Saturday, 16 June 2012
28. Father's Day
Father’s Day is coming up and as I lay in bed last night, too excited to go to sleep as I thought of the surprises in store for Matt, my thoughts invariably went to my dad.
My memories of dad are fleeting and fractured. His absences were many. I used to ask my mom where he was. “Away on business” was her standard reply. Whenever he was around, I remember him as an angry man, and always fighting with mom. Constantly, her screaming and him shouting. I remember coming out of the bedroom one night to interject in one of their relentless fights, terrified. They both looked at me. Mid-fight. His hand stopped mid-swing. Her arm up in a protective position. After what seemed like an eternity, I said “Don’t hit my mom. She’s my mom. Not your’s.” He told me to go back to my room. I did. Quickly. Then, there was deafening quiet. And a door slammed. He left. Brokenhearted, I was sure it was my fault. But I was grateful for the peace.
When I was around 8, I think the realization that our family was broken beyond repair finally hit us all – in the same moment. Mom, my two brothers and I were at the mall. Suddenly my elder brother called out, “Dad, dad! Over here!” I heard my mom say something about dad being away on a business trip. Then, we all looked up. And saw my dad, with another woman. He was holding an infant who looked just like him. Mom picked up my little brother and ran. The other way. I don’t remember how we got home that afternoon. Everything was a blur for a while. And noisy. And then graveyard quiet. And my brothers and I walked around on eggshells for what seemed like an eternity.
In another memory, dad has come to visit us (ie the children). I am cautious and wary. Not so much of him, he is still my hero. But more afraid that if I got too much attention, there would be repercussions later. From my older brother. Or mom. I had fresh scratches on my face from the former because mom allowed him to ‘discipline’ me. My dad asked what happened to my face. I told him I couldn’t remember but must have walked into a door or something. Then I made a joke about being very clumsy. He didn’t comment again but as he left that day, I thought I saw him cry. I was 10.
It was the following year or maybe the one after, but my brothers and I were told we had to go live with dad and his new wife. Its Father’s Day. I made him a card. I spent hours drawing; dad as a baby, at different stages, graduating into an old man. I wrote “Through the years, I will always love you.” He takes my card. Looks at it. Then stands up and gives me a hard slap across the face. My cheeks are stinging. My ears are ringing. My eyes are wet but I dare not cry or make a sound. He said I was being disrespectful for calling him old. I don’t try to argue. Its no use. I have no voice in this house.
After that, the slaps and punches start raining on a constant basis. For singing while doing chores – and other sins I don’t recall. And yet, as the only daughter among 4 brothers for a while (my half-sister came along later), I was desperate to be ‘one of the boys’; hanging around dad while he tinkered around with his many cars. But whatever I did, it was never enough.
I left home at 17 after a beating that involved being punched in the stomach and slammed into a brick wall. And yet for years after that, I still tried to reach out to him. To have some sort of relationship. But he was not interested. And so, at 30-something, I finally faced the inevitable. It was time to give up. He passed a few years later. And I cried angry disappointed tears as repressed memories threatened to drown me. He didn’t do the right thing by me or my two brothers (he started on them after I left). And I don’t know why. I have my suspicions but, really, the why no longer matters. There are no excuses that can justify the abuse or the childhood he stole from three innocent children. His own blood no less.
It’s Father’s Day today. And the girls have made Matt breakfast in bed and he’s opened his presents and read the home-made card. We have a full day of activities planned. I constantly tell the girls how lucky they are to have an amazing man like Matt as their father. The girls know of my past. I told them.
And yet, I consider myself incredibly lucky. The past is the past. And in spite of all my protestations of never getting married or having children, I ended up doing both. But importantly, this generation will have wonderful memories of their dad when they too are one day 40-something.