Tuesday, November 23, 2010

This is why I forgive Daddy.

My youngest sister, Wheat, and Daddy have officially given up on trying to have a father/daughter relationship. I'm pretty sure message in my father's last text indicated that he no longer considers her a daughter, and since she stopped called him Dad three years ago, I'm confused as to why she's upset about this. But she's basically made it clear that she expects me to stop talking to him at all for this. And Padawan is frankly confused as to why on earth I'm not pissed at Daddy for never visiting, for hardly calling, for not sending presents.

And the answer is simple: it's not because I've always been a Daddy's Girl. It's not because I'm not angry that he left us with Mom, even though I understand exactly why he had to. It's not because he was the only person who ever bothered defending me from my Mother in my childhood when she would scream at me for anything and everything that went wrong, even when it was clearly not my fault.

It's because Daddy saved me.

I know that sounds strange...but let me see if I can get this down properly.

When I was ten, Daddy left us. We didn't know he'd left: we assumed that we would follow after Christmas, like it had been planned. We didn't realize that Mom had decided not to follow Daddy, that they had agreed it was best to just give up their marriage because, quite frankly, it was failing fast. We didn't know that I had been the source of the argument that had marked the end of their marriage. I didn't know that Mom was waiting for any chance she could take to get rid of me, because she blamed me. (I'm not just saying that because I believe it: I'm saying it because Mom admitted it a few years ago, and she's very sorry for how all of this happened, and she'd do it all differently if she could. So for those of you who are mothers and believe that no mother could ever be so cruel, you have to keep in my mind that my mother is severely bi-polar, and we've NEVER gotten along well, and this is how it REALLY was.)

Shortly after Daddy left and before we realized he was gone for good, I threatened a serious suicide. I was ten years old, lonely in a house full of sisters and a mother who did not understand me, emotionally destroyed by a tragedy I don't ever talk about, I had no real friends I could talk to because I didn't like children and couldn't trust adults, I was miserable, and I had recently seen Romeo & Juliette on TV and saw Juliette stab herself. Suicide seemed like a pretty good idea. I'm not sure I really understood the concept of Death too well then. 

But after it happened (I wasn't harmed) Mom realized she had the perfect way to get rid of me. The very next day she had me admitted to a children's psychiatric ward, insisting that she believed I was a danger to myself and to my sisters and even to her. I was left there under promises of being able to go home every night after therapy. I didn't realize she intended me to stay there until she never showed up that night, and then my psychiatrist told me that I had to stay in the hospital until I was better because Mom was afraid of me.

I'd never in my life demonstrated a violent tendency towards anybody but myself, and even that was only the  one time. I could not understand how my mother had led these people to believe I was a danger to anyone other than myself. I don't even understand how they managed to believe I was still a danger to anyone after a month of seeing me sit quietly in a corner and read, only speaking in group therapy because they told me if I didn't participate in Group I would never get to leave.

I was in there for two months with absolutely no hope of being let out, because every time my family therapy came up, only my mother was there, and she painted a picture of me that was such a gross exaggeration of my behavior that I felt lonely and unloved and betrayed. When I argued anything she said, when I gave MY version of how life was at home, about how I was always the scapegoat even when I hadn't been in the room when something happened, or how my mother would scream at me and call me names and of COURSE I yelled back because nobody likes to be treated like that, Mom would call me a liar. And there was nobody there to defend me, nobody there to say, "No, she's not lying."

And one day, when I was on my way to family therapy, there he was when I went into the room, looking more pissed off than I had ever seen him in my entire life. When the therapist asked him for a description of my behavior, he painted such a different a portrait of me that it sounded like my parents had been talking about a completely different child. And since both of my parents were home by the time I got home from school and neither of them worked on weekends, it was entirely impossible that I was showing different sides of myself to different parents. And when my Mom actually had the nerve to say that, "Of course he thinks she's perfect. She's always been his favorite. He only sees what he wants to see!" he turned around and gave her a verbal lashing like I've never heard an adult give to another in my life, in real life or the movies.

When he finished with her, he turned to the therapist and said, "I don't know what the hell is wrong with you people. Has she demonstrated any of the behavior her mother has described in the two months that she's been here? Has she been violent or aggressive towards the other children?" Of course the therapist had to answer in the negative, because I was a fine example of model behavior. "Then clearly you can see she doesn't belong here!"

And I never spent another night in that mental facility. He packed my things and signed the paperwork pulling me out because he was my parent, too, and legally was just as capable of pulling me from the hospital as my mother. The entire way home Daddy screamed at Mom, demanding to know why she hadn't told him where she'd sent me, why she'd lied about where I'd been when he'd called, how she'd had the nerve to send me away.

