Updated: Oct 11, 2020
I feel like I need to put a disclaimer, the thought of posting this has made me stomach sick. So why do it? Shouldn't writing it down for myself have been substantial enough? No, it's a start. I don't mean to blacken my Father's name. I don't think any of his behavior is plotted, but it just isn't ok. I love him, so, so much. He's my Daddy and I wish he could have known the hurt that it would cause. Despite what some of this blog will reveal he is still my Dad. We have good memories, then bad. I'm just trying to recover and I need to share it and acknowledge that it is real. This is where I start.
I haven't traveled much outside the scope of my small town. Many people say comfort keeps you in one place, that we stick to what we know. For me it was never comfortable, the truth about the town I grew up in is that it's full of familiar faces whose personalities are strong and steadfast. Some of these souls are so beautiful and add to the charm of my home, others are more complex and do alter for the better with time. Whether you think of it or not people make up the landscape as much as structures and streets.
I was a troubled child, haunted by nightmares of a traumatic experience. Home life was rough and complicated by denial and love. My mother and father lived modestly and the pressure to provide weighed heavy on them. I grew up with a harsh love similar to my parents' upbringing. My mother came from an old school Italian family where the youngest in line was the one who was expected to take care of the parents the most. That assumed role opened a door for criticism and closed doors for education in her life.
My father was the eldest of his siblings but would not bear his father's name. My grandfather's name was passed to the second son upon his return from the navy. Dad would often speak of this with mixed emotion. He assumed my grandmother resented being left alone with him during a great war. I will not pretend my father had it easy, my grandmother was critical because she cared and wanted great things, but even I could see the pressure was too much for him.
Funny how both my parents could understand at different ends of a spectrum amounting pressure. My mother wanted more of an education meanwhile my father dropped out of college to join the marines under the assumption that he wouldn't pass his classes. I am proud of my father, he served our country. War can take a toll on you.
My daddy would scream at night. He always slept on the couch and I being closest to the living room would shake him to wake him up. Not once would he forget to thank me. Often he told me it was a nightmare about war and I was asked to remain with him. So I slept on the couch sandwiched between him and the back cushion almost falling through the cracks where one loses change or a remote. I can't pretend that this sort of intimate proximity to my father who in summer months only wore his briefs to sleep made me feel comfortable. But nothing happened and I was more concerned about him being ok then my own comfort.
Screaming didn't just happen at night from a war relieved in dream. It was a daily occurrence between my sister and my father. I was bouncing around outside one day when I heard banging and screaming. I'm not sure what the fight was about. I know it got violent and my sister was struck. My dad sat me down, no doubt worried I witnessed it all. He told me Dani struck him first, that he had to defend himself. And because of a lifetime of resentment towards my sister I accepted this as the truth. I remember him saying he loves Danielle but she causes so much trouble, that it would be better if she just moved out and that he hated saying it. He looked to be in so much pain, I told him it was ok. That nothing that happened was his fault and that he was right. I was in 6th grade.
"You will have to work extra hard to be successful, pretty people like your sister will have no trouble getting jobs. But you will have to be smart." This advice was given freely to me by my dad. It confused me more than upset me. I thought I had pretty hair and nice eyes. Sure I wasn't skinny and Danielle was... But did that make me ugly? My dad told me it wasn't just my weight that I had a strong neck, like a horse and Danielle's delicate like a doll's. "Men are attracted to elegance not sturdiness." To any bystander maybe my dad's comments are more amusing than anything. I can admit even now to find humor in his words but to him they were serious. I grew envious of my sister, she had it all. A strong relationship with my mother who was critical of me and a father who thought she was beautiful, talented and smart.
Danielle tried to be nice to me, she defended me. I would hear her scold mom and dad for the remarks on my weight. She would try to invite me for walks or let me come hang out with her friends. My parents disliked her popularity and friendships though and the more she socialized the more controlling they got. During this time I was deemed the good child, in my mind I was finally thriving. I found myself agreeing that Danielle's behavior, new friendships, and wardrobe were all inappropriate. The household was now against her. I hate myself for having been part of this.
"Jess saw it too mom, it happens all the time." The accusation came out and I knew I had to be honest. Even if I didn't like my sister I couldn't lie about something so important. "You two should be ashamed of yourselves, what ungrateful children." My mom cried before storming out of the kitchen. " Why did I try so hard to have you two?" I sat there frozen, not knowing what to say or do. I just exposed my father's misconduct. What was going to happen next? In the days that followed my dad zeroed in on my sister, picking arguments, he was angry about what mother was told. He sat me down. "It wasn't sexual, I just had an itch." I whispered a lie.--- "I know."
"Get off me!" "David stop!" My sister yelled followed by my mom's pleading cry. I turned the corner to the living room. To my horror my sister was pressed against the wall, my dad's hand against her throat. Her face was red as she thrashed her limbs around screaming "let go!" He slapped her. She went silent and limply fell to the floor. My father pointed a finger at her and told her to calm down. My mom repeated "David." Danielle looked at him with broken trust in her eyes, fled to her room, locked the door. Dad stormed past my frozen mother and I down the hall to the last door. "Open the Goddamn door."
Within seconds the door was open. Shards of wood splintered out of the frame and Danielle's scream was followed by another blow to her face. The silence of everyone was the most quiet sound I have ever heard. My dad turned on his heel out of the house. But I didn't care. My mother sobbed and before I knew it she was grabbing her keys. "What are you doing?" Danielle asked in disbelief. "Going after my husband!" my mom said crying. I found myself praying for this to be over, wishing my mom wouldn't find him. This is the second thing in my life that I am ashamed of.
I sat by Danielle. Mom came home and asked me gently to leave the room. I did as told but stood in the hallway with my eyes still on my sister. She looked absolutely defeated.
"I can't divorce him. I won't" My mom muttered unprovoked. "I can see if a family friend will take you in." My sister simply said "I'm your daughter." to which my mother replied "he's my husband."
Home is a strange place. Full of the streets my sister and I would escape to. The town that thinks they know me. The people who thought they could see right past me. I know I'm unusual. My teachers knew it without me saying anything. I think it's time to widen the scope though and see there is beauty beyond all the pain. Life is complicated, so is love.
To my sister I am sorry, I let you down, you had to fight by yourself. If you think you know Danielle you don't. She is the strongest person I know and my true family. I choose her.