I always felt a since of jealousy when someone would speak of a great relationship with their father. I always found it odd when others would talk about wisdom that was shared or something funny that their dad did. Because even though I had glimpses into that world, most of what I had was complete upheaval when it came to my relationship with mine. Even through that, I still loved him fiercely and had to learn to let go of the anger for what never was, after he passed. After he died, my anger quickly turned into regret. Because, I spent so much time just being angry with him when he was alive. I should not have done that….
There is a long version of this story, but for the sake of not boring you, I am going to keep this summarized. Take it for what it is worth, and I hope that those of you out there that have become damaged from an abusive parent find some sort of wisdom in this.
To give you a bit of a back story, my parents married very young and both came from broken households. I was the second child born to them and was told my entire life by my biological mother that if I my sister was a boy, I would not be here. So, since I was the wrong gender for her ( because in her head she needed to give my dad a son, I have no idea why) my dad took me. Thus began the dysfunctional relationship of being a “daddy’s girl” to a sociopath.
He taught me all about business, took care of me when I was sick, taught me how to fish, made the best fried eggs and oven toast, made me laugh, and would do anything for me. But, within a split second, I was the brunt of his abusive rants, mind games, witness to him being cruel to animals, be the one he would throw against the wall when he got mad, the one he would ball his fist up to, to hit, and the one that was on the receiving end of the belt when he felt I needed it. Usage of the belt finally stopped when I was around 6 or 7 because one night he got carried away and broke the skin down my legs. I remember that night.
Looking back, I really think he has some sort of undiagnosed mental illness..
I also remember being around 5 and thinking that the parents I had were really foster parents and just knowing that my real family was going to come get me once they figured out I was missing. My mother also used to tell me that I tried committing suicide when I was 5. She would always make it sound like I was behaving badly on purpose at that age for trying to attempt something like that.
I mean….what 5 year old tries to kill themselves out of spite?
As I got older, I learned how to fight back when it came to my father. And with that, I grew stronger and I was able to control him and his rage and keep him in check. I think that is why I am really good at calming and nurturing others now. I was also an extremely rebellious teen, criminally smart, broke all of the rules, and in college by the time I was 16. The college thing happened by chance because it was my ticket out of that situation along with it being instilled in me that I was never going to depend on anyone but myself. So, that meant I was going to have an education.
My mother always resented that I could control my dad and she could not. He was also abusive towards her ( it actually went both ways) plus really loved other women so there was always some sort of toxic spill over from one thing or another in our house. It was great. Due to the fact that he loved money so much, it was nothing for him to leave us for months at a time to go, “make a living,” for the family and then come back and inflict chaos on the household. My mother grew crazier by the day but insisted she was a “kept woman.” As long as the money flowed, she looked the other way. In the process she developed a severe pill addiction and ended up suffering a massive stroke in 2016. As I type this, she is still alive but living in a wheelchair, much crazier, and not mentally all there.
When I was around 23, that was when everything took a turn for the worst as far as my relationship with my parents went. I discovered that my dad fathered a child with another woman and hid the affair. My half brother was 2 by the time I find out. I made him tell my mother, which in turn pushed her over the edge. I ended up having her involuntarily committed due to the fact that she kept attempting suicide. But, she still stayed with him as he went back and forth between two families in two different states.
This went on for years.
Did I also mention he was a devout Christian and took every opportunity to quote bible verses? No? Well, he did… Most people found him quite charming and amazing. He was also a very giving person. I think everyone thought we were the luckiest family on earth.
He was also the reason why I had a deep hatred for organized religion for most of my life. His creed was to “do as I say and not as I do.” Bible studies in our home usually happened after we would be whipped.
Anyway, back to my story…
A few years after I made him tell my mother about my half brother, I finally had enough of their dysfunction and ended up cutting off contact with him. This was after I begged and pleaded with him as to how he was hurting me and how I needed him to change. It was a fool’s errand. Anyone that has been near someone like this can tell you that trying to reason with someone that refuses to change is futile. It is your problem, so you should fix it, because they are perfect. Ever meet anyone like that before?
Side note: If anyone ever looks at you dead in the eye and tells you that “they will never change,” believe them and walk away.
I spent the next few years having to deal with him not respecting my boundaries, expecting me to accept him, and putting him in his place. I even went so far as to tell him to disown me and to forget all about me. I meant every bit of it at the time.
The way a person relates to the world is the way they relate to their parents. There is a line from a movie called The Crow. In it, the main character says, “Mother is God on the lips of children.” I must say that he was right. “Father” is God too.
My experiences growing up taught me that no matter how peaceful or protected I felt, there was always going to be upheaval and chaos. When a girl has to constantly protect herself from her own parents, it does something to her. Something bad and malevolent and I know for a fact it took a toll on me.
