A Better Life

I have found that there is a certain amount of stress and awkwardness that comes with estrangement, but it is less stressful than maintaining the relationship. I’m so glad that I cut the ties that were holding me back.

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He Just Won’t Leave Me Alone

Blog Post 17

He Just Won’t Leave Me Alone

This is the story of my life and the story of my relationship with my father. He just won’t leave me alone. Even if I ask him to. Even when I tell him to.

When I was younger, he touched me, even when I told him not to. He’d smack me on the butt and call me sexy, even when I told him not to. He’d kiss me on the lips, with his mouth open and reach for my boobs, even when I told him not to. He’d come into my bedroom when I was undressed and refuse to leave.

I have asked him not to contact me. And of course, he had to have the last word. He had to try to provoke a reaction out of me.

I got married a little over a month ago and I didn’t invite him. It was a beautiful, simple, low-stress ceremony and celebration. Since it’s been a while, I thought that perhaps I wouldn’t hear from him, but in the back of my mind, I knew. He’s got a history of not respecting boundaries and of course he couldn’t respect that I asked him not to contact me.

I know it irks him that I’ve done this, and I haven’t explained, unless you count those times when I asked him to stop touching me in the moment. Asked him to stop leering at me. And making terrible comments. He had his chance to course correct.

I don’t want to listen to his excuses. I won’t listen to him blaming me, denying that he’s done anything, or calling me too sensitive. Again. That’s what he’s always done. He’s the center of his own universe.

Quite frankly, when I opened the card and read that he had signed it, “Your former dad,” I laughed. Just a bit. It’s not that funny, but it’s also not very powerful over me. Not at all.

I admit, curiosity got the better of me and I had to open that envelope. If he ever sends me a check, it’s going to the Rape Crisis Center. I don’t want his dirty money. I was actually relieved that he didn’t send any gift, just his words.

I unceremoniously threw the card in the kitchen trash with a bunch of orange peels and old lettuce. As far as he is concerned, he mailed that card into a void. He tried to incite a response, but the only response he’ll get from me is silence.

Reader, I married him

 

Blog Post 16

Reader, I married him

I got married to my long-time boyfriend/fiancé a couple weeks ago.

It was a beautiful ceremony and reception.  Very simple.  We were married in a National Park with a few close family members and friends.  And a dog.  We held the wedding and reception in an old Civilian Conservation Corps pavilion.  So, it didn’t just look rustic; it truly was.  It was a cool day and we had two big fires in the stone fireplaces to keep us all warm.

My father was not invited or even told about the wedding.

It was a huge decision, because there is no going back from that one.  He would notice that he wasn’t invited.  Other extended family members would find out, too.  He’s not in any wedding photos because he wasn’t there.  He’s conspicuously absent.

I feel really great about it.

Not having him there allowed me to enjoy the day and the people that were there, the people that we wanted to be there.  I didn’t have to worry about him somehow making the event about him.  I didn’t have to worry about him behaving inappropriately with the women (and young girl) that were there.  I didn’t have to suffer through the sick feeling that I get every time I see him.

I got to enjoy the people that I truly love and not put on this stupid façade of respect for my father.  I don’t respect him.

Not having him there, I had so much less stress and anxiety.  I’m not afraid of what anyone thinks anymore.  I care about myself.  As I should.

My Dad Gave My Mom an STD

Blog Post 15

My Dad Gave My Mom an STD

I had one of those “ah-ha” moments today, where I unexpectedly put a few puzzle pieces together and came to a realization that my dad gave my mom an STD, more than once.  My mother inadvertently told me about it.

My dad went to strip clubs, as part of “entertaining clients,” he claimed.  But he made no secret of it.  He traveled out of town for business, too.  Couple that with his entitled, sexist personality, I’d always kind of figured that he’d cheated on my mom.  But it was just a feeling, a hunch.

Then today I recalled having a conversation with my mom about vaginal infections back when I was a teenager.  She specifically mentioned that she got trichomoniasis from time to time, and that you could treat it with pills.  She was very matter-of-fact about it, as you should be.  I didn’t realize it at the time, and I actually don’t think she did, either, that trichomoniasis isn’t just an imbalance of the natural vaginal flora, like a yeast infection.

Today, I realized, that my mother was talking about getting trichomonas, a parasitic STD, during her marriage.

