I’ve spoken before about the fact that I am pretty good about putting out information and sharing small things as a way to protect the truth at the heart of who I am. I share tons of useless information as a shield against the deeper self and deeper secrets. I’m a naturally outgoing person – it’s the way I’ve always been. But I have so many secrets, some that I am finally accepting don’t have to be secrets – that aren’t things I have to be ashamed of because I didn’t do anything wrong. I’m a slow learner.
I shared an experience with y’all back in May where I asked Manannan to show me something and He did. I told you then about a blog post I’d drafted about what it was actually like growing up, one which I had decided I wouldn’t share because there was no need for it. The longer it went from the event the less it seemed I needed to share those hard truths – it served no purpose. But then, we went to Texas and Mississippi. I spent all of two nights with my father. And still, he found an opportunity to use his words as weapons against me, to belittle me to prove to me – and I guess himself – that he is better than I am. I nearly packed the car and left to come home as soon as it happened, but my beautiful husband talked me out of it – we’d already been on the road for 10 hours that day.
But it has lit a fire in me. When we finally got home on Monday, I let my Momma know that this was the last time. I won’t let it happen again; I’m ready to face whatever consequences come with refusing to be my father’s punching bag anymore. Even if it means losing people I love in my life. My father was my first bully, he has always been the biggest bully in my life. When I look in the mirror or at pictures of myself and I hear all those horrible things about myself, it isn’t my own voice I hear, it’s my father’s.
You see, the first time I remember my father striking me, I was five or six – in kindergarten or first grade – and I was written up on the school bus for talking. My bus driver was a much older woman who believed that children should be seen and not heard. I got three licks with my father’s belt and it would come to be the theme of my torment for years. Every time I was written up for talking on the school bus – which was pretty much every day because I was a young child and I spent more than an hour on the bus each morning and each evening – first on and last off. And every day when I got home, it was three licks with the belt. It was worse if I actually got in trouble at school.
During this time, he would also tell me, constantly, that I was fat and lazy. He would set me up – I remember one time where he went to Ward’s (fast food that is awesome) one afternoon when he had to pick me up from school and I asked if I could have something to eat, too. We didn’t eat out much when I was young, so it was a treat that I wanted, too. He asked me if I also planned on eating dinner. I was young, I had no real understanding of the passage of time. But I knew that if you ruined your dinner by eating too much you got a spanking. So I said “yes, sir” like the good girl I was always trying to be. He spent the next hour eating his Ward’s burger and telling me that I was fat and it was my own fault and I’d always be fat for the rest of my life because I had no self-control and we all knew I was lazy.
It was so much a part of my childhood that I didn’t even really realize there was something wrong with it until I was older. And there was no compartmentalizing my abject terror of my father. I was attacked on the school bus in 7th grade by an 8th grader. I came home and didn’t tell my father because I was afraid he would hit me. I was right. When my friend’s mom called to ask about it, my father was furious – I guess he was the only person allowed to terrorize me. After he had yelled to my friend’s mom about how he would pull the school down to see that boy punished, he hit me. He slammed the heel of his hand into my chin and told me that that was what I should have done to get that boy off of me, and then coached me to say that it hadn’t actually hurt. It had. And scared me even more than being choked on the school bus had. Instead of hugs and telling me that I wasn’t at fault, I was struck and the implication was that I was hurt because I didn’t fight back.
My father finally stopped physically abusing me in high school – you see he caught on much sooner than I did that I was finally in a position of power between us – I was healthy and strong and he was old and crippled. I didn’t know it, but he must have seen something in my eyes the last time he hit me, because even though I was so scared of him that I even lacked the courage to kill myself because he came home before I pulled it off, he never hit me again. But his words grew more sharp, more hateful, with every day that passed. I was intelligent. AM intelligent. And yet I was always thinking I wasn’t smart enough. I graduated with a 3.75 GPA. Not good enough. I was in the top 10% of my class. Not good enough.
My father made me do yard work with a push mower because I was fat and lazy and I was being punished. When my brother took over the job, he got a riding mower. If you talk to my father today, he’ll tell you I was the worst of his children. And yet, in high school, I received only one day of in-school suspension for “talking during an assembly” that even the principal couldn’t look me in the eye over because he knew it was bullshit. My brother and sister both did things much worse, that garnered much worse punishments. I won’t go into what each of them did, because this isn’t about embarrassing my siblings – despite everything, I’ve managed to not blame them for the way my father deified them to me, while crucifying me on the cross of his unmet expectations. I wish my brother could look back at our childhood and see something other than a sister that was horrible to him – from the way he “remembers” things growing up makes me realize that my father tells him things quite differently than they actually happened and it’s a miracle that he is able to love me today with the way he views our childhood.