She only said that after my suicide threat, she didn't think she could handle me, and thought I was better off away from her and my sisters where people who knew what to do could take care of me. She didn't explain why she didn't tell him where I was, but she asked how he'd found out.

"Tom called me and tore me a new one last night for letting you keep her in that place for so long! Of course I felt like a damn fool when I said I had no idea what the hell he was talking about, because as far as I knew Chanel was always over at his house or a friend's house when I called! I should have known you were full of shit when you said she went to spend the night with a school friend! She doesn't like her classmates!"

And then I understood everything. I understood that Mom had kept my hospitalization a secret from him. I understood that Uncle Tom knew that I didn't belong in there when he visited me two days before. I understood that Daddy had flown down to save me within hours of finding out where I was. And I knew that my Mom and I would never have a healthy relationship because she resented me and blamed me for the final argument that had marked the beginning of a long battle for divorce.

That's what I mean when I say that Daddy saved me. He flew down and pulled me out of a hell I hadn't belonged in. It was his greatest, most memorable act that he gave in my defense. And so in the years that followed, when he called less and less, and visited less and less, and sent presents less and less, and started to forget birthdays, I would not hold it against him, because he saved me.

And maybe he has a new family and calls less than he used to, and maybe he forgot my birthday this year, and maybe he didn't come visit this past summer like he promised he would, but it doesn't matter enough to make me hate him. I have no problem telling him that I'm angry with him, that he's let me down or hurt my feelings. I never try to hide my feelings from him. But I love him, and I always will. I will always see him as I did that day  when I wandered in for family therapy and found him sitting in wait, an avenging angel waiting to deliver me from evil.

Maybe it doesn't make sense. Padawan doesn't understand, but then again, Padawan has the world's most caring, sweet mother, and his father died when he was eighteen, but he was sure of both of his parents' love and care. Maybe only someone who has ever spent time in a mental facility against their will could understand how horrifying it is, even when you receive "the best care the state has to offer." While you're there, you're just hoping for a get out of jail free card, because no matter how sick you are, there's always someone sicker sitting next to you that scares you. 


  1. That's a heartbreaking story.

    Thank you for sharing.

  2. It is sad. It made me cry while I was writing it, but I think it ends happily. Well, for that part. I had to live with my mom after that until she sent all of us to live with our grandparents at Christmas.

  3. Wow. I'm kind of stunned, no idea what to say. I guess I just want to thank you for sharing this story.

    And just so you know, it does make sense. It really does.

  4. My parents split up when I was little, and my dad left us. It wasn't as bad as the situation you were in, but it wasn't exactly a Hallmark commercial either. A lot of people would look at the situation and think I had every reason to hate my father when I was a kid, but I didn't. He had come through in a lot of little ways and it was always clear that he loved me and my brother, and I guess this softened my judgment on some of the bigger things. At any rate, things are never as clear and black & white as people might think in that kind of situation. You don't always feel what people expect you'd feel or maybe even what you should feel. I couldn't have hated my father if I wanted to. I just didn't.

    When I got older, around 18 or 19, I ended up resenting him for a lot of stupid things. I guess I was mad that I wasn't more proud of him, that he hadn't done more with his life and given me more to look up to. I was struggling with my own self-image then, and somehow it was all his fault. My resentment then probably didn't make any more sense than my love when I was younger, but again, sometimes that's just how it is.

    Naturally this resentment caused some trouble between us. It passed, but I don't know that our relationship ever 100% recovered. He died a few years back, and I tell you now, if there's anything I regret it's that stupid trouble between us. I'm not sorry one bit for forgiving him and overlooking his faults when I was little. I don't know what the trouble is between your father and your sister, or why it sounds like he's grown more distant from you all, and I'm sorry to hear that. But whatever the reasons for the situation now, he did show that he cared when you were little, and I think you're right to hold onto that memory. If there's a mistake to be made, it's probably better to be too forgiving than to hate someone out of pride. There's probably nothing good that could come from that.

    But I don't know. There's another side to that as well. My father spend his whole life trying to get his own father's love and approval, but it was a lost cause and it hurt him in many ways. My grandfather was strange, and distant, and unknowable. So what can I say? I guess it all depends on the situation, and unfortunately there are no easy answers. Things with your parents are just...complicated.

  5. Candice: I'm glad it makes sense to someone.

    Nuclearheadache: Thank you for sharing. I hope my sister gets over this and decides to let it go. I don't want her to regret anything.


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