder against the wall. Why was I such an idiot?! As I hit my head harder and harder against the wall I remember thinking how I liked that the pain was taking over and clearing my head of all of my obsessive thoughts. I don’t know what happened next as all I remember was I woke up the next morning with a nice headache.
Well, the day of the Seder had arrived. My adopted parents sent their son to pick me up. He came a few hours early so I could help with any last minute preparations. I was very happy to be there. I was thankful they let me come early. It kept my mind occupied and most of all it kept me from pacing the floor with the unadulterated fear of what was going to happen.
I was in the kitchen helping put ice in the glasses when the doorbell rang. Someone answered the door. My heart stopped when I heard Daddy’s voice. I didn’t want to go into the other room. My adopted mother encouraged me to greet him instead of continuing to help her. And so I did even though I wanted to hide in the kitchen for the rest of the night.
Once everyone arrived my adopted mother called everyone to the table to take their seats. I sat next to Daddy. I was thankful most of that evening was going to be spent reading from the Haggadah which meant there wouldn’t leave a lot of room for Daddy to talk. That was always good.
I have to say the Seder started very well. As each person read their designated part, someone else would make a funny remark to lighten the moment. Several of the participants were cracking jokes and really livening up the Seder. I enjoyed the laughter and Daddy seemed to be enjoying himself too. For a moment I thought I had actually worried over nothing. But, no such luck. It was about 40 minutes into the Seder when Daddy’s mean and conniving side emerged. It was when everyone was eating dinner and when everyone was able to socialize. Because Daddy felt I had told everyone how terrible of a father he was he felt the need to show otherwise. And of course as a result, I had singlehandedly ruined his law practice which he had to rebuild. Anyway, Daddy gained his own bad reputation on his own accord. I never had to say a word but, nothing I could ever say would have convinced him of that fact. Lets not forget Daddy never did anything wrong.
So, during dinner Daddy started to tell the people around him about ALL he had done for me after Momma died. He told stories with half truths which made me so angry. Then he’d end the stories with saying how ungrateful I was. Daddy dominated the conversations and wouldn’t allow others to talk. He had a mission and damn it he was going to say what he wanted to say. And while Daddy was telling these half truths or half lies (whichever way you want to look at it) he’d give me hugs and kisses as if he was this adoring father. I just sat there looking at the people around us wondering if they really bought his story. I wanted so badly to yell out at the top of my lungs that I was a good daughter and I NEVER took from Daddy. I wanted so badly to yell at the top of my lungs that I loved Daddy and spent my money to care for him when he was sick. But, I sat there emotionless instead. Needless to say, I was elated to hear it was time to get back to the Haggadah to finish our Seder. But, that’s when Daddy’s behavior got worse. As different people were reading their parts from the Haggadah and others were making their funny comments, Daddy started to whisper nasty things to me. At first he started to call me names like stupid and idiot. I wanted to believe I had misheard him but as he continued there was no way I could deny what he was saying. I hated how he did it. It was under his breath and always with a smile on his face. And of course no one around me suspected what he was doing. I refused to react so he moved on to other more hurtful things to say like, “So, now that you have a new family, you can treat me like shit and kick me to the curb.” and “You really are a piece of work, MaLea. Do you think I’m an idiot? I can see exactly what you are trying to do to me.” and what made me finally break was “ You know, your Momma would have been so disappointed in you and what you’ve done to me. You should feel ashamed.”
