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.

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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.

The Toxic Wedding Guest

Blog post 11

The Toxic Wedding Guest

I’ve been planning, for the past two years, to get married.  We want a small wedding, with only close family and a few friends, less than fifteen people including us.  The problem was, if we talk about immediate family, my father would surely be included in that list.

I didn’t want him there, and I agonized over that for a good year and a half.  Having him there would give me so much anxiety about what he would do, how he would offend other guests there, or make the wedding about himself.

At first I considered having a destination wedding. Having a wedding out of state would provide a plausible explanation for why my dad couldn’t be there, both to other guests and to him.  He’s too old to really travel like that anymore.  It would give me an easy way out, in that he wouldn’t be able to come and I wouldn’t have to go to the trouble of not inviting him and all the repercussions that came with that. In other words, it would really let me off of the hook.  I looked at multiple bed and breakfasts in several different states, looked up local marriage laws, even considered Vegas.  While all of these were doable, the problem was that a couple guests, who were very important to us, would not be able to travel to be there.  It wasn’t really a fair exchange.

So after a lot of thought, a year an a half’s worth, I relented and offered to get married in town.  And then my anxiety over it really began to escalate.  I was still not estranged from my father at this point, and I was really worried about how he’d behave at the wedding.  I was afraid he’d say horrible, sexist, insulting things to the women there.  I was afraid he’d be inappropriate with me.  You never know what he’s going to say.  He really is a creepy old man.

And then one time when I was pondering this and discussing it, I blurted out, “Well if (twelve-year-old female family member) comes, we’ll have to really watch him, because twelve is his favorite age for little girls.”

And then I thought, Oh my God, what the fuck just came out of my mouth?  And I knew it was the truth.  I am sure that I am not the one that my father has molested.  He’s so blatant about it that nobody figures out what he’s doing.  I’m sure he’s grabbed a girl and held her too long and groped her breast in the guise of a hug, right in front of other people.  He’s forced kisses on unwilling victims as they squirm away.  He’s even charmed them to sit on his lap, then there is the hug, and before she knows it, there is an old man’s hand brushing across her breast.  He’s a genuinely creepy old man and he’s not going to ruin my wedding with his presence.

But the problem is not as simple as not inviting him.  I’d have to tell my kids why.  And not some bland story, they’d really have to know.  I may have to answer the question of other guests as to why he’s not there.  I’ve already decided that they will get a bland yet final, “He can’t come.”

So this all came to a head just before Christmas.  We made the decision to get married here, in town, and to not invite my father.  I was ready to let the chips fall where they may.

Except for the fact that this stressed me out so badly that I woke up on Christmas morning with shingles.  I recognized what it was and was at the urgent care at 6am on Christmas morning to get antivirals, which worked.  But I should point out that risk factors for shingles at my age are being immunocompromised, which I am not, or stress. So, this decision caused me extreme stress, but I was determined to go forward.

I told my kids, and they were both tremendously supportive.  I went through Christmas and winter birthdays with no contact with my father.  He wrote sad letters to me protesting my rejection, but I finally told him to stop contacting me.  So far, he hasn’t since then.

The wedding is about a month away and my father is not invited.  I’m enjoying planning it and I expect it to be a good time.  I’m free from the anxiety and worry as to what he’d do or say if he were to come.  We’re planning on celebrating our marriage surrounded by people we love and who really care about us.  I am looking forward to it.

Abuse Disguised as Punishment

Blog Post 10

Abuse Disguised as Punishment

Of all the memories that send me into a hot rage, it’s the memories of the spankings that get me there the most.

I don’t even remember what I was supposedly punished for, on numerous occasions.  But I remember the spankings.  There was a ritual to them, a script, that my dad followed with me every time he spanked me.  Its predictability added to the horror for me, because once it started, I knew what would follow. 

It would start with me being in trouble for something.  Like I said, I can’t remember any specific thing, but I never did anything major as a kid, such as steal or get into fights.  Usually, it was my mother who would be angry with me, and then it would be, “Just wait until your father gets home.”

I would be ordered to go with him to the rec room, and he would sit on the couch, and I would stand.  He would proclaim, “This is going to hurt me more than it’s going to hurt you.”  But I knew that it wouldn’t.  By this time, I’d already be crying in anticipation.

He would then order me to pull my pants down.  He’d order me to pull down my underwear also, which I would resist.  I didn’t want to be exposed to him.  But if I didn’t do it, he would use his superior strength and brute force to remove them from me.  So I would comply but I would try to cover myself.

My father would then order me to lean over his lap on my knees and the spanking would begin.  He would slap the back of my thighs so hard I would scream in pain.  He would yell at me to be quiet.  Getting slapped on the back of the thighs hurts like Hell and he’d hit my private areas also.  But since he was hitting my thighs, I wondered why he insisted on removing my underwear, since he wasn’t smacking me on my butt.  As a child I didn’t understand, but as an adult who has looked at his behavior as a whole, I think I know. 

During the spanking, I reflexively fought and tried to get away, but he would hold me there.  I’d always end up with red marks and sometimes bruised.  On more than one occasion he beat me past the point of fighting and screaming; I just didn’t have anything left.  But he continued until he was done. 

