It's been a year since I wrote this letter to my dad and read it to my support group. A year and a half after attending Hope Springs I think I finally have the courage to post it here. I'm having a particularly tough time right now: out of work, going through divorce, kids left home for college. I'm acting out with alcohol and porn. I need to get a grip here. This is a step for me. This letter is my story:
Hi, my name is Bill and Iím your son. Iíd guess I look a little like you, but my hair is much lighter and my eyes are blue. You were a little bit taller than me, or so that is how I remember you. Iím telling you what I look like because I donít think you ever saw me as a person, definitely not as your son.
Iím writing to you not as favor to you, but rather a favor to myself.
I ask myself the question of ďwhyĒ everyday. Why did you do the things to me that you did? Iíve asked everyone else and no one has been able to give me an answer, so maybe I should have been directing this question to you all along. I think back to all those stories you told me about when you were a kid, all the hell you raised, your thievery from your neighbors and all the fights you got yourself into, and I wonder what plagued you from your youth that would cause you to believe that it was okay to rape your only son emotionally, physically and sexually. Perhaps you were just as fucked up then as I am now. The difference between you and I is that Iím doing something about this behavior so this behavior doesnít continue in future generations.
You taught me a lot. Maybe I should be thankful for that. Iíve had to ďwingĒ my behavior and many choices my whole life because I learned from you what not to do. Iíve been afraid every day of my life, holding back my ideas and thoughts because I believe everyone will hate me as much as you have. You had me convinced I was a worthless piece who deserved what you gave me. You taught me to never trust anyone; everyone was out to get me. You taught me that my feelings and my thoughts were not important. Finally, you taught me that having sex with an older man was not only necessary, but the only way I could get the attention I so craved from an authoritarian adult male.
What did you get out of that behavior, other than getting your rocks off? You robbed me of everything in my youth; you stole my childhood in trade for your own gratification. I was terrified every day, afraid that people would take one look at me and just know what a terrible person you told me I was. Here you were, a grown man, and you were bullying a small child. I didnít have the ability to stand up to you. I was just a little kid. You were my dad, and I believed you would not lie to me. Instead, you lied to me at every opportunity. I didnít understand that until much later, so I believed that I had one purpose in life, and that was to service you. You told me repeatedly that I didnít do that very well. You hurt me, not just physically, but right to my core, and while it still hurts, the sexual part is not what bothers me the most. You never saw me as your son, you didnít even take the time to know me, and that hurts me most. I was never your son; we never had a father-son relationship. I was only an object to you and you took full advantage of that. How many times did you take your belt or yardstick to my ass without even knowing why you were doing it? I would have taken the belt and yardstick over the times you used a wire hanger on my ears. That hurt the most. Remember the neighbor, whom you hated, came to the door one Sunday afternoon and told you I swore at her? You never asked me if I did swear at her, you took her word for it and then after you beat the shit out of me in your bedroom, I was forced to go to her and apologize and hug her. You taught me on that day that I was less of a person than a neighbor you despised. A person you loathed, her word was more important to you than mine. My humiliation was great that day. Since her daughter went to school with me, everyone knew what happened to me that Monday morning at school, and the humiliation was even greater. I couldnít get away from it, neither at home nor at school. I pretended daily, believing that no one would see me, but rather they would see a person I thought they would like better. I pretended so much that I started to believe it and I lost track of who I was. I pretended I wasnít hurt.
Why didnít you kill me? You certainly had many times available when you put a gun to my head or tried to strangle me. How about all those times you thrust your penis in my face when I was just a little guy, and we had ďfunĒ in the shower? What did that do for you? Iíll tell you what it did for me. I learned that if I let you put your penis in my mouth or in my ass you might like me for a little while. I might get the opportunity to have a real dad who loved me instead of you who just wanted to hurt me. I sacrificed almost everything to get you to love me; I would have done anything to get you to recognize me as your son, and not as some thing that you could vent all your frustrations. How much anger did you have inside you to think that abusing your boy would stop that hurt within yourself?
You taught me to hate myself. It worked. I continued your work on me long after you kicked me out of the house, believing that I was unworthy of anyoneís love, including my own. I have always thought any other guy is better than me, I am the worst there is. Any friendship I had was not a healthy relationship, and my friendships never lasted too long. I married a woman who behaves a lot like you. Sheís not physically violent, but she plays the same mind games you played on me. I think Iíd rather take the physical abuse from you since it would be done and over within a few moments, but the emotional and mental torment I suffered from you continues on long after it had been administered. But it will continue not much longer. I pushed my feelings so deep inside, since you convinced me they werenít important, and now Iím trying to understand them and appreciate them.
You were wrong.
Where would I be today if you had taken a different path? What would my childhood have been like if I had happy memories? What would have become of me if you had helped me and encouraged me? What would our relationship have been had you been a warm, nurturing father? I lost my childhood, my feelings, my self worth to you and so Iíll never know the answers to any of these questions.
On my twenty seventh birthday you called me and told me if things had gone your way you would have had me aborted. Why did you say that? Was that the truth? Mom was listening in on the extension; why didnít she say something to you? She had to remind you it was my birthday because you didnít know it. You just picked that day to tell me of your wishes going unheeded. That shouldnít have surprised me, but it did.
