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.

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Disappear…

One of the songs that is on my “Survivor Songs” playlist is Disappear by Jars of Clay.  For many years, I really did not understand this song and found it quite unnerving.  The thought of someone wanting to be so close truly terrified me.  Not to mention the fact that I truly could understand what others seemed to find so intriguing about me.

Then one day, it all hit me…there are two sides of me…the one that is on display, and the one that I hide.  Although I am very good at hiding, when others come close, they realize there is something more.  It is the fact that there are hidden things, mysteries, that draws them near and makes them want to know more.

What terrifies me about all of this?  The fact that the secrets that are so enticing are also dark and dangerous.  There is no beauty or magic hidden behind the mask, just mists that conceal snarling, venomous shadows…

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….

Hiding myself…

I had a dream last night that reminded me of my greatest struggle in life – to be the person I am inside.

That sounds a little insane, I know, but it is true.  There is a part of me that no one sees.  People have seen it before, my friends have all experienced it at some point.  However, when that part of me “escapes,” everyone runs and hides – and I am deserted once again.  The hurts of my childhood, and the whispers that I will never be good enough come back to haunt me.  It is then that I disappear again, only to be caught in fleeting glimpses.  That is why the song “Disappear” by Jars of Clay speaks to me so much…

Where did all of this come from? My childhood was a good start.  Constantly being told to suck it up, that my feelings didn’t matter, and that I was stupid for caring created a fairly cold shell that I retreated into when the world became to close.  Add in some “friends” whose goal was to constantly tear me down, and you get the neurosis that is me….

Yet along the way, there have been a few moments in time when I have been at peace with myself and able to share who I am with someone else.  Unfortunately, these times were generally followed by someone I cared deeply for deserting me.

Once deserted, I begin to retreat again because the only other people I am attached to want no part of the person inside.  They tell me they don’t know how to act, what to say, or what to do when I become myself.  They say they are afraid they will hurt me.  They are afraid that, because I am open, they will be forced to be open too…