I watched this documentary about a Christian cult in the US, the Westboro Baptist Church. The documentary included an interview with a young lady who had been excluded from the community and whose family were still in the cult. She said how “some people lose their parents to cancer, I lost my family to a cult” and now those words haunt me.
I didn’t lose my father to cancer or a cult, I just lost him anyway.
I always described my childhood as happy. And it was! I’d still describe it that way. Sure, my parents divorced when I was six, but they did a pretty amazing job of keeping me and my brother out of it, always being friendly around each other at pick-up and drop-off times. I even remember them putting their arms around each other in front of us. I never knew at the time that divorce was an ugly business, because my parents made it seem like a positive thing. They always remained friendly. Right?
And that’s how I went about life from then on.
There were ‘elders’ in the family, of course, who had their opinions. My mother came from a family where divorce was unheard of. Add to that, that my father is a larger-than-life character that my step-dad couldn’t live up to. My stepfather was simply of a different ilk, stricter and more serious than my gregarious father, and, possibly – I guess – less likely to crack a joke and have a laugh. However, we all moved in with him. An old school house, it was. My stepfather, a carpenter, transformed an old storage room into the ultimate kids’ room for my brother and I. He welcomed us and probably took more care to ensure we had what we needed more than decorating for our mother.
Yes, I hated his guts when I was a teenager because he was so strict, but nothing can take away from how he made sure our mother’s children were not only a given but welcome too in his house. There are times when I feel loopy with joy at the stepfather I’ve been blessed with – he didn’t always get it right (does anyone??) but he did his best and we were always welcome. To this day, I treasure him immensely.
Our stepmother is a different story.
From the age of aound eight, I was subjected to their arguments. Always on a Sunday, for some reason. Our stepmother would scream (and I mean SCREAM) at dad how useless, rubbish and unwanted his kids were. Proper explosions. We would lie there, in our beds, doors open into the open hallway, listening to how she went on without our father never answering back. I always had Dad pegged as too weak or too cowardly to answer back, that was my excuse for forgiving how my own father never stood up for me. I could live with that. I could deal with him being weak, cowardly and/or downright rubbish as a father.
Fast-forward 20 years and here I am.
Me? I moved abroad, met a guy and got beaten to a pulp. I then went on to meet a guy and he turned out to be the wrong one, so I divorced his ass and moved on because I wanted to do right by my young son. Love me or hate me, I did the best that I could for my child.
My father won’t see any of that. He can only see the things that make him proud – like me moving abroad. Right, papa. I’d say more young people than not do so. What I can tell you however, is that the majority of people who end up in an abusive situation end up dead. Take that! No? Sure, Dad, that doesn’t reflect well, I get that. What you do have, however, is a daughter who is strong enough to walk away. Many fathers out there don’t have that luxury – their daughters die at the hands of their abusers. Yours didn’t, so be proud of her. Also be happy that you still have her. I’m one of the few that walked away.
Perhaps I was born with a faulty gene. I don’t know. But I do wake up – now as much as before – with a smile on my face and with the most intense sense of gratitude at what I have in my life. Maybe I’m nuts, I’m sure a lot of people would call me crazy feeling so happy at so little, but that’s just how it is. I love this life of mine, I love how I have an incredible partner to be so grateful for?! Fuck me, I’ll keep on waking up with a smile on my face, and fuck me, bugger off to the father who decided to let me go. It’s his loss.
Yes, he did let me go. But here’s the thing – he let me go a long time ago. So why would I grieve him now? I lost him when I was about 12. No point feeling sore about it at 39.