Tag Archive | Father

Do you become Abusive, or are you born Abusive?

English: This is the Brother of the set of two...

English: This is the Brother of the set of two “Brother and Sister” carvings by Benjamin Schleifman. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The whole Nature/Nurture debate goes on in many realms. After reading the comments on my previous post, I have been thinking about this: Why do some people grow up to be abusive, and some do not? Why do some people endure impossible situations, but come out whole eventually, knowing the value of people and never becoming abusive?

No one knows what happens to make someone cross the line between normal parenting mishap, and actual abuse. I do wonder how many events were carefully planned, calculated, and carried out by my parents to keep us under control, always doubting, fearing, and never loving.

We always look for answers to explain psychopathic behavior, and often I have been asked if my dad was abused as a child. As if that would explain his monstrous behavior. I do know my dad’s dad was alcoholic and unemployed after an injury, but my grandpa died before I was born. My dad’s mother was loud, angry, opinionated, crass, rude, but I don’t know if she was abusive. She worked in a hospital, tending to wounds, so I can’t imagine her as selfish as my dad. My dad’s brothers and sisters are all odd and loud, but as far as I know, they were all decent parents and spouses. My dad was in the air force, but worked as a radio tech, not on the front lines of combat. I don’t think he had PTSD. He seemed to have no conscience, sometimes I think no soul.

Can a child be born without a soul? With no ability to learn right from wrong? Unable to feel guilt or remorse? Or did something happen to make him that way? Was he born the same innocent, precious child as the rest of us, and something terrible happened to mutate his genes and render him incapable of normal emotions? And then, when that happens, is it then inevitable that this person will make hurting others his daily goal? I just don’t understand.

To explain the level of psychosis in my dad I will share a conversation my brother told me he had with him shortly after I told everyone what dad had been doing to me all my life. My brother could not believe it at first, he was still under my dad’s power, still trying to be the good son – no – the best son. He was raised to think of my dad as God, all powerful, perfect. So when he found out his perfect dad was a pedophile, a sexual deviant, that he abused his little girl, it was devastating. My brother confronted my dad, asking if it was true. My dad did not care enough to deny it. In fact, my brother said my dad laughed a bit, and said “Yes of course I touched your sister. I’d have sex with my own sister if given the chance. The world has put these ridiculous rules on who we can or can’t look at, when truthfully every man lusts for every girl and without society in the way, we would all be able to put taboos aside and act on our desires freely.”

Of course this is not the story he told the police, or child services, or whoever else came to question him. They got the charming man, the man who didn’t understand why his ex-wife and daughter could stoop so low and drag his name in the mud. He painted a picture of a money-hungry ex out for revenge that got her daughter to make false claims. Everyone believes charming man, he is so persuasive.

So, he knows what society considers right/wrong, but he does not agree. How does this happen? To most of us, these things are very clearly defined, no question about it. To most of us, it is revolting, horrifying to think of getting sexually aroused and even worse to think of acting on those feelings with a family member, and even worse yet to think of an infant or toddler. So was this man (if you can call him a man) born like this, or created somehow?

I don’t know the answer. All I can say is, being abused does not make you an abusive monster. It may increase the chances, but I think that ability had to be inside to begin with.

“Sorry, but . . .”

Maybe the most important thing I have learned, is that apologies do not end with “but”.

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“I’m sorry I didn’t listen to you, but you came home so late I was too  sleepy” (I tried to share my joy of my first ever art show with him, but when he looked around me to see the TV, I called my mom to talk instead)

“I’m sorry I didn’t help much with the kids for the last 8 years, but it is hard for men to connect to little children, it will be easier now that they’re getting older” (I found out he made the kids have bedtime stories laying in bed with their eyes closed, how do you read a picture book together with your eyes closed?)