I don’t think my mom even realized she was talking about an STD, because she sure as Hell wouldn’t have told me about that.  I imagine that when she went to the doctor to get treated, he gave her a prescription, (and maybe my dad, also?), but didn’t specifically inform her that her infection was sexually transmitted, to her, from, uh, somewhere else.

I know I shouldn’t be, but I’m stunned.

My dad is an asshole.

My mother deserved better.

Kiss Me, I’m Irish

Blog Post 14

Kiss Me, I’m Irish

Back in junior high school, middle school you’d call it now, a bunch of us girls decided to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day by drawing little shamrocks on our cheeks with the saying, “Kiss me, I’m Irish” with green, felt-tip pens.  After all, everyone’s Irish on St. Patrick’s Day.

The first year that I remember doing this, the school seemed to be filled with girls with green shamrocks on their faces.  I remember that a lot of us did it and it was just good fun.

The second year that we did this would have been seventh grade.  And again, a bunch of us girls drew green shamrocks on our faces along with the saying, “Kiss me, I’m Irish.”  It all seemed very festive to me.

That is until an adult said to me, “You don’t look Irish.”

I was crushed.  I felt like a fraud.  I felt like I had been found out.  I felt like an imposter who had been caught.

As an adoptee, I had no idea what my ethnic heritage was.  I didn’t have the courage or self-esteem to just say, “Well, everyone’s Irish on St. Patrick’s Day.”

Humiliated, I went to the school bathroom and scrubbed the shamrock off of my face.

Years later, I did a couple genetic tests, and among other things, they tell me that I’m about a quarter Irish.

There is a large Irish community here where I live, and on St. Patrick’s Day, there is a well-attended parade with Irish clubs, music, and floats.

On St. Patrick’s Day, I got up and went to the early service at my church and then got the hell out of downtown before the crowds came.

I have no desire to go see the parade, or join a club.  Or learn about them.

In part, I just don’t feel the connection.  I’ve never been a part of that and it feels late to start now.

And I’m afraid of being called out for being a fraud.  I didn’t grow up knowing local Irish culture, Irish foods, Irish history.  It’s that same feeling I had back in junior high school.  That I would be just a shoddy imposter.

Another part is that it reminds me of things I have lost by being adopted.  I’ve been stripped of my heritage.  That’s painful and it makes me angry.

 

The Cheetah Principle

Blog Post 13

The Cheetah Principle

When I finally realized how dangerously miserable I was in my second (!) marriage, I called a friend of mine and just told him the truth.  The truth about how I was being treated, about how trapped I felt, and how close to homicidal I feared I was becoming.

My friend didn’t mince words with me.  He insisted that there were a few things that I must do, one of them being to go talk to my priest.

Being at the end of my rope, and desperate, I followed my friend’s advice and made an appointment with the rector of the Episcopal church that I attended.  I didn’t expect much to come of this meeting, but it was worth a shot.  I figured that he would give me bland advice to pray for guidance and healing, or something along those lines.  Maybe he’d even tell me I needed to forgive.

I went to the meeting and was surprised at what the priest had to say.  His knowledge of marriage and of people gave me insight to my situation and validation to how I was feeling about my situation.

After I truthfully told him of my situation in my marriage, he simply said, “Your marriage is over.  There is no fixing this.”

I felt so relieved.  I didn’t have to keep trying.  I’d been the only one trying and I was exhausted.  When he told me it was a lost cause, it was as if a weight had been lifted off of me.  I could stop trying to fix the unfixable.

And then he explained the Cheetah Principal, saying that it was a term that his brother had coined, and that it applied to my situation.

He told me that he didn’t want me to feel bad, or like there was something wrong with me, but my husband had chosen me for a reason.  When a cheetah hunts, it chooses an animal in the herd that it thinks it can catch.  An animal that has some kind of weakness that it can exploit.  My husband had seen some sort of weakness in me that he could exploit, and then he had used it against me.  He had picked me deliberately, just as a cheetah chooses its prey.

Far from being hurt by this explanation, it made perfect sense to me.  My husband had figured out what I wanted and offered it to me.  He’d seen my lack of confidence in myself, instilled in me by my childhood that consistently told me that I wasn’t capable of taking care of myself, that I needed a man to do it.  I was easy prey for someone like him.

This realization was enlightening and empowering to me.  As soon as I realized that the beliefs that I held about myself were false, I could start the process to become self-sufficient.  I went back to college to finally get a degree so that I could be employable.  I did other things to feel better about myself.  I stopped caring what he thought about me.  I wasn’t going to need him for much longer.  I came up with an exit strategy.

