Sunday, June 21, 2015

My Father

So, I've never talked about this publicly before... I've always kept it to myself. Only my family and closest friends know even a shred of what I'm about to talk about. But last night brought the situation to a head for me in a major way and I think I need to get it out of my system.

I haven't had anything to do with my father for about 15 years now. And even then, aside from living with him for a short stint when I had nowhere else to go (maybe a couple months, maybe less, it's all a blur now), before that period of about six months of him being in my life again, I hadn't had anything to do with him for seven years before that; since around the time he was caught, arrested, and convicted of child molesting for the second time (no he did not molest me, and no I'm not going to specify who he did molest).

Last night, I was up very late watching some comedy shows when I had a thought to look up my father. You see a few years ago, due to some weird legal loophole in Indiana laws, he and many other child molesters were taken off of the sex offender list. (Isn't it such a great feeling to know that's even possible?) I often used his listing to keep up with where he was so I would know how best to avoid him. Upon searching for him, I found a listing with his exact name in an obituary. And given how many years it's been since I had anything to do with him, I thought the age was right and I honestly have no memory of what his birthday is, as, before now, I've had no reason to keep that information in mind.

The first time he was convicted, I was in Kindergarten. Shortly after that, my parents divorced. And even though, he was still given visitation of me. I'd like to hope laws have changed since those days. Still, my father never molested me. He didn't have a thing for little boys, he had a thing for little girls. What he did do to me was quite different. Just some good old-fashioned neglect with a side of verbal and physical abuse.

I still have memories etched in my mind of living in a dinky blue trailer right off of highway 40 just west of 231 and, though my mother worked her ass off to support us kids, we still couldn't afford to have a phone, so when he wouldn't show up to pick me up for the weekend, Mom would be forced to drive me to a nearby gas station to call him to find out why.

Most of those times he didn't answer.

Others he gave lame excuses at best.

Then he'd come back around like nothing happened and I'd get a few consecutive visits in a row before the next time he dropped off the face of the Earth.

Then there was his temper... Unlike many parents who have temper problems, he only beat marks into me a couple of times. I was lucky in that regard. I can't help but wonder, had he more often picked me up for visits, would that have been worse? I'll never forget the time he and my step mother were screwing in the other room, and, having watched some shitty vampire movie, my five or six-year-old mind started playing tricks on me in the dark and I began to yell out for help.

He burst into the room half-naked and seething, belt in hand, and I learned that night what I should have truly been afraid of...

And still, being a little dumb kid... I loved my father. I wanted nothing more than his approval. I didn't yet know that people could or would even do the horrible things that he had done and would go on to do again. For a long time, I thought the way he treated me was my fault. My little child brain couldn't comprehend that my funny, charming, sweet father could have possibly been the one to blame.

When he didn't show up to pick me up and I stood at the payphone at that goddamn gas station listening to the phone ring over and over, tears running down my face, I thought it had to be me.

When he would lose his temper and scream at me, call my mother a stupid bitch, or beat on me over and over and leave belt or hand marks on my body, I thought it could only be me.

Then I grew up... a lot faster than most of my peers in some regards. And as a young teen, my dad actually started coming to get me more regularly. But by then I knew. I knew what he'd done, and I at least thought I understood that the way he had treated me wasn't my fault. So, I would go to his house, hang out with my friends who lived in his neighborhood, hit him up for money every chance I could get, and spend as much of the weekend away from him as I could get away with.

It was my little way of getting back at him, I guess. Of dealing with what I knew and what I hated about him. And, even though I didn't think I did at the time... I still loved my father.

From my earliest memories of him, in between his terrible temper and the long periods of neglect, my father often seemed warm, funny, charming, and caring. In those times, I thought I had what I wanted much more than a father. I thought I had a dad. In fact, I know now that much of my playful sense of humor is very much like his was. And every time I joke around and kid with my own son, that realization reoccurs in me. Because my son also has a lot of that same sense of humor. It's like a distorted and reversed mirror. Where the original was so covered with black squirming maggots crawling over each other to eat away the tiny sections still able to reflect light, this new one shines mostly clear and clean with only the occasional streak or blemish.

But I know now why and how my father was so charming. He was a calculated and cunning charismatic sociopath. He would do whatever he had to do to make you like him, to make you want to make him happy. To make you do whatever he wanted. And when that didn't work out, when you failed to make him happy, he would lose his temper and show the true monster that lurked behind his sweet wholesome mask. But more often than not, he would only show that side to his wives and his children and the targets of his atrocious road rage.

That... in a nutshell, was my father.

For years now, I've dreaded how I would feel when I found out the old man had kicked the bucket. Especially ever since I learned one of the hardest truths of this whole situation. It was probably late 2000/early 2001 and Jen and I were driving down Highway 37 on the south side of Indy. She was pregnant with Jacob at the time. And with the realization that I had a son on the way, everything I had lived through with my father was very much on my mind.

And it was then that it hit me. For years, I had been telling myself that I hated my father. For years, I had focused my feelings and concerns on his other victims. For years I had shrugged off how his behavior, both toward myself and toward the little girls that he had so terribly hurt, had affected me. For years I had decided that I wasn't important in the equation, that my feelings didn't matter. And I realized for the first time in my life that night that they did. They mattered.

And, as long as I kept them locked inside myself, they would continue to tear me apart.

I had to pull off to the side of the road that night, I was balling so bad... as I poured out every thought and feeling that was going through me to Jen.

Late last night, early this morning, I sat alone at my computer, Jen had already gone to bed, and the same feeling went through me as did that night. The same realization. One that still tears at me and conflicts me and burns through every vein in my body--probably the hardest thing I've ever come to terms with in my life--though deranged and tortured and tragic as it may feel...

I still love my father.

I'm still that little boy hoping for the approval of a man who could never give it. A man who could never know approval. Only deceit, fury, and treachery. A man who could never truly love me back. And I'm not closed to the possibility that maybe, just maybe, I'm wrong and he's changed everything that was ever terrible about himself and he's become the person he should have always been.


But now, it's too late.

And not because he's dead, because, after waking today, I did some digging on the internet until I found out for sure.

The obituary wasn't his. He's very likely still alive.

And even though, in some fucked up, bitter, terrible way, the love I have for my father which is equally made of burning swollen hatred still exists; unlike some sappy bullshit talk show, I know that no matter what, no matter how much I may want to for a variety of mixed up reasons. I can never, ever meet him eye to eye again. I can never speak so much as a word to that man again. And I would rather die than let him anywhere even remotely near my children.

I would rather take his life than let him near mine.

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