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I am the fifth and final of my father’s children.
He has been married and divorced three times. His first marriage produced my eldest sister and my brother. His second marriage produced my two other sisters. Then there was me. The baby. A product of his final failed marriage to my mother.
My parents divorced when I was three years old. I have no memory of them while they were together. They had joint custody of me, and I spent every weekend at my father’s house. We were very close.
He was the “cool” parent. The one I could go to and complain about my mother, which I did increasingly as I aged into a sullen teenager. He always let me invite all of my friends over, even if that meant 8 of them all at once. He made my best friend and I our first mudslides when we were 14.
When I was 16 years old, my mother got a job offer on the opposite end of the country. I had the choice of going with her, or staying with my father. I decided to make the insanely brave decision, as a junior in high school, to leave all of my friends and the only life I had ever known and move away with my mother.
As the years passed, my father and I stayed in touch through 4 or 5 visits and numerous phone calls. We would watch episodes of Firefly over the phone with each other, have hour long conversations about my passion for women’s rights or argue over our opposing views on faith. We remained connected even though there were thousands of miles between us.
Fast forward to April of 2013. My father almost died of complications from pancreatitis. He was in the hospital for months and the doctors were convinced he wasn’t going to make it. I refused to visit him.
The answer I gave everyone who asked was that I didn’t want my last memories to be of him lying sick in a hospital bed. But that was a lie. I didn’t know why I refused to see him. I had no clue as to what was keeping me from wanting to be by my father’s side. I suffered a lot of guilt over it.
Then, after what felt like ages of bad news, my father pulled through. He was going to make it after all. But I wasn’t happy. I was disappointed.
Then September came. I remember the night perfectly. It was my last evening at work for a whole week. I had decided to take some vacation time off for my 27th birthday. I was one hour away from clocking out when I got a call from my mom on my cell. Her voice was anxious and scared.
“I need to speak you. It’s about your father.”
My mind immediately jumped to the worst possible thing. I was convinced this was the “I’m so sorry, but your father has passed” phone call. I told my boss I had a family emergency, quickly grabbed my things and had my fiancé get me out of there as quick as I could.
A week prior, I had a long, heartfelt talk with my mother. I spoke to her of a subject that had weighed on my mind for some time. I had confessed to her that when the doctors had announced to my family that my father was going to pull through, instead of feeling joy and relief, I felt disappointment. I had been racked with guilt over it. How could I be such a horrible person?
She suggested I try and explore any possible events or feelings from my past that may lead me to feel this way. That was when I decided to admit something I had never told another soul before.
When I was about 13, I began to feel uncomfortable being physically close with my father. Our family had always been a very warm “huggy” family. But when that age hit, something in me shifted.
Hugging him made me uncomfortable. Snuggling up on the couch with him made me feel sick. Never once in my life had my father touched me inappropriately. Never had he made me touch or look at him. I had not suffered any abuse from him in any way. So why did I feel this way? I must be a terrible daughter.
I cried over the phone with her while she assured me everything was OK and that I wasn’t a terrible daughter.
Cut back to a week later. I’m sitting in the passenger seat of my car after just making my quick escape from work. I call my mother back.
“What’s going on?!” I ask, before she even has a chance to say hello. Her voice starts to shake.
“Last week, you expressed such guilt over not being comfortable around your father and not knowing why. I can not, as your mother, let you feel guilty about this. The truth is, when your sister was very young, your father had a prolonged sexual relationship with her.”
I think I started to cry. Things got a bit fuzzy at that point. I remember my mother crying. She was convinced I was going to be angry with her for marrying my father even after knowing what he did.
I immediately needed to know everything. Every detail of what was done. Through talks with my mother and sister, I received the information I felt I desperately needed.
The abuse, mainly inappropriate touching had gone on since before my sister could even remember. It ended when she turned 14. I asked her if he made her do things to him. She said yes. I didn’t want her to elaborate.
I asked her if he had raped her. She replied “Almost. Several times.”
She told her stepmother, my father’s second wife, of the abuse when she was 14. My father spent several years in prison. Since this happened in the late 1970s, there was no National Sex Offender Registry, so my father was able to keep this hidden for most of my life.
I asked her how she was ever able to forgive my father, let alone even look at his face. She said she spent a good 15 years hating him. That hate turned into self harm and began to lead her down a dead end road. She forgave him for herself, so she could move on and build herself a better life.
She says she doesn’t see him that way anymore. She is able to look at him and see her father, not her abuser. In fact, she currently lives with him, since his illness has made it difficult for him to do things he used to be able to do on his own.
She asked me if I hated him. I told her I do. She asked if I thought I would ever stop hating him. I told her my honest truth. Every memory I have of him is tainted now. And no, I don’t think I will ever stop hating him.
He has a sickness. A sickness his “Repentance and forgiveness from the Lord” doesn’t cure. I hate him for all the lies I was fed growing up.
I hate him for presenting my sister as irresponsible. Complaining about the things she did, the way she behaved, the type of men she dated. He acted like it was her fault. He takes no responsibility in the outcome of his actions. To blame his victim for the results and aftermath behavior from abuse is pathetic.
He promised my mother he would tell me about the abuse himself when I was old enough, yet he never did. I think he was hoping he would die before he had to tell me. I also feel like he didn’t tell me because he knew how I would react and he selfishly wanted to be there for my wedding, to be a part of my future children’s lives.
He knew that if he told me, I would cut him off. So he chose to selfishly hide it from me so he could be a part of these huge moments in my life. He never for one second thought, when I eventually would find out about his actions, that my most important memories would be tainted.
I get a lot of pressure from a lot of people to forgive him. They tell me I need to forgive him so I can heal, so the anger doesn’t eat me up inside. The truth is, I barely think of him.
I haven’t spoken to him since I found out about the abuse.
Yes I am angry for what he did, but it doesn’t consume my every thought. No, I will never forgive him. I also don’t feel that I need to validate that choice to anyone.
I have plenty of love in my life. I have a huge support system of both family and friends. I have an amazing and supportive husband. Yes, I lost a father, albeit by my own choice. But I also gained a stronger and more intimate relationship with my sister. It seems there can be a silver lining on even the darkest of clouds.