Father’s Day I read through posts on Facebook and view endearing photos of dads with their kids. I don’t think I have one photograph of me with my father. There are group photographs, but nothing of the two of us. I wouldn’t want one. I do have his paintings hanging in my bedroom. I wondered yesterday why. We had a troubled relationship. He would have been jailed for things he did. We didn’t know to tell. Those things aren’t the story. The legacy is. So why, Karen, I asked myself, would you have paintings on your bedroom wall painted by a man who inflicted so much damage on you? Why? It’s because they are evidence that somewhere within this man I was terrified of was something that made him want to put paint on a canvas. There was a soft part of him that wanted to create. That is why.
When he was alive, I didn’t visit. I visited when he was on his deathbed, about five times. His wife always thought the worst, so more than once I made that very difficult journey just down the road to say goodbye. We had never said hello. Goodbye was easy.
I was born into mayhem. There was no reason, no order. He was a man afflicted by disorders that caused him to think that abusing a female child in every possible way was somehow acceptable. I have worked hard on my healing, and advocate for any child who I believe needs it. The legacy is that at sixty I still get triggered, I still need treatment to deal with the fallout of being raised by an abuser.
Still, when he died, I felt as though the ground had been removed from under my feet. It is an odd thing, the tie between an abuser and their child. I know there is this phenomenon known as ‘traumatic bonding’. It wasn’t just that. He was my father. The only one I ever had. So I was supposed to respect him, love him. It was never easy. And it still isn’t.
My father wreaked a lot of damage. But he also gave me my sense of humour, and some gifts of dreams and knowing. I focus on those.
So happy father’s day, Dadzilla, wherever you are. Thanks for making me who I am. Because though I struggle with what happened, and wish terribly much it didn’t, I thank you for any good thing you did. For making sure I had food and clothes. For buying boats and forcing me to go sailing on early winter mornings. For teaching me how to survive in the bush. And I love you. Don’t ask me why, because honestly, I could not dig deep enough into my blood and bones to explain it. It just is.