Not My Family…

Over the past week, I have been hearing stories about health problems my step-mother is experiencing.  Today, I received the following message from a family member in my fb inbox:

Information
Your dad asked that I let you know he is in the hospital (they are doing a full work up on his heart).

At first, I wanted to simply respond:

I don’t care.

However, I thought about the fact that she was really trying to help.  I know people don’t always understand the extent of what has happened between my father and I, and that they really want help us make peace.  However hurtful it might be that people don’t respect my wishes to be left alone when it comes to my father, I do understand that they don’t mean to hurt me.

As I waited for something nice and friendly to pop into my head, I worked on some therapeutic activities…On my fb status I posted:

for those that wonder why…they aren’t my family. we don’t share a bond….

I followed this activity up by going to my groups and adding one called, Extended “Family”  In this group I added those that I consider my brothers and sisters, people who love and accept me as I am, and with whom I share a bond.

While I was contemplating what message I would send back, my mother called.  She said my step-mother had let her know that my father wanted to know if anyone had told me.  I shared with her that I had received a message already, and that I was trying to figure out how to respond.  I told her how I really feel about it, and we talked about how she shares many of the same feelings about her own father.  She talked about how people still try to get her to contact him, and how she doesn’t feel she has a reason to do so.  Although I hate what my mother has been through, I appreciate that she understands how I feel.  She even told my step-mom that she would tell me, but that was all she could do.

After talking to my mom, I took a little more time to contemplate things.  I finally responded to my family member with the following:

It’s really nice of you to do this for him. I’m sorry to hear that he’s not doing well. Of course, you understand, I can’t be there. He hasn’t been my dad since March 26, 1989…the day he “disinherited” me for going to live with my mom…for wanting to stop living in fear.

You are his only chance at having a daughter now. I hope he treats you better than he did his own.

The more I think on this, the more I come to understand that my father did disinherit me.  If I had known then what I know now, it wouldn’t have bothered me as much that he was using empty promises to try to manipulate me into staying in his home.  He would never pay for my wedding, much less even begin to be able to help pay for a college education.

Even without considering that, I never had a bond with him.  As I think back, after the age of 4, I can’t remember loving him.  I remember being afraid.  I remember obeying because I wanted to be a good girl.  I didn’t want to hurt, and I didn’t want him to keep me from seeing my mother.   But I never loved him.

The walls he caused me to put up also kept me from creating a true bond with my step-mother.  In all of this, she is the one I feel he has really hurt.  I was not able to develop a relationship with her because of the way he tried to use her to replace my own mother, someone who was still very much a part of my heart and my life.  She is a very patient, loving, and kind woman, but in the end, she is like my father…she’s just someone I know.

Yet, as I read this, something else comes to me.  I have never allowed responsibility to rest on my step-mother for not protecting me.  I’ve always tried to protect her feelings, yet she never protected mine… 

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No Love Here…

Last week, a friend was telling me about troubles they were having with their father.  The situation was very familiar to me, and we talked for a while about respect, adulthood, and the right to make choices of our own.

The following morning, I began to think about how old I was when I finally separated myself from my father.  In doing so, I realized that it has been 8 years since I last visited him.  (Time sure flies when you are at peace…)

As I thought about this, another realization came to me – I have not loved my father since I was four.  After that time, my father became a very controlling, scary man, who just provided a place to live.  For years, I felt bad because thought I was “supposed to love” my father, and I really didn’t feel what everyone said I was supposed to.  I tortured myself with guilt because, to me, this meant I was a bad child.

It is so odd to realize this and see it in perspective now.  I feel better releasing the burden of guilt over not feeling things I thought I should have and simply accepting that these things were never cultivated in my life.  There are no more strings attached, and I no longer have ties to this man. Woohoo!

Is it Father’s Day?

Wow!  I completely forgot that today was Father’s Day.  Some people would gasp at that statement, because to them, it would mean that either I was a terrible daughter, or that they should feel sorry that I missed out on what they had.

Yet for me, this day is simply a day.  There is no sadness in not celebrating – there is freedom.  It reminds me that I have freed myself from the shackles that held me for so long.  Not only that, but that I have the right and the ability to choose to end abusive relationships.

