Voices from Childhood

Beth's letter "to my father"

February 17, 2007

Dear Dad,

I am writing in hopes that this will arrive on my birthday.  The day in which I was born and the day in which I will say good bye.  I’ve made a few attempts in writing you and was not happy with what I expressed. 

I’ll be quite surprised if you make it past the first paragraph.  I know your reaction to this letter will be one of  “Oh, not again, I don’t want to read this shit.  You’ll my stepmother ‘what the hell is wrong with her,  can’t she put this crap behind her?”  Answer to that question….NO NEVER EVER, so give me these last few precious moments and read on.  Or you can save for a rainy day.  I don’t expect you to set any time aside for me anyway, because you never have, although I’m sure you’ll argue that point. 

Since my first confrontation with you several years ago, I’ve tried to be happy and content with our rekindled relationship. However, I am still troubled with the memories and consequences of the abuse I suffered during my childhood.  This has made it extremely difficult to be happy.  I can not shake the deep  seated pain that is a result of what has happened.  I am also very unhappy with your lack of contribution to our relationship.   I am unhappy with the way you dismiss the abuse.

My mother may have been the guilty person who inflicted most of the abuse I was a victim of, however, you are just as guilty because you did not stand up to her and put a stop to it.  The message sent to me was that you were a weak man who was afraid to stand up and protect his only daughter.  I was unworthy and unloved which is how I feel today.  Your well being was more important then mine.    You never turned her in or put a stop to it when the first incident occurred.  And you let it continue for way too long.  You ran out because you couldn’t handle it.  But you forgot one critical thing, me.  You left me behind to continue to receive the unwarranted abuse and punishment that she handed down.  Dad, you abandoned me at a time when I probably needed you most. And I wonder why I can not trust anyone.  You really let me down.  Yes, eventually I was able to live with you and you did get custody of me, but I should not have been left in that house for one more day.  Had you taken matters into your own hands like a grown man “mentally” you could have put a stop to her inhumane behavior towards me.  You would be my hero today and I wouldn’t be writing this letter.  And you know, you abandoned me more than once.  Do you remember when I went on my first big vacation with a girlfriend.  And when I returned, there was no place for me to put my bags.  You had sold the home and moved into a mobile trailer that had no room for me.  And of course, the plan was not communicated to me until I arrived home at a family gathering of many.  In front of everyone, you stated “oh by the way”.  I’ve always felt insignificant in your life and when this occurred it just reinforced that feeling.  The way you treat me today continues to reinforce those feelings of worthlessness.

I originally wanted to confront you in person and tell you exactly how I feel, but I’ve decided I don’t want to waste the gas or my precious time.  I don’t want to drag this out any longer for my self and I thought my birthday would be the best time to say good bye.  This will symbolize a new birth for me. 

I want to say that I am so very angry for the way things went with my childhood.  I was treated like crap, like dirt, like an animal, like a piece of shit.  I was singled out.  I’ll never forget it either.  I’ll never get over the fact that you sacrificed your little innocent daughter so that things would remain peaceful for you with my mother.  You did admit that to me.  And you had three children with this woman????????!!!!!!!!!!??????? something I can not comprehend.

I want you to know that I am crying inside but the tears do not fall.  My feelings have been stuffed away because I received more punishment if they were expressed.  Why someone would hit someone for crying, I don’t know.  You can’t even fathom the extent of my pain.  I’ve been feeling like this for so many years and wonder when the pain will subside. 

These are some things that I think a parent should provide to their child:  Unconditional love by one or both parents if available, a gentle hand, endless patience, guidance, support, and just making one feel important, that one matters regardless.   However, these things were deficient in my upbringing.  I am always on a quest to try and fill the void that has been created.  Especially, a mother’s love.  I still yearn for that very much.  Now I understand that I’ll never be able to fill this gap or any of the others the way I’d like them filled and have to figure out a way to live peacefully with that.  I feel so empty.  You along with many people believe that the visible things on the outside for me, a good job, a nice home, a nice family, two healthy beautiful children, define what is going on inside for me.  And you know, as I read this all those tangible things sound wonderful and sometimes I feel as though I am being selfish and should get over it, but I can’t.    The pain is so big and so bad inside that sometimes I just want out.  No amount of money or person(s) can make the pain and hurt go away.  At least it has not happened yet.  How could you believe that I would be “normal” on the inside with the length of time I received my punishment?  I’ll have you know, I’ve contemplated suicide numerous times but I’m too chicken to go through with it.

