tw: abuse, neglect, rape
When I was eight years old, I walked into the downstairs bathroom to use the toilet. As soon as I opened the door, I was hit with a smell so fucking pungent that recalling it now leaves a taste on my tongue. Crumpled on the floor was my father’s jeans and underwear, filled with the most rancid diarrhea I’d ever laid eyes on (and almost 20 years later, I’ve yet to see a sight that compares). Hmm, hope you weren’t eating. As for me, I think this hummus can wait.
Rewind to the wee hours of the morning. Nothing abnormal about the night before – Lloyd drank, Lloyd partied, Lloyd had a fire in the backyard with his buddies. We got a camera not too long before we left Illinois and as a result, my sibling managed to capture a morning where he must have gone a little harder than the usual dirty 30 of Bud Light. I remember stepping over him carefully as I went downstairs to eat breakfast, relatively unphased. To me, this was the norm.
There were two versions of my dad according to my eight year old brain – daytime Dad and nighttime Dad. I tried several times to reconcile these two parts without much success. At one point, there was maybe four or five mattresses stacked on their side against the stairs in that picture. Freshly inspired by Harriet the Spy, I quietly crawled on top of them, composition notebook in hand, and watched my father at the dining room table working on his taxes through a tiny hole in the wall. There was no drywall, just the bones. Another work in progress. Our house was always a work in progress. Perpetual garage sale, it wasn’t a big deal when once I roller skated inside during a rare instance of the floor being clear enough for me to do so. As I studied my father, I marveled at all the work that must go into owning his own business. That was a pro. A con would be him selling some of my favorite N64 games to make a quick buck for drink. I remember a man at the door after the sun set – how did my father find these jokers before Craigslist? I can only wonder.
While I was small, I had not learned that it was better to leave Lloyd be when he was drinking. I would attempt to engage him sometimes, not yet understanding the fundamental difference between daytime Dad and nighttime Dad. I have a memory of sitting on a stool in the basement with him, in the center of his four corner of speakers, subwoofers and all. His vinyl collection was quite impressive. He played Cyndi Lauper for me and I squirmed happily at the attention. He called me his “little party girl”. It would take me years and years to be okay with “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” and Genesis. Lloyd loves Genesis.
The funny thing about childhood trauma is how much you don’t remember. Freud would chalk it up to repression. He would probably be right. For example, I attempted to ask my sister about a night I barely recalled: a barefoot adventure from a payphone to a taxi to a train station. My mother distracted us – or more likely just me – with attempting to crush a penny on the train tracks. Where were we going? Why did we leave? My sister never answered me when I messaged her about it. I don’t blame her.
I have more questions than I do answers when it comes to my life in Aurora.
For example – what the fuck? No, really, what the fuck? My memory is VERY shoddy but I’m pretty sure this was a morning after, with Lloyd still trashed. I have pieces of this moment – us trying to persuade my father to stop, what the fuck, why are you doing this? I imagine the baby powder was put there as a preventative in case some kind of chemical fire was started. Rather than invoke the rage of my father, we let him do it and recorded the stupidity. I have other questions such as: was this before or after the next photo?
According to the numerical order of this photo series, the door came first, which makes sense. At this point, my mother and sibling were trying to gather evidence for a case against my father. I don’t know the specifics and I don’t think I was ever really meant to know about it at all but I was vaguely aware of it regardless. So a photo of Lloyd being a fuckwit at the stove would be some decent additional evidence. We were at the point where his behavior literally could not be ignored anymore, we couldn’t just keep going and pretend it wasn’t happening. This was around the time that Lloyd was starting to get really scary and say that my mother and sibling were planning on murdering him, that I was going to hold the door, that my sibling and I were secretly having sex.
Who knows what precisely incited his rage but something made my mother run to the bedroom we shared and lock the door. She had stopped sharing a bed with my father years before and now slept on the bottom bunk of a bunkbed with me. He chased and pounded and pounded and punched and screamed as she held it shut, terrified. Eventually his drunken strength won and he kicked the door in on her. I watched in horror. There was nothing I could do.