“I’m sorry I didn’t help you carry laundry downstairs, but I thought it made you proud to do your job on your own” (I have an injury from childhood that makes walking difficult, and stairs I have to hold on to the rail, making carrying baskets very difficult)

“I’m sorry I never cut the grass, but those city rules are nuts, who cares if it is 12 inches tall?” (I hired a lawn service to avoid penalties and be able to have my kids play outside in a cared for lawn, his brand new mower sits unused in the garage)

“I’m sorry I can’t give you space right now to heal, but If I back off I’m afraid I’ll lose you forever” (So he continues to hug, pet and say he loves me 600 times a day, when I have not had that attention from him ever, it feels so false)

“I’m sorry I yell at you and the kids, but my life is very stressful and I can’t handle when things change and I don’t know” (like when I had 2 flavors of ice cream for the kids, that was a stressful change we all needed to suffer your yelling)

“I’m sorry I yell at the kids to be quiet, but my whole day is very noisy” (when the kids start singing and giggling in the van, he tells them to stop)

“I’m sorry you have been unhappy, but I didn’t know” (He hasn’t looked at me, really looked at me,  in years, of course he doesn’t know.)

“I’m sorry you are hurting, but you can’t make me leave” (He has always convinced me to hang in there and give him another chance. I’m not sure I can or should this time.)

“I’m sorry I didn’t call, but -I forgot- my phone died-I lost track of time-I’m just so busy” (I can’t call him at work, and his cell phone doesn’t work in the factory? and I never know what time he’ll be home)

“I’m sorry I didn’t get you anything for -Christmas-Anniversary-Birthday-, but the store had nothing I could afford for you that was nice or would mean anything” (you mean when you went out Christmas Eve to Walmart just because I hinted that I was excited to open gifts? That I have every year managed to do something special for little or no money for you? That I work with the kids so they each have something for you? Thank you for the boxed set of DVDs you grabbed from the end aisle display)

“I’m sorry that when I brought you home from the sedated dental visit, I left you in your coat, sitting up in a chair alone for hours, but I didn’t think it would hurt your neck like that”

“I’m sorry I never told anyone how sick you were, that you slept everyday all day, and that I didn’t check on you the night you took all those sleeping pills, and just kept you to myself, but I was so used to you sleeping I didn’t know you needed help and I was just a dumb kid.” (I told him everyday about the pain, and the images of death that haunted me, my desire to just stop breathing and escape this dismal world of no hope – he was 29, I was 25, not really dumb kids exactly)

“I’m sorry I didn’t pay any attention to you, but I thought it was just your depression complaining”

“I’m sorry I crush your feelings every time you reach out to me, but I’m just a dumb guy and can’t be expected to know any better.”

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I could go on and on. Well, my husband, I’m just sorry. No but.

 

When sad memories make good days bad

I’m in a (fairly) good place right now, mentally. Not beating myself up, not assigning fault and blame, not freezing up or melting down. Life is steady and peaceful, mostly.

But certain situations can still trigger memories for me, that still hurt, and I don’t know how to handle this level of hurt and stop the transportation of me back to helpless childhood and re-experiencing those feelings. So I think I need to share a sad story and see if I can grieve for this day in my past too, and then (maybe) it will get out of my head and lose (some of) its power over me.

My current dog is very old, and I love him dearly, he’s sweet and neurotic like me. He has some old age health issues and sometimes has trouble breathing at night, and sometimes I hear him and wake up and just go hold him, in case those are his last breaths I want to be there for him. Mostly I feel strong and calm, and just live in those bittersweet moments as they come, just being there.

Trouble is it brings me right back to a time in sixth grade. If you don’t feel like crying right now, please don’t read this story.

My father, the psychopath that abused his entire family in one way or another, also controlled us with the fear that our pets would be taken away from us. I can’t even recall how many dogs and cats we had growing up – I never knew animals could live so long as my current pets. My dad did not believe in veterinary care at all. Money was not for pets. Dad had let us pick out a puppy finally, years after the last dog died mysteriously. I was quite young, but I recall that old dog fondly, and recall the day it started bleeding. I recall a neighbor saying it looked like it was poisoned, and dad saying something about it being stupid enough to eat poison it deserved to die. I watched that dog die, and watched my dad flop it into a garbage bag and take it to our trash can by the garage. The next day when dad was at work, my brother got the dog from the can, and we went into our back woods and buried the poor thing. We never told dad.

