Sunday, June 16, 2013

It's Complicated--The Short Version

Every year on Father's Day, when people are extolling the virtues of fathers who did everything right by them, there's a silent minority who suffer. I choose not to be silent today.
I loved my dad. I miss him all the time. But to say he was a great father, or even a good one would be a lie. I hear people rationalize their fathers' poor behavior by saying, "He did the best he could." Well, to hell with that. Do better.

My father cheated on my mother. He didn't just cheat on her, he cheated on her while my mother was in the hospital recovering from the birth of his son, my brother. When my mother gave him an ultimatum to choose this woman and her children or us, he chose the other woman. We were moved out of our own home when I was almost seven years old to go to live temporarily (or so I thought) with the other woman's husband. Yeah, that was going to turn out well.

I spent the next five years being beaten virtually every day. I was older, so I got it worse than my baby brother--at first. Slapped at first, then spanked, then spanked on bare butt with a metal-sided ruler, then punched, then kicked. The beatings got so bad, that by the time I turned 12, my mother let me go live with my dad, because she thought this man was going to kill me.

My silence was bought with a threat of what would happen to my little brother, who was staying behind. My dad was married to his third wife by then, and her home was not a good environment in which to raise me. He split up with her for my sake. My dad did the best he could for the next six years, at least letting me stay at the same school through junior high and high school. I had moved 13 times before that. That's when recovery began for me, thanks in no small part to my grandmother and my teachers. It's not a coincidence that I became a teacher.

When I graduated and moved on to college, it was my brother's turn. He was getting it worse than I ever did, and the same arrangement was made. My dad took him in, but it did not go as well. My brother had lived with the sadistic man for virtually his whole life, and was a whole different person. My dad had divorced his fourth wife and gone back to his third wife at this point, and this time he chose the woman over his own son before a year was out and sent him back. By this time, we had told him about the abuse. We had explained in detail what had happened and what was going to happen if he was sent back. And he sent him back anyway.

I can forgive almost anything, but not that.

So, I loved my dad, but it's complicated. He saved me, but he saved me from a situation that he helped to create, and those of you who know me know that there are plenty of scars left. I do my best, but it's a fight. Every single day is a battle. And I wish, oh, how I wish that he had done the same for my brother.