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Daddy, Daddy, You Bastard, I’m Through

"On a scale of 1 to 10, how was your day today?”

Goldie Hawn was the guest on The Actor’s Studio, and she was recounting to James Lipton the nightly dinner conversation she had with her father as she was growing up.

“Goldie, My Love, on a scale of 1 to 10, how was your day today?” He’d say, and they’d discuss the ups and downs of their days.

It’s been over 20 years since I saw that interview, but it touches me still. What a sweet memory to have with one’s father! And what joy it must be to have a good and loving father.

Dear Old Dad

Whatever the reason, my father found me unacceptable and made that known to me when I was quite young.

The dark irony of the thing is that he was a very popular teacher at the only high school in the small Texas town where we lived. Obsessed with his students, whom he referred to as “my kids,” he was constantly comparing me to them, and I always fell short.

What I can only describe as his “mental illness” ruled my life and that of my mother until they separated when I was 12. I recall years of house-shaking anger, of my crying mother begging him to forgive her for “whatever she’d done,” begging him just to tell her what he wanted her to do.

I recall, too, him bellowing, “If you don’t know, I’m not telling you!”

She was only 19 when they married, and he was 26 with one marriage and one abandoned daughter behind him. He was just getting started ruining the lives of women he “loved.”

Baked-In Trauma

An only child, I stayed in my room most of the time, shaking and crying as they quarreled.

At the grocery store with my mom, she’d discreetly gesture toward other women and whisper to me, “Am I about her size? Bigger? Probably a little bigger?”

In tears, she’d told me that my father had said he could never be happy married to a fat woman. She didn’t seem fat to me. She just seemed mom-sized. I was 11 and she was everything to me, the only consistent source of kindness in my world.

My father and his rages terrified me, and I was alone with him far too often. That fact that I was so utterly unprotected from him haunts me still, and has made it difficult for me to feel safe in the world, let alone with men.

Horrifying things that happened with my dad before I was 12

  • He often asked me things like “Do you know what a titty bar is?”

  • He told me several times how incredibly sexy he found June Cleaver to be, and how he didn’t think my mom was sexy.

  • He also told me once, in a rage, that if I ever did a commercial for tampons or pads (I dreamt of being an actor), he’d disown me.

  • He told me many times that if I ever told people the things that went on at home, he’d get fired and we’d have to move.

  • Once when I was 8, I walked into the room and he was watching a sex scene in a movie. He waved me over to watch it with him. I recoiled, and he sneered at me, telling me I needed to “loosen up.” Later that night, he came into the bathroom while I was brushing my teeth and casually pulled his dick out.

It occurs to me now: he was grooming me, wasn’t he?

He’s Dead!

Last year I found out that he was dead when a lawyer called to tell me my father’s (5th and final) wife (my mom was his second) wanted to sell their house and move back to South America. I was told at that point I’d be getting part of the proceeds of the home.

Should I be surprised that I never heard another word about it? Is it terrible to say that I think it’s a good thing that he’s dead, and it’s worth any inheritance to never have to fear speaking to him again?

My Dad, Misogynist & Racist

The last time I spoke with him was around the time of the OJ trial — yep, the big one in the 90s. I was in college and I’d been dodging my dad’s phone calls for years. I hadn’t severed relations with him utterly because I was a kid and he hadn’t pushed me that far. Yet.

When he finally caught me on the phone, I tried to make casual conversation. “Do you think OJ killed his wife?” I asked him, endeavoring to keep the conversation off anything personal.

“Oh, I don’t care what happened to her,” he drawled. “She was just a n****r lover.”

I almost felt grateful for the disgusting words, as they gave me permission to cut him from my life forever. What a miserable person.

Let That Shit Go

My father’s wife reached out to me several years ago, telling me he was in ill health and commanding me “in the name of Jesus Christ” to come to Texas to see him. I must admit, I laughed out loud at that.

She told me he cried every time she mentioned my name.

My response seemed logical to me: “Well then why the hell are you mentioning my name, Lady?”

She was shocked that I could be so callous.

I did learn from that conversation that they had adopted a little girl, which made me nauseous. She’s a teenager now. I pray for that girl and her well-being. I will be here for her if she ever cares to seek me out.

Recently, one of his “kids” (students) reached out to me on Facebook. It happens occasionally. They want to tell me how much they love him, they want to hear how he’s doing. Maybe next time that happens, I should refer the enquirer to this story instead of answering their questions.

I’m not writing about this because I think my situation was unique. Quite the opposite. I think what happened to me was probably garden-variety child abuse, and could be matched and way out-icked by the stories of a lot of people reading this.

So why am I not over it?

I liken that question to asking a house built on a foundation of Swiss cheese why it can’t seem to stabilize itself.

That abuse was baked into my little brain, and I’m still trying to repair my rickety foundation (to mix metaphors quite blatantly).

All things considered, I’m doing quite well. I’m happier than I’ve ever been, and my autism diagnosis has helped me in ways I’d never have anticipated.

I have an excellent therapist who encourages me to envision myself pummeling my father, protecting myself and other children from him. Healing is gradual, and it’s definitely not linear.

I’ll leave you, Reader, with a request for grace — not just for myself, but for all the hurt children you know, whether they live within bodies that are now adults or not. And especially for the little hurt kid in you, Reader. Be patient with them. They deserved a lot better than they got.

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