Monday, June 12, 2006

My dad

I miss my dad. I miss the memory of him that isn't tainted by my mother's insanity, and her convenient justifications. I miss the father I had before she took him away from me, before she killed everything that was good about him in my heart.

In November of 1990, my husband and I were at different locations in the sweltering Persian Gulf, during DesertStorm/ Desert Shield. One day I received a Red Cross message from my mother telling me that my father had been ill for months, and the doctor was giving him 3 months to live. Her excuse for not telling me was that she knew I had more important things to worry about. What could be more important than my father? My stepdad, whom I call my father because he raised me from the age of 5, had pancreatic cancer that had already spread to the lymph nodes. I desperately wanted to go home to see him before he died, but was told by my Commanding Officer that no Corpsman could be spared, everyone was needed because we were at war. He arranged for me to go to the bridge to call my dad, and I had the chance for one tearful and loving goodbye before he died 3 days later. I received another Red Cross message in the chapel, and knew before the Chaplain even spoke that my father was gone.

Suddenly, my grief qualified for a trip home. Just a few days before I couldn't be spared but now that my dad had gone to his Maker, I was not needed. A Red Cross message had been sent to John also, and arrangements were being made for us to meet on base at Bahrain, and fly home together for my father's funeral.

I had experienced death before, but never like this. Grief plagued me, ate at my soul and for the next 24 hours while flying home I could do little more than cry. The word cry doesn't do my pain justice, anyone who has lost someone close to them understands. It's more like you have this hole in your chest, and it pulses and ignites every time the tears begin, and with each tear you feel like a little bit of you is dying too. All my life I had been told to be quiet, to shut up, not to scream so that the neighbors could hear. No more, not this time. I wailed without selfconsciousness because the world around me did not exist. It was only myself and my husband, in the eye of a tear stained and blurry storm.

Most of our time home during the war is still cloudy to me, but I do remember a few things. I remember that moments after my father's wake, my mother was kind enough to start fouling my father's memory. She told tales of abuse and hate, that not until just 2 years ago would I find out that they were one sided. My brother witnessed many of their verbal and physical altercations, and many of them were instigated by our mother. While I was there, though, I would for the first time hate my father, too.

My father wasn't perfect, he was no saint, but he was mine. I knew that they had arguments that would often lead to physical abuse. My brothers and I would cower upstairs during fits of rage, and there were times that we were awakened but horrifically loud crashes and sounds of glass being smashed, only to have our mother finally come upstairs and smile serenely and say that it was ok, to stay upstairs. I remember now with confusion that these were the few times our mother actually showed any affection for us, as she sat on the side of our beds and stroked our hair. It makes sense to me in a way, only because of what my brother had told me- that she would hit him with cast iron frying pans, or throw heavy glass ash trays at him, and then stand there waiting for the blows to begin. From what Ben (my brother) tells me, it was as if she wanted to make him hurt her.

At that moment when my mother began to tell us the horror stories, her one sided concoctions, all the pain and misery she had caused my mind and body as a child was suddenly washed away. Her grief for the past and present stunned me, and I no longer loved him, not completely because now my love and grief were tinged with hate. I told her that if I had known what he had been doing to her all of those years, I would have killed him. I realize now that out of my need for her acceptance, approval and love, I was able to believe all the things she said. By giving her all my love at that time, I was rewarded by her, finally, briefly.

14 years later, 2 years ago I finally learned the truth. I learned that my mother lied, and has lied for years. She lies when the mood strikes, but mostly to keep up appearances. She is always the victim, and since she believes that is so, she has to be right. I guess, now that I think about it, I hadn't just learned the truth, in a way. Ben had been trying to tell me the truth over the years, but I didn't want to hear it. She had always said that Ben was too dramatic, and liked to exaggerate. Out of co-dependency and my addiction to please her, I believed her.

What makes me angry is that there had been times over the last 6-7 years that she admitted her previous accounts of the past had been false, that she had been to blame, or had spurred him on, but only after varying her stories a bit here and there over the years. When we would question her, she would say that she had forgotten to add those things in on previous tellings, or that she had gotten the details mixed up. I now know that she said what ever insanity she believed at the time, and that over the years she had told her lies so often, she actually began to believe them. Once in a short while the truth would manage to drag its way to the surface, and usually it was because she liked to gleefully tell us the things she did to him, the ways in which she tortured him.

Now, I see the truth clearly. Our dad loved us, and he loved us enough to stay with a woman that was completely insane and without reason. Why would he? I believe he saw what she did to us, and knew that it could be so much worse if he left her. Why else stay with someone who's mood swings were so bipolar, someone so abusive and hateful? I know it wasn't because of the good days, they were few and far between. He abused her as much as she abused him, and now I think to myself, "She got what she deserved, and he showed her as much kindness as she showed to her own flesh and blood." I was his only little girl, and I love him for cherishing me, which is more than I can say for my real father. He never hurt me, which is more than I can say for my mother and my real father.

So, to make a short story long, this Father's day I finally have my father back. All that was good about him is with me once more, and I have my brother to thank for that. I hope that my brother and I can at the very least be as parents what our father was to us. He was selfless in his love for us, and in his quiet, eye twinkling way, he shared it with us.

I miss you, dad. Rest well knowing that one day we will see you again. I only hope there is a witness protection program, up there in heaven, or at least "mental" detectors. *smile*

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