Thursday, September 10, 2009

Sitting Down with Dad

Austin wrote about a therapy session in which she explored her relationship with her father. My stomach churned when I read it. I had to come back to it and I knew that it would become a topic I would write about.

Austin wrote - "
Dr. D wanted to know what it would be like if I took my father up on his offer to have a relationship. I was rather blunt with my answer. It would be odd to sit across from a man who knows I too slept with his wife, I being his daughter. Could he even look me in the eye if he found out? Would he blame me? Would he call it rape or would he just be so disgusted he couldn’t even look at me?"

I could have written the same thing. I ~think~ I know that Dad knew about the abuse. It's one of those weird, floaty pieces of knowledge where I know but it is too hard to accept so it doesn't feel like I really know. I know my Dad's serious girlfriend, Jill, (pre-marriage to Rita) suspected something. Dad didn't heed her suggestions to dig further and he didn't ask any questions. Sister told Dad later on - as she moved out of the house and after I was gone. Or at least that is how I think it goes. Like I said, it is fuzzy.

When I ran into Dad later (after marriage to Rita and being "exiled") he acted as if it had only been a few days since we had seen each other. He said nothing about any issues. So in some ways I have the answers to Austin's questions - on the outside Dad would play the "it's all okay" game.

I guess I expected something different - after all I chose Mom's side - siding with the adulterous woman (Mom) seemed less evil than siding with the wife-beater (dad) . But to Dad, it appeared I chose the one who left him for his ex-best friend (Toilet). And not only did his ex-best friend win his wife, but his daughter too. I have to wonder how that affected Dad? Did he see it as my choice or a role I was forced into? Later he said that he was mad and hurt that I "chose Toilet over him to walk me down the aisle." Really? By that time the touching part of the abuse was over and everything else seemed okay. I was so grateful about that minuscule molecule of safety that I thought life was grand. Dad hadn't been around for years. So I chose Toilet which made Mom happy and from the outside, looked normal. Gotta play the "normal game" after all.

Austin also said "I want to lash out at him. I want to say hurtful things like, “Hey did you know your three year old daughter picked up where you left off? Where were you?” I want him to feel guilt and to have images in his head he can’t get out. I want to slap his psyche, kick him in the conscience and knock him dead in his manhood. I want him to feel a tiny bit of what I felt for so long. But why? Why this anger for a man I don’t really know? It all comes down to “should.” He should have been there." That hit me hard. I had the opportunity to ask those questions. I did not take it. I regret that in some ways. I wanted to know why he didn't ask questions. Why didn't he have the "good touch/bad touch" talk with me? Why did he leave such an important thing to mom? I also question whether maybe Toilet's ex-wife warned Dad about some of the signs and issues with their children. I remember having one talk we had about sex - it was the "safe sex" lecture. He gave it at Jill's insistence, I think. It was awkward but he did good. We had that talk in the car - good because we didn't have to look at each other.

I remember mom, after I disclosed the abuse to her, telling me I had a choice. I could stay there and stay quiet or tell and go live with Dad. We all assumed that telling meant Dad would gain custody. Dad wasn't that bad. Why didn't I do that? I play the what if game - what if I had told Dad then? I think maybe Dad would have gotten violent - not in my defense but in his own anger. To Dad, life was a game of a power struggle. This would have given him the advantage. I might have gotten counseling because that would have been the thing to do - but no sympathy. There would have been a criminal trial, with lots of publicity. Dad would have relished the role of "rescuing."

I have to wonder why he didn't assume that role then? At least on surface. It's a confusing web in my head. Did he not know and that's why he didn't take on the role I expected - the rescuer, look at how great I am by scooping in and saving my children. Or did he know and choose to ignore. I guess I'll never really have answers. Which leaves me for years to mull over the questions.


April_optimist said...

Big (((((hugs))))). Those are tough questions to ask--with no good answers, no matter how you slice it. What helped me to realize that both my parents were scared, insecure human beings so caught up in their own pain they couldn't, COULDN'T see or help me with mine. Doesn't excuse them just helps me see why they did what they did and didn't do what they should have done.

Kim said...

I doubt that it's consolation but, if you'd had a chance to ask your Dad those questions, you would likely not be any closer to understanding his choices. I don't think he would be able to answer you.

Faith said...

The questions I listed I'd never ask if given the chance because I'm just not sure I could live with the answer.