I have been hemming and hawing about how to say this, or if I should say this. But, I have decided to keep true to the purpose of my blog: an uncensored look at my life. That means that sometimes, it’s not so pretty. Sometimes, it’s about being hurt, and what that looks like.
I’ve made no secret about the fact that I had a shit childhood. If you can picture a type of abuse, or situation that would scar a kid, it happened to me. Yeah, that too. Somehow, I survived, relatively unscathed. Except, it’s only lately that I’ve been realizing that I’m not as unscathed as I thought I was; I had built up a wall as tall as Trump wants to build, hard and thick, around my heart. Getting to my heart had been like breaking into Fort Knox.
I thought I loved everyone in my life pretty openly. Too bad that wasn’t true. Being sick has truly taught me to love with all of my heart. Learning to love with all of my heart has had its rewards; it’s deepened my marriage in ways that I’ve never thought possible, for example. Like all children of abuse, I’ve spent my share of time pushing the boundaries of his promise of unconditional love, making sure that he means it; and he always has, and he still does. I am eternally grateful for his patience, his love, and our relationship, every day, and for his willingness to wait for the door to my heart to open fully, ever so slowly.
The unconditional love that I didn’t have, and still don’t have, is the foundational love that a child needs, love from my parents. My mother thinks she loves me, and she probably does, in her own fucked up way. But, she’s mentally ill. That’s the only way I can describe what she did to me. In her mind, she’s erased what she did as a series of “mistakes” or “bad parenting” choices. I think that to protect herself from a psychotic break, I believe that she truly cannot remember most of our childhood, or has rewritten it with a Pollyanna spin.
I know that if I did some of the things she did, frankly any of them, and I had to look myself in the mirror, I wouldn’t be able to live with myself. I know that it’s strange to say this, but I don’t really hate her anymore. I nothing her. It’s almost unfair to hate her, because she’s sick. But, I do resent her for what she’s done, and for refusing to acknowledge she needed help, allowing herself to let us wallow in the pit of her illness.
But, I have always said that it was my dad that made what was salvageable about my childhood, great. He used to be my hero, when I was a little girl. I thought he was a victim of circumstance, just like me. I believed him, when he told me that he was only there to save us, that he couldn’t leave her, because he had to stay to protect us. I trusted him when he told me that if we tried to leave, a judge would never let him keep us, because the mommy always gets to keep the kids, even if she’s like our mommy. Even when he hit me too, I believed it was because she made him.
Now that he’s finally left her, I know it was all bullshit. Everything he told himself about not being able to leave, not being able to save us, it was all lies. It was all part of an elaborate self-soothing scheme to comfort himself, so he didn’t have to face the fact that he didn’t protect his children from a monster. It would’ve been hard to care for two daughters, alone; and, it would’ve been hard to fight to get us. But, it would’ve been the right thing to do. Instead, he left us there, for our entire childhood. With her. He didn’t even put up a fuss when she insisted on me doing overnights at her childhood home, where her brother, a grown man, a drug addict with wandering hands, lived.
But, let’s excuse that. Lots of people do really horrible things, and make really bad choices when they are under the thumb of an abuser. My mother chipped one of his teeth when she hit him once, for goodness’ sake. I know I made bad choices too; for example, I chose to stay home for college, afraid to leave, cowering in fear of the unknown. It took being beaten, for the LAST time, at age 20 (!!) to realize I needed to finally get the FUCK out of dodge. For Good. And never, ever look back.
I want to remember that my dad took me camping. I want to remember that he bought me a denim jacket, just like his, and that he walked me to school. I want to remember that he bought me a ten speed bike, even though I was too short to ride one, because I begged. I want to remember that, sometimes, he used to hide “bonus” birthday presents for me to find on treasure hunts. I want to remember that he made up silly stories, for me, about a house-witch named, Shagundala, who would vanish every time I came into the room. This is, by the way, a tradition that I carry on with my own son; Collin leaves notes for her in his room, at night. I want to remember that my dad took me to buy my first car. I want to remember that he’d drop change out of his pocket, for us to “find,” on boring shopping trips, making us feel like the luckiest children in the world.