My father is abusive, and for some reason, I’m his favorite whipping girl.
He apologized once upon a time for how he was when I was a kid. He has since returned to such behavior. I mentioned before that he humiliated me the previous time we were home. I thought it couldn’t get worse. Gods, why do I have to be so wrong about him? I have always adored my father – far longer than I should have – and I’ve hung onto the hope that one day he would be the daddy I thought I had as a small child. But if I had any delusions that we would have this wonderful relationship, I think they’ve finally been shattered.
Last Sunday we were at my parents’ house after a long drive from my brother’s house. We had dinner and were sitting around talking and watching tv. I asked my father about something that had been happening to me most of my life and happening to him for as long as I can remember (the feeling of being shocked like a live wire touching the skin). He’s had so many health problems – and so many that have been sorted out in recent years – that I asked him if he’d ever had this shocking sensation diagnosed. Because I’m terrified it has something to do with the genetic disorder he inherited from his mother, my grandmother. You see, so far my sister, brother, and I have been cleared of any signs of the illness (a form of muscular dystrophy that attacks the tendons instead of the muscles), but since I’ve had these symptoms my entire life, it’s something that frightens me.
After dismissing my question about the shocks, he informed me that I needed to have blood work done because I probably have diabetes. I’m assuming because I am big, since he known nothing about my life to make assumptions about my health. I live healthier than he ever has. He told me I needed to get on medication because otherwise I’d end up losing a foot and I wouldn’t be able to deal with it as well as he was because I’m just lazy. My father lost his foot because of surgeries dealing with his type of MD – it’s a fairly newly discovered form and most of what is known was figured out on my father and those like him. But he was pretty clear that he thinks I’ve got diabetes and I’m going to lose my foot because I don’t take care of myself. No, I haven’t been to see a doctor since after we moved here – nearly four years ago. But I’ve also been healthier than I’ve possibly ever been. I don’t smoke, and haven’t for most of the last four years; I eat meals made by my own two hands, from scratch; I am active, even if I don’t actually work out. But none of it is good enough, because my father is better than I am.
The problem is, I’m smarter than my father is, and have been most of my life. I’ve never seen it as making me better than him – or anyone else. I’ve never in my life seen myself as better than someone else – how could I when one of the two people who is SUPPOSED to love me is constantly telling me that I’m not good enough? But my father has always felt threatened by that – he brought it up all the time when I was younger. But he’s still convinced he’s better than me, or at least putting me down and putting me in “my place” has always made him feel bigger and badder and better than me.
But you want to know something? I am better than my father. Those are words that once upon a time I’d never have said. But it’s true. Not because I’m smarter than he is – though I still am. Not because my body is whole and his is not. But because I have never abused someone – physically, mentally, or verbally – to make myself feel better. And you know what? I’m pretty positive that I never will. Why? Because I look at the children in my life, those precious lives that hold a part of my heart in their small hands, and I can’t imagine ever being that person that they fear above all others. I cannot fathom wanting them to be afraid of me. How could I be anything but more loving to my own children, should we ever have them, than I am to those who didn’t come from my own body? So yes, I’m better than my father. Because I’m not a hateful person that makes themselves feel better by bullying, especially those who I should be protecting above all others.
And, as I hope I made clear to my Momma, if he does it again, I’m completely through with my father. I turn 29 on Monday. I think I have given him more than enough time to grow the fuck up. He will have one more chance to treat me at least as well as the strangers he meets in the street – to treat me as a human being instead of his punching bag. Or I will be done with him. I will refuse to see him – even if that means I can’t see my Momma any longer. Because as much as I love my Momma, she can’t ask me to continue to accept his abuse. And if he cannot treat me with a little common courtesy – and I really question if he is able to – then he definitely will never see my children. Because I don’t want my kids to grow up thinking it’s okay to allow someone to treat them the way he has always treated me. And if he ever spoke to my children the way he speaks to me, I would probably do something that I’ve never done, despite everything. I’d hit a cripple.
Some people will not take this well, and I’m sorry to you for that. But I’m not writing this for y’all. I’m writing this for that kid who is abused by their parent(s). For that man or woman who is being abused by their significant other. It’s not your fault. You don’t deserve to be abused. You are SO much more than what they are telling you. If me stepping forward to tell the truth about what happened to me growing up helps even one person stand up and say “I won’t be treated like this any longer”, then I have more than served my purpose. And may, just maybe, I’ll clear a little bit of this hate and horror from my soul. Because I’ve carried it in silence for far too long.