But when he was done with the spanking, the ritual was not over.  I’d stand up, slouched over so he couldn’t see me, and pull my underwear and pants back on while he watched me, but he’d be holding my arm, preventing my escape. 

Then he would demand, “Now come here and give me a hug and a kiss and tell me you love me.”  I wouldn’t be allowed to leave until I complied.  The kiss was on the lips, always.  The hugs were too long.  And I had to tell this monster that had just beaten me that I loved him.  If I wanted to leave, if I wanted him to let go of me, I had to do these things.  This act of coercion was as horrible and humiliating as the spanking itself.  More so, actually.

I don’t know if there is such a thing as a spanking that isn’t abuse, but I guarantee you, this was. 

Not knowing any better, I did try spanking my own kids when they were little a few times.  But not that brutally.  Nevertheless, it only made me feel horrible about myself and it didn’t do anything to make the kids’ behavior better.  If anything, it made it worse.  I found better ways to teach my kids to behave.  The idea of raising children is to teach them to function in civilized society, not teach them about brutality and force and power.

These humiliating spankings continued until I was at least twelve years old.  They finally quit when I had had enough, and I had grown large enough to stand up to him.  He ordered me to remove my pants and I told him, “No.”  He grabbed me and tried to do it himself, but I had grown pubic hair that I had decided that he wasn’t going to see again.  I fought back even with him holding me by the arm and in the chaos of the moment I may even have punched him.  Ultimately, he gave up.  That was the last time he tried to spank me.  (I knew he liked to look because I’d seen him do it.  In addition to that, if I wasn’t out of bed early enough, he’d come into my bedroom and rip the covers off of me, even if I agreed to get out of bed if he would leave the room.  He just continued with the yelling and pulling on my covers until I streaked out of bed and hid in my robe while he watched.)

There are other instances that didn’t fit this particular ritual.  If he suddenly became upset with me, he’d whip his belt off and beat me with that.  Sometimes it was a bare bottom beating or other times he’d be too impatient for that and he’d beat me through whatever I was wearing. But that didn’t save me at all, because he’d just do it harder.

My mother, in addition to sending me to my dad to be beaten, would slap me in the face herself.  If she didn’t like what was “coming out of my mouth,” she’d just haul off and slap my face.  If that didn’t satisfy her, she didn’t shy away from the spankings, too.  Since she felt that she wasn’t strong enough to deliver sufficient pain, she resorted to beating me with either a wooden spoon or a hairbrush.  Again, this stopped when I stood up to her and told her she wasn’t going to lay a hand on me.  That, of course, ended up with her turning me over to my dad.  It was a few more years until I was big and strong enough to make him stop. 

Due to the home situation, I was a really unhappy kid.  It’s even hard for me to look at pictures of myself as a child.  I used to pray to God to take my life at night when I went to bed and said my prayers.  I prayed wishing that I’d never been born.  I prayed that these horrible people hadn’t adopted me, that I’d been adopted by a family that loved me.  I really think that part of the reasons that my parents hated me so much was because I wasn’t like them.  That I wasn’t really their child.

I have some happy childhood memories, but for the most part, the thing that saved me, that gave me hope, was that I knew that someday I’d grow up and move out.  I knew that they wouldn’t hold this power over me forever.

Chosing Sides in My Divorce

Blog Post 9

Choosing Sides in My Divorce

One of my motivations for marrying my first husband, or perhaps just marrying him a little too quickly, was to get out of the house.   For a variety of reasons, it didn’t last.

When that marriage was going up in flames and I was moving out, I asked my father to come to the house while I was putting my things on the rental truck.  I was afraid that tempers would flare and get really heated between my ex and me and I was afraid to be alone with my ex during such a tempestuous and emotional situation.

At one point my ex did get upset and start yelling.  He picked up my toddler son’s plastic rocking horse and threw it, hitting a glass light fixture in the ceiling and shattering it.  Glass rained down from the ceiling as the toy horse crashed into it.

My son, who was there and witnessed this, cried, “Daddy broke my horsey!  Daddy broke my horsey!” with tears streaming down his anguished face.  My heart still breaks every time I think of that wrenching finale to the break-up of our family and the pain in my son’s voice.

I tried to comfort my son and show him that his horsey wasn’t broken, but my ex was still upset and yelling and I was scared.  It’s easy to see how things can go very wrong when emotions run hot as relationships are ending.  I was afraid our situation would go from bad to worse.  I called the police.

My father then started yelling at me for calling the police and just like last time, wanted me to call them back and tell them not to come.  I was shocked and hurt and couldn’t believe the betrayal.  I needed protection and here I was being ganged up on.

The police nevertheless arrived in a few minutes and my father walked up to the car and I distinctly heard him say, “Please go easy on him; he’s really hurting.”

What. The. Hell.

Hurt, betrayal, humiliation.  I felt that I had no one.  My own father had taken my ex’s side and defended his violent behavior while painting me as the one in the wrong.  I wasn’t the one breaking things.

I should have known.  This was a pattern for my father; I just hadn’t figured it out, yet.

Years have passed since that marriage and divorce and while that ex-husband and I have apologized to each other and are on good terms, I don’t speak to my father at all.