I have to actively choose to remember that version of my dad, though. See, in my mind, that version of my dad has died. I mourn for him. The wonderful version, the sweet version, the one who roasted marshmallows, and the one who taught me to drive, he’s gone. He’s been replaced by a selfish, arrogant version, who has forgotten that he ever had children. Well, at least, he’s forgotten that he ever had me. He’s been replaced by a man, that I don’t know, or don’t want to know. I miss the other dad; the one in his body is not the same man.
It may seem like I’m skipping ahead here; but what’s happened is that it’s been about ten years now of too many visits gone badly. Too many phone calls gone unanswered. Too many slights. Too many offenses. Too many opportunities to apologize gone by. Too many times that a father missed a chance to be there for his daughter. Too many times that he’s taken the low road. Too many times that he showed that he just didn’t care. Too many times that he cared more about being “right,” than his daughter. Too many times that he has thought we were fighting. Too many times that he’s been too busy. Just too many times of everything.
The worst of it is that there are too many times now that he’s treated me like I don’t matter, and that he, most of all, just plain old, run of the mill, doesn’t like me anymore. My daddy used to like me. Moreover, like all little girl’s daddies, he used to love me. This new man, he doesn’t like me, and he certainly doesn’t love me. He thinks the things I say are stupid because I don’t think like him; he doesn’t respect me. There’s certainly nothing that he’s proud of about me, anymore, either. He has no interest in me, at all. The day you realize that the only parent you have left doesn’t care about you, is the day you break inside.
I cannot speak for my sister, and I never would; but, I know that I feel that he looks at me as if I am a leftover piece of baggage from a part of his life that he’d sooner forget. The problem is, I cannot be packed away like a knick-knack that reminds him of a time he’d like to ignore, or wish he could erase. I’m a person. I exist. As much as he has remodeled the house, painting over the edges of a life he wants to erase, I’m still here. I’m still breathing. I can’t be sanded away, or re-carpeted.
Now, I feel like an orphan. I know that sounds a little dramatic, especially because my parents are both, technically, alive. But, I let go of my mother a long time ago. It’s easier for her to be “gone,” for me, in order to function, emotionally. My dad’s absence is harder to bear. I feel like I’ve been abandoned; and that the only way to endure it is to imagine it as a death.
When both of your parents have chosen not to love you, each in different ways, you face life as a very deficient person. Everything starts with: I’m not good enough. The two people who are required to love you, at least a little, didn’t, or don’t; it makes you feel like you are defective. It makes me constantly question myself, about literally everything about me. Am I doing this right? Am I doing that right? Does this person like me? Am I ugly?
We all learn, at one point or another, that our parents aren’t who we think they are. They aren’t the smartest, best, most amazing people on the planet. They all have flaws. They all have gaps in their knowledge, or they aren’t perfect in some other way. But, it’s a sad day indeed when you learn that they aren’t good people. I used to think my dad was my hero. I used to think that him thinking I was special meant that I was special. It made me believe that I was somebody, despite what was happening with my mother. Now, I face a very different world, one in which my hero can drop me, abandon me, and leave me.
But, I can’t be sad about this anymore. I have to let it go. I can’t shed any more tears for my dad. Just like I have to be done shedding tears for my mom. I have to finish being sad. I have to let go. It stinks to be let go by one’s own father, to be made a living orphan, but there’s nothing I can do about it. I have to enjoy what provides joy in my live. Unfortunately, that means that I’m a grown up little girl, left without her daddy.
Being sick has taught me that it’s okay to remove toxic people, regardless of relation. Being related to someone doesn’t give them an automatic right to be near you; you don’t have to tolerate bad, and hurtful behavior, just because someone is “family.” It’s okay to push bad people away from you, no matter who they are. There isn’t enough time, or space, in anyone’s life for people who hurt you.
So, I wander the earth with two people in my family now: Bryon and Collin. They are the two people who I let into my now, wide-open heart. The wall is back up, and no one else is allowed in. The door is closed. They have a key; they can open the door, to come and go at will. Everyone else can stay out.