My coping strategies included chronic abuse of alcohol, marijuana and cocaine use.  When I drank, I drank to get drunk.  I was an angry drunk.  I had many angry outbursts during drinking binges that resulted in violence mainly to myself….broken bones, fists through mirrors and windows, plates smashed on my head, rocks the size of softballs smashed into my head.  I drank to get numb. I had no idea at the time what I was numbing myself for.  Now that I am sober for 8 years I can clearly reflect and find the answer.  It all makes so much sense.  Do you remember me asking for help in trying to combat my alcohol problem?  You dismissed the issue, minimized it and tried to make me believe that it only occurs once in a while and then would hand the phone to Sue.  I wasn’t living with you.  How could you know unless you listened to me?  But I don’t think you knew how to handle the problem and instead danced around it.  You’ve even minimized the child abuse issues.  You’ve said that your father brought you in the basement and whipped you with a belt.  I’m sorry that happened to you but, that wasn’t my fault and it does not justify you turning your back on me and letting me suffer under my mother’s hand.  Both of you should have confronted your parents so you would not carry on the tradition.  It makes me wonder how many generations this expands over.  By the way, did you ever stop to think that whenever you said “you’re stubborn just like your mother” that you hurt me.  I never wanted to be like her.  In other words, you were saying I am evil like her.  How could you say that about me?  I am nothing like her.

You know, I’ve always been afraid of you.  Perhaps because you can be so volatile at times.  There were times when you thought nothing of slapping me in the face or whipping me with a belt.  I can still smell the cigarette odor from your slaps.  I’ve always been so concerned about getting you angry or upset.  I would rather agree with you then upset you.  Well I can’t do that any longer because I need to be true to myself.  I am important to me.  And besides why should I be so concerned about upsetting you or making you angry.  You did not seem to be too concerned about your little daughter when she had her face rubbed in her own urine because her mother would not allow her to leave her corner and use the bathroom.  So finally her little bladder could not hold it any longer and she let it go.  And her mother found the puddle and grabbed her by hair and forced her face into it.  You were not too concerned as you ate dinner with the “family” while I stood in the corner right in your view.  You were so close you could probably hear my hunger pains.  But as we know you became quite good at ignoring my pain.  You were not too concerned when you would come to the house after you ran out and there I would be standing on the hot pavement naked with a pile of my own crap in my hands.  I can remember very vividly going out on that hot black topped driveway barefoot and continuously shifting my weight from one foot to the other until my feet got accustomed to the heat or did the driveway cool off?  What the fuck is wrong with this picture????  Did you ever have to do anything like that?  Did you ever have your mother make you drink Tabasco sauce for punishment?  Did your mother ever cram as many raisins as she could up your nose because she found the empty box in your sleeping area?  The raisins you stole the night before because you were starving.  I can see my self sneaking past the fold out bed in the living room where my mother slept and the sweet feeling of success that overcame me when I made it into the kitchen.  My prize, the cupboard of food.  And this was all in pitch darkness.  I got pretty good at navigating in the dark.  Oh yeah, those same raisins that were crammed up my nose made there appearance running down my nose as I stood in my corner upstairs.  My brother had a friend over and they all got a real kick out of it.  Did you have a bed to sleep in, or did you have to sleep on a cold uncarpeted floor with a coat.  Did your mother tie you to the door so she could keep an eye on you while she cleaned and cleaned?  Did your mother send you to school in dresses with no underwear so your classmates could laugh and make fun of you?  Probably not since you were a boy.  When your mother fed you, did she make you drink your food and with such speed that you threw it right up.  I can see that picture very clearly right now, all the unchewed cheerios all over my mother’s clean kitchen floor….ha ha!  I guess I was able to get even with her sometimes.  Did your mother only bathe your brothers and forget about you?  Paul and Scott were prettier than me because they sparkled so. 

Anyone who read this would agree that I have all the makings of being an abuser, a molester, a murderer.  But somehow, I rose above my horrific childhood and developed the capacity to love, to be compassionate, and to be caring.  I don’t want to strike out at my children or husband, I don’t want to have sex with my children or any children, and I don’t want to kill anyone.  At least that is the way things are today.  I will tell you that I have fantasized about coming to see you and with a shotgun in my possession and yes, using it.  Then I would do the same to my mother.  I would make you suffer as you did me.  Not sure which order.  I’ve actually thought about what I would need to do to get away with it.  Disguises, fake license plates, silencer on the gun.  Pretty scary.  That is how much I hurt and feel betrayed.

The unfortunate thing about all this is no one around me knows what is going on inside besides a few close people, my husband, and my therapist.   Often I don’t understand what is going on inside my head.  I struggle daily to make sense of what has happened.  I try to understand why I feel unloved and unworthy and why I dislike myself so much.  I have to keep all these things to myself.  I wish I could talk about it, but this is not a subject that is discussed openly.  No one wants to hear about it anyway.   

I confronted you twice in my lifetime and probably as a result made you feel horrible, angry, maybe sad, but it does not even come to close to how I felt for so many years under my mothers thumb and watching you turn your back on me not protecting me.

I want you to know that I need to say good bye because I don’t have any use for you in my life.  I am miserable continuously wishing for inaccessible needs from you.  I need to move on and try to put this behind me.  Although I don’t think it will ever go away.  It hopefully will be easier to live with.  I wish I could abandon these memories that resurface daily reminding me of the horrors I was put through but I can’t though.  However, I’m hanging on and I think I am going to win this fight.  I certainly am going to try my hardest.

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