You know what’s fucked? That the oldest picture I have of my mother is this one. With a bruise around her eye and the look of someone who has no fucking idea how she got here. At nineteen, she was pregnant with my sister, madly in love with a man who busted his ass with three jobs to provide for his family. Fast forward 18 years later and the love of her life is an unrecognizable monster.
She told me how well they got along before the drinking and I spent my entire life absolutely terrified that the same thing would happen to me; I was terrified that I would love someone with my whole heart and they’d be stolen from me by alcohol. I ride Nicholas’ ass because of this. He has two drinks at the end of his work day and he knows that I’m watching like a fucking hawk to see if he reaches for a third. As my mother would say, “It started as just a drink or two after work. Then there was the parties on the weekends. Then eventually he was getting drunk every day.” She used these words as a way to warn against my own drinking as well and I’ve spent just as much time, if not more, watching my drinking habit in fear that I’d cave to alcoholism. For a time it was a familiar vice. Now I struggle to drink a bottle of wine within a month.
The concept of “daytime Dad” and “nighttime Dad” is a pretty obvious culprit in my later development of splitting. If you don’t remember (or you never read it), I’ve talked about this phenomena before. To give a real quick refresher, splitting is when you categorize people or things as “all good” or “all bad”. Often, people cycle through the two identities depending on recent events. Don’t respond to my text and ignore my Snaps for a week? All bad. Give me a super thoughtful gift and tell me you love me? All good. No in between. Drunken asshole who jokes about giving the dog beer and plays music so loud that I can’t possibly sleep for school? All bad. Considerate father that grills delicious corn on the cob for my ninth birthday? All good. Piece of shit that wraps the telephone cord around my mother’s neck when she tries to call 9-1-1? All bad. Hopeful, charismatic Dad talking dreams for the future while we eat Chinese takeout on the back porch of our new house? All good.
In the grand scheme of things, my older sibling got it much worse than me. Yeah, my brain was pretty fucked by trauma during the first 9 months and 9 years of development (Things To Probably Not To Tell Your Kids: “You were conceived by rape on my birthday!”), but I only had to endure getting picked up by my hair once. This pales pretty intensely compared to being locked outside in the snow in your underwear because you did something to piss off your Dad (like achieve and not be a burnt out failure, most likely), having a fucking TELEVISION thrown at you (before flat screens!), and various other “less exciting” instances of physical abuse. Crying and hungry because all you can find is canned spinach and beer? Listen, kid, it could be worse. Just look at your sibling. They’re hungry AND covered in bruises! Just eat some cat food. No, literally. Here’s some Purina. Hope you don’t get kidney stones (like your sibling).
You don’t know hunger until you eat cat food.
My hatred of uncertainty, my inability to trust people, my tendency to lie – all products of my childhood. I lied constantly to teachers, counselors, concerned adults. I had to or I’d absolutely be taken away by child services – I can only begin to fathom the life alternate timeline Carly who was taken by child services is leading right now. I lied to friends about why we could never sleep over at my house, why I didn’t own pajamas, why I was so tired and hungry. My brain is still scarred by my mother revealing that in order to persuade my father to buy us school supplies, she had to blow him. She was the reason I vowed to never use sex as a bargaining chip (file under: More Things To Probably Not Tell Your Kids).
It’s pretty obnoxious sorting out how much of your personality is because of what happened to you as a kid. I’d pretty much all but moved on from thinking about all this until my father texted me last fall. Well, actually, his wife texted me. The whole exchange was utterly nutty. It ended with me telling her, in so many words, that I don’t have the energy for Lloyd’s chaos in my life. I’ve worked too hard to let him dismantle the stability I’ve constructed for myself out of the ruined materials I was given to build with.
A month or so later, he texted me himself. I humored him longer than I did his wife since, you know, he’s fifty percent of my genetic makeup and not some stranger I’ve literally never met. I came to the same conclusion though – why? Why would I do this to myself? What would a relationship with him even do for me now? I asked him if he had been through therapy – real therapy, like CBT or DBT, not some court-appointed nonsense where he just vaguely talks about his feelings. His answer was no. I told him he couldn’t contact me until he had completed at least three months of behavioral therapy. Surprisingly, he respected my wishes to cease contact and left me alone which is more than I can say for his wife who I literally had to block.
