Father’s Day is a day filled with mixed emotions for me. My father was a man who I loved very much. He was also a man I despised.
As a child I remember a daddy who was funny and made me laugh. He baked Christmas cookies during the holidays. He made green mashed potatoes for Saint Patrick’s Day. He always baked me a cherry pie, (my favorite) for my birthday instead of a cake. He played softball and kickball with me. He set up a big tent in the backyard for me and my friends to sleep in on summer nights.
I also remember him drinking a lot. He would drive while drinking, swerving all over the road. I can’t remember a summer vacation trip that did not involve him getting pulled over for driving while drinking. Back then, it wasn’t seen as serious as it is now.
I remember him passing out in his dinner plate. I would be embarrassed for him, but the rest of the family would just keep eating as if nothing had happened. It was a very strange form of denial.
When I was 11 years old, I was awakened by hands running over my body. His hands. He spoke in a soothing tone, saying “Wake up, sleepyhead” while his hands roamed over my newly developing breasts. I felt very uncomfortable, but my mind would not allow me to believe he was touching me that way on purpose. It ended quickly, and immediately I decided it was only my imagination.
The next day the same thing happened, and I knew it was no accident. I tried to squirm away as he was touching me, and he told me to be quiet…because he wasn’t hurting me. He said he was only showing me “a little affection”. Scared, I did as I was told and endured his touching. I then got up, got dressed and went to school, pretending all was well in my world.
I began to avoid my father whenever possible. I knew he was seeing me in an inappropriate way, and no longer did I see him as the sweet and funny daddy I had known before. Despite my trying to avoid him, he continued his visits to my room every morning after my mother had gone to work. I tried setting my alarm clock so I could wake up before he came in, but he took it away from me. I tried to make myself wake up so I could be up and dressed before he ever came in, but the 2 times I did that he got very angry at me and I was afraid.
Finally, I gave up trying to fight it. I would just lay there while his hands roamed and in my mind I would go to a completely different place. I would imagine myself at the beach walking on the shore as the waves licked my ankles. I would hear the sounds of children laughing and smell the salty ocean breeze. When it was over, I would open my eyes and remember nothing. He would be gone.
I don’t remember him ever doing anything more than touching me…but I don’t know if that is because that is all he did or I just disassociated myself from that part.
I wanted to tell someone about what he was doing, but I was so scared. I was afraid of tearing our family apart. I was afraid of my parents getting a divorce. I was afraid that my father would go to prison. Most of all, I was horribly ashamed, thinking that I must have done something to cause him to do what he was doing to me.
Finally, when I was 15 years old, while on a family vacation in Pennsylvania, I ran away. I went to another family member’s house and told her what was happening. I then called my mother and told her that I was going to stay in Pennsylvania for the summer. I also told her what my father had been doing.
To my surprise, she yelled at me. She told me that I was a liar, and asked me why I was making up such a horrible story about my own father. Tears rolled down my face because my own mother did not believe me.
She and my father went back home. I stayed in Pennsylvania for the summer. When I went back home in the fall to attend school, nothing had changed. My father continued touching me. My mother continued to live in denial. And I continued to travel to the beach in my mind every single morning until I reached the age of 18.
When I was 18, I left for college.
My father passed away several years ago. I was finally able to forgive him, despite the fact that he never admitted to touching me, nor did he ever apologize. Deep down I know that something drove him to do what he did to me….perhaps some demon from his own past. I had to forgive him for my own sanity.
Still, Father’s Day is hard for me. It brings up a lot of memories. I miss him. I miss the daddy of my childhood who made me laugh and who took the time to play games with me. That is the father I try to remember.