So, don’t feel sorry for me, or think that I am bad on this day.  Just remember that, by freeing myself, I have been given a voice in this world – and now I can make a difference in the lives of others.

The Legacy…

Back in 2000, when my grandmother passed away, my brother and father had a very nasty falling out at her funeral.  My father invited my neice, my brother’s eldest child, and her mother, his first wife to the funeral.  His reasoning was that it was her great-grandmother, and she had a right to be there, and if my brother would not go get her, her mother had to bring her.  He also said that, just because he and her mother had gotten divorced, it did not mean that we considered her mother any less a part of the family.  He felt that she knew my grandmother, and if she wanted to be there, she had a right to be.

That did not go over too well with my brother.  He said that he and his new wife could not grieve our grandmother’s passing properly with her there, and that he did not appreciate the fact that dad invited her.  He and my father yelled and screamed at each other, and I suddenly realized that this was exactly what would have occurred if my mom had come to the funeral.

For days, other family members had been asking why my mom did not come to the funeral home.  They said they missed her, and she was still a part of the family.  They told me to let her know that she was welcome any time, and that they wanted her to be there. I kept telling saying, “You know that daddy would have a fit if mama came here.”  And they assured me that he could, “Just get over it.”  But even after 20 years, I knew that he would still cause a scene if she were to visit.  I also knew that she would never go because she did not wish for him to act an a** in front of my brother and myself and cause us more stress.

Every cruel word he had ever said about my mother was never more vivid to me than it was on that day.  I saw my father in my brother, and it hurt.  It was at that very moment that I finally understood everything that my mother had endured and realized how hateful my father really was.  I was enraged that he passed this anger and rage on to his own son, and that it had the potential to destroy another child.

Fortunately, my oldest niece’s mother left before it was too late to spare her daughter the pain of growing up in a home with so much rage.  My niece is now a well-adjusted, normal teenager who understands that she is loved.  She also understands that, though she deeply desires to have her father’s love, it is not required for her to feel whole.

It makes me so angry to know that this is the legacy my father has left for us.  And although I have chosen to reject it – it is still being passed on.

18 years…

Today marks the anniversary of the day I chose life over my father – abandoning my dreams in order to leave the pain behind.

I know it’s not a big deal to most people, but my mom and I celebrate this day each year.  Why?  Because it is the day that my mom took me away from my father – it is the day she gave me a home without fear.  It was the second night (the first was just two nights before) I would spend with her since the age of four….

There are bittersweet memories about that day, like the conversation that my father had with me before I left his house – forcing me to choose between every hope I had ever had and him.  He told me that he had planned to pay for my wedding when I was old enough to marry, and that they (he and my stepmom) had been planning to help me with college.  Then he said, “Now you know, if you leave here, we won’t do any of this for you?  Are you sure this is something you want to do?”

I was so lost.  All my dreams had come to this moment, and I had to choose between hope for the future or drowning that day.  Yet, there was no other answer for me.  I had stepped out, and I would not look back.  I was sure that I did not want to hurt anymore.  I was absolutely positive that I could not take one more whipping or one more condescending word.  My mother would be there to take me away in a moment, and everything I had ever really desired came down to wanting to be where I felt loved.

I love my mom for what she did.  I am so thankful that my stepfather was willing to take me in.  Without them, I would not be the person I am today.  If it were not for their love, I would have fallen into the abyss.

Today there are many tears, but not one is from regret….

Holidays…

Holidays are often the most difficult time of year for survivors.  We are often forced into close proximity to our abusers with little opportunity to express our discomfort because our feelings must be sacrificed for the “greater good” of all involved.

This year, I want to help other survivors have happier, healthier holidays.  If you have a strategy for surviving the holidays, or a tip for making them a little easier to endure, please feel free to post.

I’ll start…

Six years ago, at Christmas, I started my own tradition – I simply stopped going to see my father.  This relationship was toxic, and it was ruining my ability to be a well-adjusted adult.  Once I cut off contact, I found that the holidays (and my life in general) are so much better when I am able to chose who I spend them with.