The day I graduated high school was a happy one. I was excited to move out of my house – it wasn’t exactly a happy home – and try to start anew. Though that day marked the start of my adulthood, it was also the day I gave up on my dreams of having a normal childhood.
Those years were behind me. There was no way to go back and do it over again. However, as we all know, just because our past wasn’t great doesn’t mean we can’t make our future better.
I was never going to be 5 again. I’d never be able to rewrite my past and erase all the physical abuse that my older brother faced at the hand of my father.
I was never going to be 8 again. Never going to be able to wish hard enough that my parents didn’t get divorced.
I’d never be 10 again. I’d never be able to go back and lock my door before my stepfather could abuse me for the first time.
I’d never be a child again. Those memories that haunt my dreams and make my spine tingle will always be entangled in my childhood.
If I could rewrite it, I’d make myself a happy little family. I’d write my dad as a brave, talented, and loving man. A man that would never strike a child. A man that would protect his children till the day he died. A man that would never leave.
My mom would be the woman I faintly remember somewhere between the ages of 4 and 6. The sweet, soft spoken, and caring ray of sunshine that used to be a mom. The one that put me in a frilly dress and lipstick almost every night and let me sing into a microphone while she filmed me on our little home video camera. The one that came to my elementary school play and beamed in the front row. The one that I solemnly watched as she gazed out the window with tears in her eyes as my father walked out the door for the fifth time.
That may have been the last time I ever felt bad for her.
If I could rewrite this whole life, I’d make sure that my parents never got divorced. If they hadn’t gotten divorced my mom wouldn’t have remarried what I can only describe as the devil dressed in an unflattering human costume.
I wouldn’t have been abused.
I would’ve had a father.
My brothers and I all faced years of abuse at some point or another. Sometimes I go back to that time and picture myself as a child. It’s like I’m watching myself.
And I can’t help but think, “Why won’t anyone help this little girl?”
“Why won’t someone help these children?”
On the day of my graduation my mother, brothers, and grandmother were present. My estranged father was not. I expected that, but it still hurt. He’d broken my heart so many times over the years that I had lost faith in him. No matter how many times he let me down it still hurt.
Now I can’t tell you if he had any intention on coming to my graduation, all I can say is that that night I got a call from one of his close friends. He had been arrested the day before and was still in jail waiting on bail.
He had been charged with sexual assault.
My dad was going to go to jail. I knew it. My mom knew it. The victim knew it. (As well as all the other silent victims out there that I don’t know about) And while I knew he deserved it, I can’t describe how much it tore me up inside.
Over the next four years he was in between jobs, in and out of court, and I was making peace with the fact that I knew he’d be convicted and sent to prison.
The day I got that phone call after graduation I cried for hours. I knew right then and there that my relationship with my father would never be what I wanted. These past four years he’s been a little bit more present in my life. I’d see him once every two months or so as opposed to once a year. I’d get monthly phone calls as opposed to one every half a year. It was nice, but it still didn’t feel like I wanted it to. I still don’t know him. I don’t know who he is. As a child I loved him with all my heart, and seeing him walk out that door time and time again until one day he didn’t come back changed my life forever. His absence changed so much around me. It changed so much that I had no control over as a child. Every time I see him I’m reminded of that.
Which brings me to the present.
My father has been convicted and will be serving six to fifteen years in prison for Sexual assault on a minor. Intake is on August 14th. My father is a free man for exactly 9 more days.
I know what you’re thinking. It’s good that he’s going. He deserves it. I agree with you. He really does. But I can’t explain being in my shoes right now. He is a monster, a liar, a man incapable of loving anything or anyone but himself. But he is also my father.
As much as I want to pretend that I’m okay with this situation I’m really not.
Luckily I found out about the verdict three weeks into Wellbutrin. I was able to process the information and be rational. Yes, I did cry. But I didn’t have suicidal thoughts or blow things out of proportion.
I saw him for the last time on Sunday. My younger brother and I went to lunch and a movie with him. We didn’t talk about the obvious, and we didn’t cry. When he dropped me off and we all said goodbye, I hugged him a little longer than I usually would and I let him drive away. Every time he does it still burns on some level. This time I was so glad to have Wellbutrin on my side. I was able to go on about my day and avoid a meltdown. Part of me wants to cry out to him and take away the pain and anxiety he must feel over being convicted. Part of me wishes I could do or say something. It’s a small part. I’m not sure it’ll ever go away. It used to be bigger and it used to run my life when I was younger, but now it feels unfamiliar and uncalled for.
My father will not see me graduate from college.
My father will not walk me down the aisle.
My father will not share a dance with me.
My father will not be there for the birth of my first child.
My father never got to see me graduate from high school, or send me off on my first date, or hug me when I got my heart broken for the first time, or help balance the parenting dynamics. He did not dance with me at my quinceanera, my brother did. He did not give a heartfelt speech about how he’s so proud of the young woman I’ve become.
That’s why I don’t think prison is even the reason he’ll be missing out on the rest of my 20’s. He made it pretty clear that he doesn’t care about big moments in my life whether or not he’s behind bars. Now he just has a more concrete excuse to miss things. Just two months ago he missed my younger brother’s high school graduation. Free man or not, he’ll never be the person we want him to be.
Even if he got off early, it’ll never work.
He was a free man all of these years and though we saw each other more often during my college years it still didn’t feel like he was truly my dad.
And it never will.
Sometimes I watch my old family videos and reminisce. There’s one tape that has footage of me at a park with my family. I was three. I’m running up and down the play equipment and going down the slide with a smile on my face. My dad is filming me and laughing with me. He says, “Be careful baby!” And I- too focused on climbing back up to the slide – fall. We laugh and I get up and brush myself off.
But see, if my dad hadn’t been there I still would’ve gotten up and brushed myself off. It’s what I have done all my life without him.
I know I don’t need him now.
I know I got through his absence then, and that I’ll get through it now.
But that doesn’t mean I don’t want things to be different.
I wanted to have a father. Every girl deserves one. I guess it just wasn’t in the cards for me.
But you better believe that I’m going to do everything in my power to make sure that my kids have a damn good father. And if that doesn’t work out, then I know they’ll at least have a good mother, because I’m breaking that cycle. The physical, mental, sexual, and verbal abuse stops with me.