Why did you knock me down and try choking me to death when I came home late and the dog barked, waking you up? I wanted you to kill me that night. I was tired of all your abuses, and I wanted all the pain to be over with. Despite the pain and pressure around my neck, I had come to terms that I was going to die that night, and I felt peaceful. I remember feeling comfort knowing I would soon be dead. Do you remember me kicking Mom off you, letting her know I was all right? I remember thinking two minutes was the longest I could ever hold my head under water. I was looking forward to my death so I didnít have to endure another day of you. I looked into your eyes as you pushed your thumbs into my throat and twisted your hands around my neck increasing the pressure if I tried to pull your fingers away, but you werenít present and I wondered what you were thinking. After I blacked out, when did you get off me? Why wasnít I dead? I was so pissed at you that I was still alive, but I think you knew I wanted to be dead, and that is why you stopped.
What about all those times you put a gun to my head and said you could ďblow the fuckiní thing off your (my) shoulders and you wouldnít bat an eye?Ē At that declaration, time seemed to slow down so I could process a whole series of thoughts: why is my father saying this to me? What had I done to warrant this? Was it going to hurt? How quick would it be? What was going to happen to me immediately after you pulled the trigger? Would anyone even care to come to my funeral? Was I going to have a funeral or would I be put out with the trash? Who was going to clean the blood off the walls and the floor? When were you going to pull the trigger? Come on, I wanted to get it over with. What were you thinking when I called your bluff and grabbed your hand on the gun and yelled at you to go ahead and pull the fuckiní trigger? Why didnít you pull the trigger? Had there been bullets in the gun? I know there werenít that time, but what about all the other times? Why did you laugh when you spun the chamber around to show me there were no bullets? Was that fun for you?
How did you continue to live as long as you did being the sick psychotic bastard you were?
Remember the time you and I were supposed to have a long ďfather-son weekendĒ when I was twelve? I thought this would be the turning point in our relationship and you would get to know me and I would get to know you. I was excited, really, I was. I didnít know then mom had forced you to go. Instead, I had to sober your ass up most every night, and then watch your naked body climb over me in our shared bed. During the day we went and visited with your old air force and college buddies. I either sat in the car for hours waiting for you to come out of their homes, or I sat at the table with you guys and drank beer. You didnít care if I drank beer at twelve years old. Your buddy thought it was a little odd that I polished off three beers within an hour. I realized later that you just didnít care. You didnít even introduce me to your friends. You and I did absolutely nothing together besides riding in the car for four days, mostly without any talking. I felt I was the dad and you were the child on that trip. I cared for you and your needs. Mine werenít important to you.
I donít remember too much about having sex with you. Sometimes, still today, I can feel your presence lying on my back. I can feel your gut and the coarse chest hair rubbing on my back. I do remember our ďfun timesĒ in the shower, when I was just as tall as your waist, and you would grab my testicles or push your penis into my face. You called it ďplaying grab-ass.Ē I donít remember the color of your eyes, but I clearly remember everything about the size and weight of your penis. I knew it was wrong, but we were laughing, so I figured we were having fun and since it was my only opportunity to have fun with you I told myself it was okay. I knew it was wrong, but Iíd do anything to get you to love me. I did hate myself when I would get hard around you, since I think it encouraged you, with you thinking that I was enjoying you sexually. I still struggle sexually, and wonder what is behind every manís eyes should one of them look at me, and I wonder, if an older man seems threatening to me, what sexual favor should I allow him to do to me so he wouldnít be so threatening and he would like me.
Iím getting tired of always living in the past with those memories that continue to haunt me. I can still feel your body against mine; I remember how your penis felt in my hand. I remember being little and crying myself to sleep because I didnít understand what I was doing so wrong that would make you behave the way you did to me. Even as a little kid I took ownership that it was I who was doing something wrong, because that is what you had me believe as though I could have done something about it. None of the answers to any of the questions Iíve asked you in this letter will ever come my way, so I have to believe someone, at some time in your life, did something hideous to you and you never got over it. I was a little kid, an easy target for an adult man, and you took full advantage of it. I didnít have to fear being abused by some unknown man because my dad was already doing it.
Can I forgive you? Yeah, I suppose I can, and I think in some ways I have, but itís going to take me some time to understand what that means to me. I will never be able to forget all those nights, lying in my bed, crying and wishing I was dead. You are responsible for all those nights and you need to take ownership of that. Iíve told your brother and my sisters what you did to me. I told them everything. Everything. Everyone knows. Mom apologized to me twice for the way I was brought up, and I know she knows what you did to me in the basement and in the shower even though sheís never said anything about it. Your legacy is not one of a strong, powerful man, but instead, a weak, conniving, lying, abusive, pedophile. I could never be proud of you.
You were wrong. You told me Iíd fuck up everything in my life because that is what I am: a fuck up. I have always feared youíd win and be right with that proclamation, and everything you told me would come true, but you didnít win. You were wrong. Iíve won, because I didnít carry your errant, ignorant and shameful behavior forward to the next generation. My kids will never have to know what I had to endure to hope someday youíd say you loved me and I was important to you. Your last words to me before you died were, ďGo fuck yourself.Ē You were wrong about everything.
Iím tired of reliving those days of abuse in my head. Iíve spent a great deal of time in my life doing that, trying to make sense of it. I feel like Iíve wasted most of my life on you. Iíve got a lot of work to do yet, and Iíll have some really bad days still, but I do see progress, and I know now that you lied to me and you were wrong. Wherever you are at now, heaven or hell, is not for me to decide if you should be there. Iíll get over you someday, but I will never forget what you have done to me. Iíll have good days and bad days, but Iíll always, always know that you were wrong. Wrong about everything.
Rest in peace.
Your only son,
Safety is in the arms of the caring beholder.