A funny thing happens when people die, suddenly they become saints. I’ve often been accused by my family of being an “under reactor” which is some kind of disorder they made up to explain my inability to over react adequately. I find that a better way to describe my emotional state in crisis situations is logical. My fiancé once told me I was the most logical woman he’s ever met in his life. I took this as an immense compliant since getting men to admit women are logical at all is a quite a feat. So, naturally being the under reactor that I am, when my father passed my feelings were neutral. Did we have some good times? Sure, I suppose as a young child there were snowman built and water balloon fights that hold fond memories even if few can be recalled. The truth is though, there were far too many more nightmare scenes straight out of a horror movie that are held much more vividly in my mind. I find myself wondering if the bullet holes in the ceiling meant to represent each member of our family courtesy of my father still grace the childhood home I grew up in. I imagine the new happy owners comfortable in their beds just leaning over to turn out the lights when they notice 5 curious holes. Perhaps they also wonder their origin and meaning.
There would have to be a book written to even begin to scratch the surface of the unimaginable moments I witnessed as a child. I was 16 years old when my father died naked on the toilet, alone in a dark cold and only half finished remodeled bathroom in the basement. He was 39 years old. Since then, family members have idolized him like some kind of fallen angel that served his purpose and was given back to the heavens. On my grandmothers mattel sits the last photo that was ever taken of him, ironically at his own brothers funeral just a few short months before his own. The photo is surrounded by candles, rosaries and bible verses laminated and strategically placed as if some kind of offering to the gods. I was never much a religious person myself, at least not in the organized fashion. The last time I set foot in a church the pastor was in the process of organizing a rally against gay marriage, I walked out and never looked back. However, if when we die we’re given either pearly white gates or hounds of hell I think I can say with much confidence that my father was that latter. My mother likes to think that my anger will subside in the years to come, but I think that it only deepens the older I become and the closer I get to the age that he died. As a child, 39 seemed like it was so much older than it seems to me now staring down the barrel of 30. Although, I find the older that I get, the more patience and perspective that I gain. I think this makes me less tolerant of his intolerance at the same age ironically.
So, I pose the question: at what point is it OK to speak ill of the dead? Some of you may say never, that they are not here to defend themselves. I wonder just what my father would say in his own defense. Would he blame the alcohol? Perhaps, he would place the blame on the untreated bipolar. I’ll admit that there were times when I was quite certain even before he was diagnosed properly that my father was simply bat shit crazy. Nothing else seemed to explain his bizarre behavior and so as a child I had just concluded he was in fact a sociopath. Before you get all up in arms about my lack of sympathy for those with mental challenges, lets all try to remember in most of those cases people suffering will only do damage to themselves, those that do damage to others are the ones we convict and send to jail.
Perhaps, it’s unhealthy to hold onto the anger and resentment. In fact, I know that it causes conflict in my soul. Although, I just cannot get over the fact that when someone dies we all choose to only remember the good things. In fact, people will even tell you to do this as their unsolicited counseling advice. I am not sure that is the healthiest way to go about it either. I do know that I spent so much time and energy resisting an abusive situation throughout my life that I ended up smack dab in the middle of one.
I spent fathers day meditating on the beach at my yoga class with a great friend. Afterwards, we went to brunch and she shared her own abusive relationship past with me. We’re both well educated and smart women. Most people that do not know any better wouldn’t consider us the “type”. We compared situations and discovered that the same abusive patterns showed in both relationships, but neither of us saw the signs. My friend grew up in a loving family and had a wonderful relationship with her father. We both concluded that there might be a combination of things going on here.
1.) When you resist something strongly, you tend to draw this exact fear into your life due to all of the energy you’re giving into the feeling.
2.) Sometimes it is hard to tell the difference between excitement and drama just as it is to tell the difference between love and lust.
The reason that I am sharing this with you, is because it’s time that we stop labeling the kind of women that find themselves in these situations. Both my friend and I were so embarrassed and ashamed to have found ourselves here that neither of us reported our “incidents” right away. We too fell victim to the stereotypical women that found themselves here. I think abuse is best described as a gradual mental breakdown that is meant to keep you questioning yourself and your relationships around you. It’s not as if we met these guys in the bar and were slapped across the face to which we replied “thank you, may I have another?” No, they were perfect gentlemen in the beginning, my mother even complimented me on such a nice young man. These guys have this down to some kind of sick twisted science.
I am grateful that both my friend and I are healthier happier people than we were just a few short years ago. I am also grateful that we both got out of the situation once it escalated from verbal to physical and it only took one time. However, we both had the support of our friends and family to help us through, a lot of other young women do not have that.
Perhaps, it’s easier for my family to remember my father as what they wished he was. Maybe I should just shut up and let them idolize his memory for their children and grandchildren. Who am I to take that away from them? Although, when I recall the splintered holes in the aged wooden ceiling; the loud firecracker sound that boomed through the house like thunder and the deep dark serious look my father possessed in his expression while explaining their presence, I am less than sympathetic to the fabricated man he’s become in death.