Untitled: A Letter To My Parents

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Pat and Ed,

It is sometimes difficult to remember that your treatment of me was never about me, and always about you.  You so often told me I was bad I believed it myself.  And because I was bad, I deserved every act of abuse you levied against me. Today I see clearly just how fucked up you were – and still are, but as a child I took responsibility for everything you did to me.

I was twenty years old when I began dating Rhonda, and she was the first person I ever told about the beatings and other abuse.  I was ashamed to tell anyone; by then I knew what you had done was wrong, but it was humiliating to speak of. I was conflicted emotionally, and I didn’t yet understand the abuse viscerally, so I kept it all inside.

When I say Rhonda was the first person I told, I mean she was the first person I told other than Lois (my maternal grandmother) who questioned me about the bruises I had on my ass and legs when she was giving me a bath one night – I may have been four or five; “Daddy spanked me,” was the answer; she expressed her disgust – her hatred of Ed, but nothing more than that.  And then there was the gym teacher who questioned why I could hardly walk after the beating Ed gave me with the tree branch – I told him my father had spanked me a little too hard, but that I had deserved it. I actually took responsibility for that violent, rage inspired beating; I protected you, Ed.  It was years later, when I was an adult and had access to my CUM folder from my school years, that I realized exactly how many people knew you abused your children – and, of course, exactly how reviled they were by you.

It was a different world then – you could get away with abusing your children.  Most people believed that unless a child was in danger of losing his life, he belonged with his parents.  No one yet understood that the assumption of love inherent to that belief – a blind faith that all parents love their children and would never knowingly cause them harm – was fallacious in many cases.  No one was ready to face the stark, cold and bleak reality that for some children, parental love is nonexistent. Love in our home was a concept –  a word we used, but a feeling and emotion none of us knew or understood.

Ed, you speak of your affinity for Janet in a way that borders on unhealthy obsession – and you beat Elizabeth and I without feeling or remorse.  There is so much contradiction and conflict in this picture of your character I have no idea where to begin; it troubles me to the very core of my being.  When you speak of how you felt when we left Janet in institutional care – how difficult that was for you emotionally, I cannot feel empathy for you because you are the same father who tortured your other children.  How am I supposed to reconcile this?  It makes no sense.  If you actually did feel a deep connection to Janet, why did it not extend to Elizabeth and I – were we not your children, too?  Did we not deserve to know a kind, loving and compassionate father?

And Pat, even to this day you deny, so you haven’t stopped abusing.  You blame much of the content of this blog on my having Bipolar Disorder, which is despicable even for you.  I’m told you may be sick, and if you are sick, I’m sure you believe the cause to be your broken life – the stress and pain you have endured along the way.  I’m in no position to dispute the truth in that belief; I know all too well there are limits on what one can endure, and what happens when we’re taken past the point of no return.  Odd to think that maybe – perhaps, we’re in the same metaphorical boat – and you actually put yourself here too. If you are suffering the effects of what you have done, and those effects have manifested in illness, you and you alone bear the responsibility.  I did not write this story, Pat, I’m just telling it; you have always been unfeeling – incapable of empathy or remorse, love or affection – motivated only by what is best for yourself; I pity you, I always have.

You were young, and you  had no business having children.  Your marriage was less than ideal, and built on a shaky foundation.  You had an ill child and no money.  I understand all of that, but it does not excuse anything you did to Janet, Elizabeth and I – it never has and it never will.  At the end of the day, you destroyed your own children.  I have grieved for who I was meant to be – the boy you killed, who never got the chance to exist – the man he would have become.  I have mourned the absence of a mother and father throughout my life – all I had were tormentors who, in the end, were too stupid or blind or self-deluded to understand why I left and never came back.  And I have walked through hell and back to save myself after you made it crystal clear in my childhood that I couldn’t count on anyone else, least of all you, for love and support, or even a family and a soft place to land.

I would love to be able to say in honesty, “I’m over it; I have no desire to hurt back, no need for hatred or vengeance or retribution, but I can’t; it will have to be enough to say in honesty,”I will never avail myself of hatred or vengeance or retribution.”  Although all are owed, deserved, and ordained by the principle of Karma – I will not be that force.

I look at my children and know they are, quite simply, the best part of who I am.  There is nothing I would not do for them, no lengths I would not go to ensure their happiness and well being.  My life – my marriage, the kind of father I am and will always be, is what is supposed to be, what is meant to be.  If you fail your children, you have failed at life itself. What right do you have to a happy life if you betray and harm your child?

But, I will not be that Karmic force in your life, no matter how much I may want to be, because I will not be that man in the eyes of my children.  

Tim