Fast forward to December 10th, 2018. I got a text from my brother saying that my dad was found in the house he owned on the east coast by first responders and taken to the hospital. Later, I would find out that he suffered a massive stroke, vomited everywhere, passed out, and laid in his own filth for over 24 hours. Nobody bothered to notice he was not around because he had alienated himself from friends and family. By the time he got to the hospital, it was too late and only a matter of time before he passed.
I was teaching a classroom of kids that day. I remember that. He also never disowned me like I asked him to do a million times. Found that out too when I discovered that I still held power of attorney over him. So, I spent the next few hours trying to teach students art and science as I tried to decide when to take him off life support.
When I got home, he was taken off life support and the countdown started. The only things I remember from that night was that I had a very important meeting that evening ( I sat on the city council) that I never made. Instead, I sat in my car and listened to Def Leopard. I never cried. A close friend of mine who was a police officer at the time came to check on me. She walked up to my car and I remember just asking her if what I was doing was alright. She said yes.
It was in that moment regret washed over me along with complete helplessness. My dad was 1200 miles away from me. I was supposed to be there with him. There was no way I was going to get to him in time and there was so much left to say. I needed to lay my head on his chest and hear his heartbeat. That’s it. It was NOT supposed to end like this and not a damn thing I could do about any of it. My brother, who is a paramedic, called his time of death later that night.
Keep in mind that this was 3 weeks after I lost the person that was basically my mother.
After his death, we had him cremated. That was when my mother decided to not have any type of service because she did not want his other family coming. That was HER husband as far as she was concerned. She also took it upon herself to have her sister take her to the funeral home, get his ashes, and then refuse to give me or my siblings any.
I finally did get his ashes. He soon visited me in a dream as well. In the dream I was making cookies and he appeared in the kitchen doorway. He was his much younger self and had on his usual clothes to go fishing in. I made a beeline to him, threw my arms around him and buried my head into his chest. It was then we communicated without speaking. He told me he was so sorry and that he loved me. I woke myself up sobbing into my pillow. Some say that deceased loved ones will visit you in your dreams. If this was real, and he really did do that, then I will take it…
The following summer I took some of the ashes to an island I grew up going to that both of us loved to fish at. I sat on the bay that morning as the sun came up and him and I had a very long talk.
It has been over a year since he passed. So, for those of you still reading this, I want you to know what his death and my regret have taught me.
1. Parents can still be and are damaged people. They do the best they can with what they have. I am in no way excusing bad behavior. I am just telling you to accept that sometimes, they are damaged and there is nothing you can do. My dad obviously fought his own demons like the rest of us. His dad was worse than he was so I know there had to be some baggage lurking in the back of his head somewhere.
2. It is ok to love the damaged. Love has nothing to do with having anything to do with them. Forgiveness is not a relationship. It is letting go of their throats.
3. If you do happen to be in a relationship that is built on deception and toxicity and it makes you unhealthy in any way, get out now. It is not worth it. Don’t be like my parents. Staying around for the sake of the kids is going to do more damage in the long run. Trust me.
4. You can make all the money in the world, but if you have broken the hearts of your children, you have lost. You did not win. Read that again.
5. Furthermore, I want you to know that everyone fucks up. Everyone. But, it is when you refuse to make amends is how you break someone’s heart. I could have handled him fucking up. It was when he refused to acknowledge it and change his ways to build back trust is where I had the problem.
6. When the abusive/mentally sick parent dies, the bad can die with them. What you can do is let the good, if any, live on through you.
7. Everything that happened to you in the past, made you who you are. Like it or not. Maybe some bad things, but maybe some good too. There is no way I would have the ambition and drive that I do if it were not for him. I also have his hands, his laugh, and an uncanny knack for catching the biggest fish 😉
8. If you do happen to be involved with a married man, end it. It is not worth the damage you are going to help to inflict on everyone around both of you. If you really loved him, you would want what was best for him and you would not want him living his life based on deception, especially if there are children involved. Furthermore, once a mistress, always a mistress. Look in the mirror and ask yourself if coming in second and slinking around in the shadows is good enough for you. If the answer is “yes,” then be prepared for it to end very badly for you. If he really loved you, you would not be second to him either and he would not want you in the shadows. If he really loved you, he would not even ask this of you. If you still feel that is “true love” and you want to stay around….know this….If they cheat with you, they will cheat ON YOU. So, good luck…
So, that’s the short version of what I went through. Of course there were a few more variables I am not going to discuss openly, but I know that if I can make it to the other side of the 9 circles of hell, you can too. It just takes time and you have to want it.
Until Next Time…