It Happened To Me: I Confronted My Abusive Father After 18 Years

And I've been waiting 10 years to send this story to Jane.
Publish date:
July 20, 2011
relationships, family drama, fathers, abuse

We left my father when I was four years old. One day, while my father was at work, my mother took everything we had and took off leaving the house empty for him when he came home from work.

As a child, all I knew was that my father Adam, was an abusive alcoholic who destroyed my family. I was told stories here and there from my mother and older brothers, but we mostly didn't discuss the topic.

At first, there was visitation, but apparently, I would cry when I was dropped off, and my mother didn't feel that it was good for me to be around him. She told the lawyers and judge that she wouldn't be doing it anymore, and Adam never fought it. We moved 15 minutes away from him, and he never attempted to see me again.

So when I got a call one regular Thursday night from a man named Peter who claimed to be my uncle, I had a lot of questions, ones I'd been asking myself all my life. "Does he talk about me?" "Does he miss me?"

Peter tried to fill in the blanks as much as he could, but what I needed to do, was ask Adam these questions myself.

About a month later, Peter and his wife came to meet me. We took the short drive that was so familiar to me. For years, I had driven past his house and stared in, hoping to get a glimpse of this man who was my father. This time, I was going to go up to the door.

When we pulled up to Adam's house, Peter walked up to the house and knocked on the door. From the car, I saw Adam open the door and walk out.

I had pictures of him that I had stared at for years, but I was 4 years old when we left, and I was 22 now. He looked much different.

We walked up to the metal gate leading to his driveway. Now that he's finally standing in front of me, that I'm staring into his eyes "Hi" is all I can say.

"Hi," he says.

We walk into a house that is completely foreign to me, despite the fact that I spent the first 4 years of my life there. I sit down at the kitchen table, and he sits across from me. Peter and his wife stand just outside of the kitchen, to give me privacy.

This moment is the one I've replayed in my mind so many times. Adam is sitting in front of me. This is my chance. This is the time for me to say what I need to say.

"Well…I am here because I have a few things that I need to say to you."

The tears are already building in my eyes. I am surprised how old and helpless he looks.

"First of all, I need to say that I am fine. I am who I am because of my mother. She has always been there as well as both of my brothers. I have had a great life, without any of your help."

I pause, to catch my breath. My voice is shaky, but I surprise myself with my strength.

"I need to get a few things off of my chest. When my mother lived here, the way you treated her disgusts me. There is no reason you should have ever treated her the way you did."

"I never..." he starts to say.

"Don't make excuses or lie, that isn't why I'm here, OK? I just need you to listen to me."

I pause and wipe my eyes with my sleeve.

"I want you to think about my brothers for a second. Think about the fact that they didn't have any father figure to look up to while living here. So, who do they look to? You! And what do you do? You beat the shit out of them. You make their lives miserable. They have to watch you scream at their mother. The only male that they have to look up to, is you, and look at how you treated them. Do you feel sorry for that? Because you should. I had to grow up my whole life feeling guilty for what you did. You are my father, and I am related to you. And you did that to them."

I stop speaking, and sob into the tissue that Peter has given me. I take a moment to regroup my thoughts and I begin again.

"Do you think that we look alike?" I cry to him.


"Does that make you sad? Does it make you sad to know that you have a daughter that looks so much like you and you don't know her at all? Your only child that you will ever have. Your one chance at being a father, and look at how you did. Does it bother you that you don't know me at all? Because it should."

As I am saying all of this, he is wiping the tears from his sad, aged eyes. I look into them, and the tears just don't stop.

I begin again, "What do you have to say? Are you sorry?"


"You know, for the past 18 years I have thought about you. My whole life I have thought about you. I grew up thinking that my father didn't care about me. Do you know how much that hurt? Did you think of me? Did you miss me? Are you sorry?"

"Yes," he says and wipes his eyes. He stands up and puts his arm around me. "Don't cry, don't cry," he says.

As his arm is around my shoulder, I don't feel love, don't feel hate. I feel nothing, and finally he lets go and sits down. There is silence for a moment. I look at Peter. "Do you want to go outside for a cigarette?" he asks.

"Yeah," I say, and get up and walk to the door. We go outside into the crisp December air, which feels so refreshing to me. I smoke my cigarette in silence.

Adam and Peter discuss the improvements he has made on his house since the last time he had been there. All I can do is just stare at him. He is my father. This is the man that has occupied my thoughts since I can remember. This old man with a red-and-black flannel shirt and a Marlboro cigarette jean jacket. This old man with blond gray hair. This man with the Polish accent.

Here he is. Limping along, living in this small little house, with a chicken defrosting in the sink. He was just going on with his little life. Without me.

I take my last drag and flick my cigarette into the street. Peter says, "I told Jenny about the boat."

"Do you want to go see it?" Adam says. He gets up and fishes a set of keys from his pocket. We go into a garage packed with junk. I see the boat.

"The name of the boat is on the back. You can't see it from here," Adam explains.

"What is the name of it again?" Peter says.

"Princess Jenny," Adam says.

He named his boat after me.

We walk back into the house and Peter asks if I am ready. I nod. I'm standing, but I don't even know what to do with my own body. How do I end this? Do I hug him?

We walk to the door, and he comes outside with us. I light another cigarette. Peter's wife says, "Why don't I get my camera, Jenny. You know you are going to want this picture someday. If anything ever happens, you would want it, you know?"

"Alright" I say, understanding exactly what she means.

When Adam dies, I will want a picture to remember him by. It's a sad thought, actually. We stand next to each other. He puts his arm around me. I attempt a smile.

"Alright," I say, ready to go.

"Don't be a stranger, you know, I won't bite. I would like to take you to dinner sometime. I am always here."

"OK" I say, not knowing if I mean it.

He hugs me, and whispers, "Bye, honey" in my ear. I walk to the car, and sit. It's over. I did it. I finally did it.

Update: I wrote this story more then 10 years ago, and had always wanted to send it to JANE magazine, but never had the courage. When I heard about, it's the first thing I thought about, and here I am. I stopped by to see Adam one more time briefly a few months later. It was the last time I ever saw him. Trying to establish some sort of relationship was just too complicated. But, seeing him that first day was the best thing I did for myself mentally. I felt at peace. A few months ago, more then 10 years later, Adam passed away. Recently, I got to go in the garage and see the back of the boat. It's there...Princess Jenny.