We should have talked before you left, but I don’t believe I was mature enough. I also don’t believe you were ready. I had often heard excuses; that work was too stressful; or that was how you were treated, and that I could not handle to hear again. What I needed was truth.
I remember a time when I had fun with you. There were tickle fights and laughter, but things change. The time when I was little and didn’t see who you were had ended. And it had ended all too quickly. Most children keep their father as their hero until their teens. Mine ended by the time I was 8. I don’t know what happened. Perhaps, I lost my “newness.” Or perhaps I took too much of my mother’s attention. May be it had nothing to do with me at all, and it was because the only person who could put you in your place, my grandmother, had died. Then you could be who you really were. But either way, it was as if your little girl was slowly starting to fade.
It was little things at first. I’d come home from school without a hello. When asked if I arrived, you’re only answer was I don’t know. I began fixing myself things to eat shortly after. When Mom would wonder about if I’d been fed, you could only say you weren’t sure. When it came to schoolwork, I’m pretty sure I could have flunked every class but you wouldn’t know. I was looking after myself, making sure I handled everything when I should have been out having fun. I could walk in a room, spend a good 30 minutes with you and you were never the wiser. It was as if I was a ghost, except when I stood in front of the television to get your attention. This was usually met with anger and yelling, but it was something. I existed. I was there, but this…this was when I began to wonder why. Slowly the feeling of being unwanted crept in. To this day, I’m not really sure why you had wanted me or if you even did. Is it because Mom did? Back then I never understood what I had done to change our relationship. Now I know it was because you didn’t have the capability to truly love another person. You were unable to see outside yourself or concern yourself with others and in the process I needed to find my own way.
It was soon after that the threats started. Like most children I pushed boundaries at first. I asked why a lot. I was being a normal child, and in return you’d threaten to punch me, hit me, kick me out of the house and change the locks. Things were escalating. I was scared, but I did my best to hide it. I would yell back. I dared you to do it. I would attack back as you had attacked me, but soon it all changed again. I watched you lose your temper at someone else. I stood in the hallway as you argued with my brother. I watched you wrap your hand around his neck and lift him off the ground, sending him up our stairs. My brother screamed that you weren’t his father and tried to act like he wasn’t intimidated. I have never seen such fear on someone’s face. He was my older brother, impervious to anything, and he was afraid. It shook me, and I realized something had changed. Everything was different now but I didn’t know what just yet. May be it was because of what he said, that you weren’t his real father, but I don’t recall you ever touching him again. Instead, I became your focus.
I was your daughter, so perhaps you thought it was okay. Or may be you felt no one would say anything since I was your own blood. But once you unlocked that door, you didn’t seem capable of shutting it again. You didn’t just ignore me any longer or scream empty threats. I was chased around the house so you could get your hands on me. I had my head slammed against walls and my wooden toy chest, bruises on my arms. I was continually embarrassed when you would scream at me in public that you would punch me in the face if I didn’t be quite. Do you remember that? Do you remember the couple at Yankee stadium who stopped to stare? You kept walking like nothing was wrong, but I stopped in my tracks. The woman was looking at me, and I wanted to shrink into oblivion. I wanted to disappear due to embarrassment. I realize now I shouldn’t have been embarrassed. You should have been. Do you remember chasing me outside the back of the house, and chasing me into the street? Do you remember the neighbors coming out? The husband standing in the driveway staring at us? I babysat for them and embarrassment crept up my spine again. Do you remember having my older brother fill in for you? Having a 17 year old boy take his little sister to daddy-daughter days while the other girls had their own fathers there? They were always on Saturdays or Sundays so you would have been in bed sleeping while a teenager played father to your 11 year old. Was it strange for mom to tell my friends’ parents that my brother would be driving car pool? Would it embarrass you now?
Ironically, all of that I could get over. I’ve forgiven you for that as I realize an emotionally intelligent adult wouldn’t have acted that way. They would realize that it was a child standing in front of them. Children don’t know better than to push boundaries; that’s what being a child is all about, learning and understanding the world. The part I still struggle with are the words. The constant reinforcement that I was unworthy, ugly, unlovable. I remember being 14 and you telling me that I would never find someone to love me. You were making a 3 decker deli sandwich on the kitchen counter. It came off your lips so easily. And what caused this revelation from you? I had asked for a piece of bread and you felt I was getting too fat. Why did you feel the need to tell me that? Why did you want me to feel so small and unimportant? What was it that made you feel the need to emotionally stomp on me? These things were nearly a daily occurrence and even other family members would have to come in and try to intervene.
You often took as many chances as you could to be cruel, for no apparent reason. I’m not sure why. But do you remember my emerald and diamond confirmation ring? It had fallen off the back of the toilet and went into the bowl. I told you mom said not to use the downstairs bathroom and I told you why. The ring meant the world to me. You told me you’d do whatever you damn well wanted and went and flushed the ring. In a house with two full bathrooms and one half bath, I will never understand why you couldn’t just walk upstairs or why you would be purposefully do something to upset me. It was as if you desired to make me feel small and unimportant.
So here we are, many years later. You are no longer around to speak to about any of this, and I’ll never get the answers to your behavior. I’ll never receive a sincere apology. I’ll never be able to tell you how this made me feel or how it has impacted my life and relationships. The struggle to work within this is difficult especially since understanding and closure isn’t possible. You were supposed to be the one to protect me, to show me what love was. Instead, you broke me and tore at me any chance you could get. It’s as if I was your emotional stability hinged on my misery. You seemed to enjoy the moments when you could be cruel and make me feel small.
I’m learning how to put these pieces back together without your assistance. We’ll never have those memories of forgiveness and re-establishing our relationship. I must learn to do this on my own. But how do you forgive someone who is no longer around, someone you can’t talk to or try to understand? How do you forgive someone who you can never explain themselves? I do hope you aren’t suffering, and that you are in a better place. I hope you are at peace, as you never were in life. Only someone suffering and in pain could treat a child that way. I’m not sure if you “just did your best,” or if you just couldn’t be bothered. I’m hoping it’s the former, that you gave all that you could and due to whatever issue you were struggling with it caused you to act the way you did. But either way, I carry the scars of 22 years of hearing I wasn’t enough, that I didn’t deserve happiness or love. Over time they will fade, and may be they will eventually disappear. Until then, I will work and do my best to retrain myself. May be one day, I will never hear your voice shouting at me again. I just hope that it will be sooner rather than later as I fear I will end up like you. Alone and isolated.