Apparently he reached out to my sister around Christmas for my number. Considering he had it maybe a month prior I was a bit confused but I told her I didn’t want him to have it and to please refuse on my behalf. We’re children again suddenly, playing messenger for our family members. Quick, let’s go to Old Country Buffet so I can get my five dollar’s worth.
I’ll be completely honest with you – I don’t know why exactly I felt compelled to share all this. While I was meditating, I found the memory of my father’s shit-filled britches floating to the top of my brain. And as I observed the thought and returned to my breath, another thought followed on it’s heels: is there really any point in rehashing the past?
I’ve spent a good deal of time doing just this. It’s kind of my bread and butter. Examine the past, figure out why I am the way I am, show it to other people so they can maybe glean some kind of revelation about themselves. The more I meditate though the less I really understand the point of this. So Lloyd irrevocably fucked me up. Is it really worthwhile to write about it?
Back in the day, when I was low on coping mechanisms, it was definitely helpful. Now that I can recall some of the most upsetting events of my life and just keep breathing, it doesn’t seem like the right choice anymore. At this point, I’m not writing this for me. I’m writing it for you. And I really need to know, is it worth it?
Am I actually helping anyone? Or is this some kind of crude entertainment, reminding those with more fortunate childhoods to text their functional parents an “I love you”? Does any of this matter?
I guess you could say I’m lowkey having an existential crisis about what it is I’m doing here. As I look at the future and consider where I should be focusing my energy, I have to wonder if my time isn’t better served elsewhere. Assuming some major life event doesn’t derail me, I’ll be finishing my Associate’s soon. It’ll be time to pick a Bachelor’s and really start to focus on What The Fuck I’m Doing With My Life. As much as I love to write and even moreso love to connect with people through it, I’m not sure if I’m really succeeding with this blog. Only Sara comments on it (which, Sara, I greatly appreciate, do not get me wrong). On Facebook, I get the occasional odd comment. Every once in a blue moon, someone messages me. These are all beautiful moments that give me validation that what I’m doing isn’t going completely unnoticed but truth be told I wonder at how much of it is just out of courtesy. Like, oh, Carly wrote a thing, I should say something nice. I’ll Like the post even though I haven’t clicked the link to read it cause I like her and I want to be supportive even though I don’t necessarily think the content is all that great.
Part of this is insecurity. Again, probably from Lloyd. “Why aren’t I good enough for him to stop drinking?” But part of this is me genuinely wondering whether my time and energy would be better spent elsewhere, helping people some other way. Writing my novel, even.
So if you’re out there and you have an opinion either way, please say something. Or don’t. Your silence will be just as telling, really. But either way, this is likely the last time I’ll ever write about my father. At this point, there’s nothing new to tell. No new revelations, no emotions, even. When he and his wife contacted me, I had an awful panic attack the next day. I thought I was pretty much over any feelings I had about Lloyd and honestly, I mostly am. I’ve promptly forgotten about them after each point of contact unlike when I was a kid. At 13 I agonized over his visit to Michigan, trying to play the perfect daughter at Johnny’s roller rink; at 18 I desperately wanted him to be proud of me, nervously fidgeting in my graduation robes; at 23 I attempted to build some sort of relationship, bringing my husband to my grandmother’s house (which was exactly the way I remembered it), and finally making the introduction. Now at 28, he is nothing but a genetic donor who lives in my memory.
I suppose another part of me wondering what I’m doing here is because of all the meditation. Now that I’m back in the swing of a daily practice, it’s starting to feel like… there’s no point in writing. Pretty much every internal conflict can be resolved by just sitting. This is both relieving and depressing. I might be on the precipice of what folks in the community call “the dark night” – where things start to look sort of pointless because it’s all impermanent, unsatisfying and nothing belongs to us. On the flip side though, I do feel immense gratitude. Each moment is a blessing and it’s impossible for me to convey the love I have for my husband, my cat, my friends, my family, my life. But this is all the more reason why dwelling on the past seems so useless. Why look back when there’s such wonder to witness right in front of me now?
Let me know if you’re listening. Maybe this post doesn’t really have a point other than to say, “is there anybody out there?”