I felt he was trying to get me to explode with anger as I once used to do so he could sit there innocently as if he had done nothing wrong. I was NOT going to ruin my adopted family’s Seder. As I sat there emotionless, my insides were in knots. I wanted so badly at that point to stand up and start throwing whatever was near me at Daddy. I wanted to scream at the top of my lungs why was he treating me so cruelly. But, the longer I sat there, the more Daddy’s mean words swirled in my head and the more hurtful they had become. That’s when I wanted to disappear and cry. I tried to hold back my tears as long as I could. When I couldn’t any longer I excused myself and headed to the bathroom. I turned on the water from the sink, sat on the floor and grabbed a towel to rest my face as I started crying uncontrollably. It felt as if I was in the bathroom for the longest time. I couldn’t stop crying and I by no means wanted Daddy to see I had been. I didn’t want him to know he had upset me. After I was able to gain my composer I decided I did not want to return to where Daddy was. Instead, I stayed in the kitchen and started to clean up the dirty dishes. I must have been in there for about 30 minutes when my adopted mother came to check on me. You know I don’t even remember what I told my adopted mom that day but it really didn’t matter because I think my behavior told her. I remember trying to focus on cleaning the dishes and how I could help clean up. I didn’t want to think about Daddy because I was afraid I’d start crying again. My adopted mother could see something was wrong and when she asked me point blank what happened, that was all I needed to get me crying again. I was confused and didn’t know what to do. For one I didn’t want to leave the kitchen and be where Daddy was. And the other thing was I felt so explosive, I was afraid I would let it out. It was the first time I made myself hold back because I didn’t want them to see that side of me. But, I didn’t know how to control it. It was so difficult to hold back my anger and to keep it in check. And at the same time all I wanted to do was to cry. I felt terrible because I didn’t want to ruin my adopted family’s Passover. I didn’t want that to be my fault too. For me to have cried in front of my adopted mother made me feel guilty and mad at myself for not having better control. Meanwhile, would you believe it was the first time I had cried in front of someone since Momma had died over 10 years earlier. It was at the end of her funeral. My sister was crying and when she went to hug me, I lost it. I remember feeling out of control and needing to reign in my emotions. That 5 or so minutes was the only time I had cried in front of anyone and because of Daddy’s thoughts about crying, I hated how I felt.
Later, my adopted mother told me her husband said Daddy was no longer welcomed in their home again. It made me wonder what Daddy had said to him to insult him. I know it sounds crazy but I really did want other people to like him. I felt badly that many people didn’t like Daddy. And others dislike of him never came from me but from their own encounters with him. It was weird. Even though I initially felt bad for Daddy when my adopted mom told me what her husband had said it was also a life altering moment at the same time. How was it, you ask? Well, it was the first time I felt legitimized. I know it’s strange but it somehow legitimized my anger towards Daddy and what he had done to me. Also, it made me feel significant which I had not felt since Momma had died. I was not important to Daddy as his needs always came first. And most of all their ban on Daddy didn’t mean I was banned which was another first for me. Usually, when Daddy wasn’t liked, I was thrown out with him. So, to not throw me out with him that alone told me there was someone else who saw me as worthy to keep. Sadly, it was never Daddy so it coming from someone else was poignant and special to me. I remember standing up just a little bit taller and I said to myself, “Someone cared enough for me to keep me in their lives in spite of my Dad’s bad behavior.” I can’t even explain the way I felt because of that one little gesture.
From that point forward I didn’t spend a lot of time talking to Daddy or visiting him. He would call me on occasions and during those conversations it wasn’t unusual for him to curse and yell at me. Once when my partner and I were dating she was with me when Daddy let loose with his yelling. She told me to hang up on him. I never could. Hey, listen, I was making changes and as slow as they were, let’s be happy those changes were happening, OK? And even though there were times I did go to his home and he came to mine, I somehow grew stronger when I was around him. Now, when he wasn’t around me that was when I would feel guilty and second guess myself. But, I have to tell you, I never was able to get over that part of my father’s abuse. I know it’s crazy! He’s the one who abuses and me as the victim takes on the guilt. But, only those who have been abused by a loved one can understand the twisted turns the mind takes as a result.
When my partner and I started living together and after a couple more events which Daddy had caused my partner helped me to emotionally get farther away from him. It wasn’t easy and I’m not proud how I took out my anger on Carol during those early years. But I’m thankful I was able to work past it. It was crucial for me to find a place for my anger, so that I wouldn’t become isolated like Daddy had become. It also opened my world up in a way I never knew it could. By shedding my anger I found true love, I got my sister back and I became reacquainted with family members. Most of all it allowed me and my partner to be in a much better place to begin to plan for our own child we hoped to have. I knew I didn’t want to pass on my family’s anger and “Daddy’s way of thinking” to another generation. I may wrestle with my own demons gifted to me by Daddy for the rest of my life but I didn’t want our child to ever know those demons. I may not have had the strength or power to be able to fully stand up to Daddy but I did have the strength and power to not pass it to the next generation. Of that I was certain.