I loved that new puppy, more than anything, and certainly more than my parents. I did my best to train it, but it was very young (and so was I!) and it was not yet potty-trained. I would rush home from school to clean up any messes it made while we were gone all day before dad could discover it. One day dad found a mess that I did not, and though he never yelled, never raised his voice, his silent anger was terrifying. He calmly picked up that puppy and put in a cardboard box. He told us we were not allowed to take him out of there. I slept on the floor next to that box and listened to my puppy cry all night. I knew this was just a punishment, but that if I did take him out, the punishment would likely be much worse.

We were all much more careful, and eventually puppy got potty-trained. But it was still energetic and poorly trained. It chewed up daddy’s shoes one day. A few days later, I came home and couldn’t find my dog. He was gone. Dad said it ran away. We were not permitted to call around or post missing signs.  All us kids combed the neighborhood for weeks, possibly months, calling and looking for that dog. I still don’t know what he did with our dog.

So I took to having secret pets. I would rescue birds, stray cats, even field mice. We would feed them scraps outside. I had one stray cat that year, that was so fluffy and friendly, it was always in our yard. I started to let kitty in the house, sneaking it into my room after school, and putting it back out before dad came home. The nights were getting colder and I was getting worried for kitty. One night the news (11 o’clock news – I was never told to go to bed as a kid) warned about the wind chill and to not leave any pets out that night. I begged to bring kitty in, just for the 1 night. I was told no. I snuck in kitty easily, but never thought it through, and of course we were discovered.

My dad was furious, but again, no yelling. He calmly went to the cupboard and got out the bottle of disinfectant (lysol or pine sol) we used to clean floors. He said I couldn’t have a nasty germy creature in the house, and dumped most of the bottle on the cat. And then told me to clean the floor and anything else the cat had touched – meaning me, so he dumped the rest on me. It burned my skin where it touched me, and burned my lungs to breathe it, and burned my eyes. I started coughing, and my dad started laughing. Said I looked like a drowned rat, and told me to wash up. I did – I had to get that stuff off of me, but I didn’t want to leave kitty, so I did it very quickly.  When I came out of the bathroom, kitty was gone. Dad said it asked to go outside.

I went to the big sliding glass door and looked for kitty. I put on my coat and boots and went out to call for kitty, but the snow and wind chill and my wet hair was too much, I had to go back inside. I sat by the back door and waited.

Kitty did come back, and I sat there watching it through the glass, mewing at me. I was paralyzed, too scared to open the door, but not willing to turn my back on my friend. I lost it. I started crying. Howling. I knew I’d get in trouble, but the sobs were uncontrollable. I don’t remember who opened the door, or how many hours I went on like that. But finally, kitty was permitted inside, just to shut me up so dad could sleep. Kitty’s fur was frozen solid everywhere the disinfectant had it wet. It could not move its back legs at all, ice had encased them. It could not open one eye, and blood was trickling from it. We got towels to wrap it in, and waited for kitty to thaw, and then slowly gave it a warm sponge bath to remove the posionous cleaner, and then blow dried and rubbed it with towels. Usually cats do not like this sort of attention, but kitty was not moving much or fighting us. Once kitty was all clean, I held it, like a swaddled baby, and watched its chest move harder and harder as it gasped for air. I found the yellow pages and called a 24 hour vet. The vet said milk might help dilute the poison, but that we should bring it in immediately. We put a saucer of milk in front of it, but it didn’t want any, so we got a medicine dropper and tried to perk it up with drops of milk.  We lifted its little head and rubbed its throat, it didn’t seem to be swallowing. Eventually brother fell asleep, but I didn’t. I sang and petted my kitty until it had no more strength to lift its head, and then no more strength to breathe.

My dad found me in the morning, holding a dead kitty, and called me a fool. He said I killed that cat by loving it. He said if I had followed his rules and not been feeding the cat secretly, it would not have relied on me to take care of it and would have been safe on its own somewhere.

I’m not sure how, but I got ready for school and got on the bus like usual. I could not concentrate and held back tears all day. Finally, the teacher’s helper asked me why I was sad. I told her my cat died last night. Her answer is permanently etched in my brain, “Oh, is that all? Sweetie, it was just a cat.”

Just a cat. Right.