Some words, no matter how many times they are spoken will never be heard. Such has been the case with my Father and me since I can first remember. Regardless of the subject, my words are on a one way path, without a pause, to be inattentively listened to and immediately disregarded; the judgmental responses locked and loaded. The never ending tension wafts silently through the air as I tiptoe amongst the eggshells.
I first met my father when I was adopted at 18 months old and although I obviously can’t recall, I believe our tumultuous relationship began shortly after that. Between me being traumatized by pre-adoptive abuse and his lack of patience and narcissistic behavior, I truly believe the relationship was questionable from the start. When I tell people about our history, the domestic violence and emotional and verbal abuse, I get questioned as to why I still attempt to maintain some form of a relationship with him at all, and the only response I have to give is “he’s all I have left”. After my mom died and I told my family I was a lesbian, they slowly all just faded away, like turning down the dial on a chandelier, and the last one standing was my dad.
I have learned over the years that you cannot change anyone else’s behaviors, only your reaction to them and I realized the pent up hurt and anger over the years was only doing damage to myself. Despite my attempts to express my feelings to him over the years, my words are invalidated and my past is swept away, hence the reason for this letter in a place of safety.
I am going to start with the positive, something you failed to do for my entire life, and say that I do both recognize and appreciate the efforts you have made to try and become a better person. I can’t say I understand whether it is you mellowing out with age or if you actually had the intentions of becoming kinder and slightly less critical. Either way, know that it is very much appreciated. I would love to be writing a letter about all my fond memories of my childhood, but I think we both know the reality of the situation. When the bad is blocked out it takes the good along with it.
I am grateful for the times you have been there for me in the past few years, however that does not, and never will make up for the damage you inflicted to my developing personality. All I ever wanted was validation and for you to accept some sort of responsibility for the fact that your actions cast a shadow over an already dark childhood, and I say wanted, because I am trying now to make peace with the fact that acceptance is not in the cards. Even a simple “I’m sorry” would indicate that you admit that harm was done, but those words still elude my ears.
The domestic abuse had effects on me you could not comprehend unless in my shoes. The nights of sleeping so lightly I could hear a pin drop; the fear that, if I fell sound asleep, I would not be able to intervene. The nights of having Mom take refuge in my bedroom in the hopes to avoid another beating, hence the desk propped against the door. The terror instilled in an already frightened and traumatized child ongoing through adulthood. You took my only place of safety, my refuge from the sexual abuse that occurred while I was looking for any excuse to remain out of the house. The still haunting visual memories of walking into a rape scene, the sounds of the cries on the nights I lay helpless or the nights I got between the swings trying to be the protector, all as crisp as the cold winter air.
The verbal and emotional abuse and narcissistic behavior, by far, caused the most damage; the words scarred so deeply they changed my very being and my perception of myself and of life. The years of trying to live up to unrealistic expectations led to the unsatisfactory feeling of never being good enough, not just for you, but for anyone or anything. The words failure, useless and no good bounce, among many others that bounce around my head like the ball in a pinball machine, with a ricochet that is just as tenacious today as it was back then. All the condemnations, judgments and passive aggressive sarcasm trampled my sense of self-esteem and crushed it into grains of sand, which never had the foundation to build a proper castle, then or now.
I’m saddened to say that I could continue on about this for hours, reiterating the broken pieces of my childhood and how you not only induced a great deal of my trauma, but enabled the rest. I wish you realized what it was like for me growing up…the loneliness, the lack of trust, the fear of both violence and words, and feeling like I was both invisible and silent. I question if I do exist in your eyes in any other way than being the “black sheep” or the sounding board for your slander. I wish you had truly listened to me when I told you about the sexual abuse and how it affects my life to this very day; instead you negated the fact it ever happened and invalidated all the encompassing emotions I felt.
I have realized over the years, the things that are hurting me do not affect you at all and the only solution I can rationalize is to change my reactions to your words. To stop seeking approval and validation that will never come, and in essence to drop any and all expectations, is my end goal. The wall between us was constructed brick by brick over the years, and is far too thick to penetrate now. I will never allow you to hurt or affect me like you once did. I will set the boundaries this time and if you cross them, I will walk away, because at this point, I really don’t have much to lose. That is what is best for me on my path to healing. It’s my time now.