Love is a stupid thing. Truthfully. It makes us weak and brings us hope when we shouldn’t have it. It makes us blind to certain faults we shouldn’t ignore. It manipulates us into believing things someone tells us, simply because we love them. Even if they don’t deserve it, it’s hard to stop loving someone.
Especially if they’re your parent.
I’d like to tell you a little story about my father and my life with him.
I’ll be honest, I don’t know enough about the man to make a biography out of him, but I know the man he was for the 18 years I spent living under his reign.
My father was not abusive. Not in the sense you might be thinking. We had a rule in the house. And to my surprise, he followed- he never spanked me, punched me, or brought out the belt like his father did, and his father before that. I have no scars on my body to prove anything. All I have are memories; but believe me when I say those are enough.
My father was deemed, and documented as “psychologically abusive” when he was evicted from my house almost 3 years ago. I wasn’t there when it happened, nor am I disappointed I wasn’t.
In fact, I was in the back seat of my mothers car in the school parking lot, screaming at her. I insisted he was going to kill us. And she held up some papers and said no, he wouldn’t. He’s not allowed to go near us. I laughed, some sickly laugh between tears and managed to say, “No paper is going to stop him. He’s going to kill us.”
Obviously, I’m still here. Though the papers never did stop him. The papers told him he couldn’t have the guns. The officer gave his brother the guns as he was being evicted from the house. The papers said he had to pay child support- we couldn’t keep up. The papers said my father lied, with almost every word he said. And ya know what? He got away with most of it. He fooled around with the rules at every turn, playing the magistrate like a lute, and I actually gave him props. He had managed to screw us over entirely up until the very end.
I hadn’t talked to my father for those two years, when I finally decided to wish him a happy fathers day. The trial was over, my relationship was a mess, and I just wanted a dad. And I hoped with everything I had that he’d changed.
Because all these years, I never had a dad. I had a control-freak employer who paid me by putting a roof over my head and driving me home from drama club. I had someone who would tell me everything I did was wrong, and have the audacity to show me step by step, how to do things his way- which was the only right way, of course. Any wrong move, and I could be dragged downstairs, so my mom couldn’t hear, and screamed at for hours- his two fingers poking me in the chest, backing me against the wall. He was 290lbs at 6’2”, I stood a measly 5’6” in my later years at about 130lbs. I didn’t stand a chance.
I tried to stand up, once or twice. But no matter what he said, it sounded like he was right. Maybe I was wrong. Maybe I was a failure. Maybe I wasn’t enough. I had to be better. I had to do what he said or he might get angrier and hurt someone. But I didn’t just do it because I was told, or the threat of having a raging monster near my brother and mother. I did it because what if he was right. What if I’m wrong and I need to be a better daughter. I’m really not good enough.
At 17, my father gave up on me. My mother admitted it to me when I asked this past year. I knew it was true, but the confirmation was necessary in my eyes. He saw me as a failure. And he finally stopped hurting me. He finally stopped cornering me and screaming. We just.. didn’t talk. And then he was evicted.
The reason I’m telling you this is because I want to share with you what love does to a person, without going into a sob story about an exboyfriend. People tend to think of those as emo kid diaries. I know I did. And I blasted it everywhere too.
But this is real. I know it’s not a super impactful abuse story with death and violence but it’s certainly impacted my life- to the point where it affects my relationships a great deal. Ask them.
I loved my father because he was just that, my father. I hated him for who we was, but I could never stop loving him. When someone loves you that much, and you tell them they’re worthless, a failure, a bitch- they believe you. I’ll tell you right now, a stranger can say anything to me. They can call me fat, stupid, worthless, failure, bitch…
But those words will never mean the same coming from them, as they do coming from you.
I spent my days wondering if I really wasn’t a good daughter. If I was a failure to you. I would go outside and bust my ass trying to help you fix and build things in your barn in the bitter cold of December. No one else was out there helping you, for all the right reasons. But there I was, guilted into it, frightened into it, standing there helping you build a loft in the middle of winter. Forcing me to call you ‘sir’ when you felt I didn’t respect you.
You’re right. I don’t respect you.
But that doesn’t mean I never loved you.
That doesn’t mean you never fooled me into believing you were the generous one. The one that gave things up for your family.
And yet, after all the money you stole, the way you fought for every last penny we had, I was grateful last Saturday.
I was so happy and surprised when you gave me $100 for my birthday, even though I knew you just earned $800,000 from a law suit with a company. I was astonished and said thank you, and no matter how much I want to push it away, you restored some faith in me. Even though you don’t deserve it.
But that’s what happens when you love people.
You give them way too many second chances.