My mother had been victimized by my father in the same way, I am sure.  He picked her because he knew she wouldn’t seek out a second (!) divorce.  He picked her because she had a dependent personality that allowed him to dominate her and to behave any way he wanted.  He picked her because he knew that she’d let him get away with his abusive bullshit.

I think abusive men pick nice women, because we think that if we’re just nice enough, he’ll be good to us.  This is how I was taught.  My father always told me that I didn’t love him enough.  I thought perhaps if I could give him the love that he needed, I could fix him.  My mother was like this; I became like this in my marriage.  It doesn’t work.

My mother never managed to leave my father, or to become self-sufficient.  I feel sorry for her.  I don’t think she got the life that she wanted.  I don’t think she had the courage to go against societal norms and just the inertia of her life to seek out her own self-actualization.

I know it’s hard because I did it.  I finally didn’t care what anyone thought of me.  (One of my worst problems, I swear, and another legacy of my childhood:  caring too much what people think of me.)  I did whatever I needed to better myself and to be true to myself.  I really rocked the boat.  That’s an understatement, for sure.  For the first time in a long time, I had real hope.

And over time, I became the animal that the cheetah isn’t even interested in.

 

Where Was My Mother While I Was Being Abused?

Blog Post 12

Where Was my Mother?

If you look at pictures of my mother holding me when I was a baby, she looks stiff and awkward, as if I’m some kind of dangerous animal that she was being forced to pose with.  I suppose, to some extent, that may be true.  She was trying to fulfill my father’s vision of what his family should look like.

I’d once made an offhand comment to a psychologist that my parents were unable to have children because they never had sex.  He asked me to elaborate.  I explained that I’d never seen my parents exhibit affection for each other.  My father had said things to my mother, or grabbed her, but she always rebuffed him.  She was very clear that she wanted him to leave her alone.  They slept in separate bedrooms for as long as I can remember.

The psychologist pointed out to me that I was likely right, that my mother had seen what kind of a man my father was and she knew that he would be a terrible parent, and that he should not be allowed to reproduce.  She worked within the framework that she had to make sure that he didn’t have any offspring, and it worked.

Adoption, on the other hand, was a different kind of machine, one that he could operate and bully her into participating in.  She could underhandedly fail to reproduce, but she couldn’t overtly prevent the adoption.

I’m certain that my father deliberately chose my mother.  He wanted someone who he could push around and wouldn’t stand up to him.  My mother had been divorced, so in the midcentury, she was already damaged goods, so to speak.  She had been married to a practicing alcoholic and divorced him after only a few years of marriage and, I assume, moved back in with her parents.  When my father married her, he counted on her being unable or unwilling to get a second divorce.

My mother waited on my father hand and foot.  If they were both sitting in the family room watching TV, and my father wanted a cup of coffee, my mother would get up and get it for him.  She was more like his servant than his wife.  As such, I didn’t have any respect for her, for never standing up for herself, for never having an opinion as to what mattered to her, and for letting him treat her like that.  I actually felt sorry for her.

My mother grew up as an only child.  Her older sister had died of pneumonia as a toddler before my mother was born.  As far as I know, her parents loved her and doted on her.  Unfortunately, they may have spoiled her to the point that she never learned to take care of herself.  My mother did not even know how to balance a checkbook or pay bills.

I remember that she seemed angry much of the time, slamming the cupboard doors in the kitchen yet never telling anyone why.  I asked her more than once if she was angry, or what she was angry about, and she always replied that she wasn’t angry.  But it was apparent from the look on her face and her behavior that she was.  I can only imagine how frustrated she was with her life.

My mother was wound like a tight spring.  If I spilled my glass of milk at the table, which children do, she’d jump up to catch it and in doing so, spill everything else on the table.  If I talked back to her she’d haul off and slap my face.

One time my brother and I were playing hide and seek outdoors after dark with some of our friends.  In my attempt to get away from my brother, I turned around and accidentally ran right into him.  My mouth connected with his head and my tooth fell out into the dirt in our front yard.

I had just seen a movie in school about how a dentist could replace a lost tooth, and if this happens, you should retrieve the tooth and go to the dentist as soon as possible.  I ran screaming into the house, blood running down my face, in a panic.  I needed someone to help me find my tooth in the dirt in the dark.  I wanted it put back in my mouth.

