I don’t think my dad was as awesome as I wanted him to be or thought he was, but as a child I still believed he loved me better than my mom. I could be completely wrong. They were very different.
I remember having fun outings to his brother’s to visit cousins, sing alongs, playing in farm fields, road trips to hike, visiting historic places.
I remember dark things too. Harsh words and “discipline” aimed at my brother, cruel words, hard finger flicking his forehead for talking back at the dinner table that made me cry for him, thinking that this punishment wasn’t right or fair. My mom telling me he never wanted boy children, he loved me more than my brother, planting poisonous thoughts in my head against my dad.
At 12, I was mortified because my mom told him I started my period and he came to talk to me about it. Mortified to find out she told everyone about it when I didn’t think it was anyone’s business. Disheartened when my dad told me I was getting chubby when I couldn’t have weighed more than 100 pounds. He told mom he’d leave her if she ever got fat.
He wasn’t home much, always working, going to “meetings” or to clubs. Waking up at 3am to loud fighting because he stayed out all night again. I blamed my mom for his unavailability. She was always yelling, nagging, criticizing.
He liked porn. A lot. Not just playboy nudity, twisted, hardcore, degrading porn. Not just magazines, dirty novels. I found his stash in his basement home office. I was still 12? I liked it too. A lot. Even though I didn’t fully understand what it was. I was hooked at a very young age. Didn’t think it was bad.
Tenth grade. Standing in the bathroom. Talking about who only knows what. I said something cocky. He slammed me in the ear so hard my head bounced off the wall, my ears rung. Who was this?
He had many secrets. Never talked about his childhood. Said he couldn’t tell us.
I wanted to be a music major. He said it wasn’t practical. I searched for something else to be. To please him. Then he got sick, had a massive heart attack. I discovered nursing.
A few months before he died, he went crazy, berserk. It started with something trivial, so trivial I don’t even remember what. He raged through the house, tearing the phone off the wall, throwing things, heavy things. He threw a giant book at my mom. I got between them, screamed at him to get the f$&* out. He kicked me in the stomach, ran out the front door to his truck, slammed the cars in front and back and was gone. For 3 days. When he finally showed up again, he wouldn’t speak. To any of us. Not even my 5 year old sister. For 3 weeks he was silent. My anger grew with each passing day. My mom said he wouldn’t speak to us until we apologized. How are you going to do something like that and act like it’s our fault? We didn’t do anything wrong.
Then like a storm front finally moving on, everything was okay. Brushed aside. Like it never happened. But not for me. I punished him back for weeks. Wouldn’t look at him. Spoke to him only when he spoke to me. Short, tense, one word answers. I was so angry. So hurt. I came around slowly. But things were never the same. The rose colored glasses were shattered.
That was the winter we tried skiing as a family. I didn’t like it. It was too cold. I felt like life became a race. Like time was running out.
March 3, 1980, he died. Game over.