Faded memories…

In a previous post, I mentioned how few memories I have from when I was a child. As I pondered the meaning of family over the past week, my attention once again turned to these memories as a way to weigh my feelings against reality. The more I thought over things, the more I realized there was only one truly happy memory of my bio father before the age of six.

I know he worked days, so his time with us was mostly limited to nights, but I don’t even remember him in the time between work and bedtime except on three occasions. One I remember because I was embarrassed that everyone was laughing at something three year old me said. The other, I could only see his legs and shoes because I was a baby and sitting in the floor – not a memory of him in all reality. Take away those, and the only memory I actually have of him that is a good one is when I was standing beside him in his favorite recliner watching football when I was four.

The simple truth is, to me, there were only six years of my life in which I actually remember him being there. As I have written previously, in those memories he was mostly tearing my mother down, overbearing, extremely distant, or punishing me harshly. This means for me, I never really felt like he was my father. I felt a sense of duty because he told me that’s what family is, but in truth, he wasn’t my father just because he put a roof over my head and met the bare necessities for clothing and feeding me.

When talking to my brother last week, it hit home when I told him our “father” hasn’t been a part of my life for 28 years. Suddenly, I realized I am 40, and six years does not qualify someone as a parent, especially when a large portion of that time was punctuated by emotional abuse and neglect, endangerment, and physical abuse. He was a tiny blip in my timeline, one I think is hardly worth continued concern.

I don’t say these things to be harsh, hurtful, or vengeful. I do say these things, however, to be honest, open, and real about where I am in my life. It’s time for me to let go of the things that have held me back, to honor the ones who have supported and loved me by moving forward with my life, and to no longer feel like I should keep secrets and protect people out of some misplaced loyalty to a family that never actually existed.

Remnants

The past week has been challenging to say the least. I lost my dad on Oct 25, and a cascade of unrelated events followed. The details are unnecessary, but to say I am tired and worn would be an understatement.

After receiving a message shaming me for the pain my bio father and his wife are going through, I wrote a long letter. In it I let out the hurts and heartbreak they dealt to me over time, and for the first time, publicly told my side of the story.

One of the things I mentioned in the letter was how I used to hide in my closet because it was the only place in the world where I knew I couldn’t be “in trouble.” As I started my day today, I remembered that, even after I left his home, I still found the need for that safe space. Even though my room at my mom’s was a safe space, I still needed a sanctuary, somewhere I knew I couldn’t be found. So, in the only corner of the closet that wasn’t exposed with the folding doors were open, behind the long dresses I hung up to shield me from prying eyes, I made a little nest where I could hide.

Until this morning, I had completely forgotten about my hiding place. Now, however, I remember going there several times. I’m not even sure I needed to when I did, but it the only space in my tiny world I was certain I could control. It was dark and silent, in it I could find peace and release the anxiety that would build up.

What I also didn’t realize was that over time, I have continued to keep my little closet space, but I’ve expanded it a bit. My home is now my safe space, my sanctuary. It is the place I go to hide – it’s the only place where I have complete control. When people come to it unannounced, I feel that same sense of anxiety that I had when I would hold my breath, hoping no one would find me in my closet when I was hiding from the world.