My mother’s reaction?  To my horror, she screamed at me.  She screamed that they weren’t going to look for my tooth and that I was going to have to get a “flipper” with a tooth on it.  I remember sitting on the couch with my grandfather, my mother’s father.  He hugged me and tried to comfort me and we went outside to find my tooth, which we did.  I went to the dentist that night and he put my tooth in.  It stayed there for twelve years, which is much longer than usual.

I don’t remember my mother ever hugging me, being affectionate.  She didn’t seem to enjoy me at all.  She was always, just, distant.

Her notes in my baby book remark that I cried all the time, that I wouldn’t eat, that when I did eat, I would vomit.  I could not be comforted.  I’m not surprised as I had been taken away from my biological mother, then three weeks later taken away from my foster mother, and I was then given to this pair of strangers who would be my adoptive parents.

I used to tell my mother, right to her face, that I wasn’t going to grow up to be like her.  That I’d have a job.  That I’d be able to take care of myself.  I was told that I had a horrible mouth, and I’d never amount to anything.  I was told that I should go to college to find a husband to take care of me because I was unable to take care of myself.  I was told that nobody would love me because I was too mouthy.  I was constantly told I would fail.  When I said I wanted to run a company, I was laughed at.  I internalized these messages.  That spirited child turned into someone who felt unable to accomplish certain things, and so, for years, I didn’t even try.

When my mother came down with Alzheimer’s disease, my father would badger her to remember who he was.  His incessant questioning was cruel.  That poor woman didn’t even remember where the kitchen was, and yet he’d send her there to fetch him ice cream.  When she was done with the ice cream, she might put it away in the freezer, but more likely the refrigerator, or the cupboard, or not at all.  Then my father would lecture her on where it was supposed to go.

One time I was at my parents’ house cleaning and making them food.  My father asked my mother of me, “Do you know who this is?”  She replied, “I don’t remember her name but that’s the nice lady who cleans and makes food.”  I smiled at her and told her, “That’s right.”  My father had wanted to cajole her into remembering me, or make her feel bad about not remembering me, but I knew she couldn’t help it.

One of the reasons that I believe that she had a happy childhood was that she went back to it in her Alzheimer’s disease and she was actually happy there.  She was also so passive that she was fairly easy to take care of.  I could tell her, “It’s time for your shower,” and she’d cooperate even though she didn’t like it.  She would go to bed or get dressed or go to the car or whatever was asked of her.  Her compliant, dependent personality became exaggerated in her disease.

Inevitably, one day I got a call from my father that my mother had fallen and broken her hip.  She would be having surgery to repair it that morning.  I went to the hospital to wait with my father while my mother had her hip repaired.

As we waited, my father told me the story of what happened.  The night before, my mother had fallen in the kitchen.  He had tried to help her up, even bringing a chair next to her to try to get up into.  When she was unable to get up, he put a blanket over her and left her there until morning.  He doesn’t get up until late, so she was probably there until afternoon.  I don’t know exactly how long she was there, but he admitted that she was there all night while he went to bed.  He called the ambulance the next day.  He saw nothing wrong with this.

I was shocked and horrified at the level of cruelty it would take to leave her like that all night on the hard kitchen floor.  All because calling the ambulance at night would be inconvenient to his TV watching or sleeping.  A broken hip is excruciating and sleeping on the hard kitchen floor would be awful for my mother without a broken hip.  I hate to think of how she suffered there.  And yet, my father thought nothing of it.

All the years of her waiting on him and this is how he treats her.  I was so stunned at his casual cruelty that I didn’t even know what to say.  In a way, I wasn’t surprised.  My father treats women horribly as if they aren’t human.  I already knew that, but this was next level.

My mother never walked again.  She lived another two years in a fairly nice nursing home that specialized in memory care.  My father visited her there three to five times a week and was his usual asshole self.  It made it difficult for me to visit her because he was so horrible to be around.  The staff was kind and accommodating and my father took advantage of that.  I have to admit, though, that my mother probably got better treatment at the nursing home because my father was such a consistent visitor.

My mother died on Christmas morning, 2014.

Since her death, I found I had less and less reason to spend any time with my father.  The way that he’d treated me, the way that he’d treated my mother . . . I couldn’t stand to be around him.

I finally cut off contact just before Christmas of 2018.

In spite of the fact that my parents own burial plots, my mother’s ashes still sit on a table in the living room at my father’s house and I can’t visit her.

He controls her even in death.