Prisoner Of My Past
The lives of many are altered forever in the fraction of a moment it takes to cross the line, but none more profoundly than the one who has no choice but to unwillingly and blindly follow.
Secrets and excuses. Manipulation and lies. The ultimate betrayal. The characters in this insane performance? A father and his daughter.
From the very start, everything was very calculated. There were no threats, no promises. There were just quiet violations of my body and soul. Every fiber of my being screamed of the wrongfulness, yet bound by the chains of my innocence, I never uttered a word, thinking perhaps that would be the last time. It was always so confusing. Never really knowing what was happening, yet knowing it was not supposed to be happening. This man, my father, the one who I chose to protect me in this lifetime, was crossing that line over and over again without a hint of regret or apology.
Trying to take his lead like nothing was amiss, I played the game well. Light conversation, everyday routines. In an attempt to gain his approval and affection in other ways, I tried talking to him, sharing my accomplishments, but our conversations were strained and superficial. He remained distant and never showed any interest in being a part of a “normal” relationship. I went through the motions of childhood feeling insignificant and invisible and at the same time the most watched person in the house. Running away was always a plan in the works. Anything was better than living in his house, under his terms. As time dragged on, however, I became adept at avoiding those eyes and staying out of sight.
My memories are injected with the watchful and suspicious glances from my mother. She knew what he was capable of. She knew it could happen, but through her own denial or ignorance compounded by my inability to tell her, I continued to endure this alone. It was a strange balancing act – the proverbial elephant in the living room – going about our daily lives, trying to ignore that obstruction that was driving a wedge though our family.
It was sometime before I had the courage to expose what had happened, but it wasn’t in the most nurturing of environments. I was using it more like ammunition. Faced with the possibility of being grounded for the rest of my life, it spilled out how he had taken advantage of me, how over the years he betrayed both my mother and me. Strangely enough, the words finally said, I felt nothing. No relief, no lightening of my burden. As I searched her eyes for some sign of compassion, some shock, my gaze was met with coldness. She went to confront my father and came back moments later telling me he denied it. End of subject. I got grounded anyway.
For ten years after I moved out of the house, we lost touch. My father forbade contact with me, and my mother did nothing to stop this river of silence from growing wider. For him, was I a threat to his secret? For her, a painful reminder of what happened? By no doing of my own, a crime was committed and I was the one who was convicted.
Three decades later I am left with an uncomfortable feeling in the pit of my stomach. The memories are painfully clear. Each day offers many distractions to keep me focused in the present, but every once in awhile I feel my mind’s shoulder being tapped and when I turn around, the visions stare me in the face, daring me to look further. They sting me brutally for a moment before my mind snaps me back to the present. How much do I remember? How much did I forget? Is there something more? Something worse? My mind is fiercely loyal, protecting me from seeing or remembering too much.
Priding myself as being a survivor, I stoically shrug off that time in my life as if it were just a bad relationship. Strong? Accepting? Perhaps. Self-preserving denial is a possibility.
As much as I would like to believe it did not alter my core, it really did. I find it difficult to go to people for help, to express what I feel. I often stand alone, choosing to carry my burdens, however large or small, in silence.
The scars run deep and no amount of time will heal these wounds. For me, no amount of talking or analyzing will erase the disgust, disbelief, and sadness I feel for the family that was torn apart. Forgiveness is not an option. How can I forgive someone who intentionally disregarded my right to privacy to satisfy his own needs? My childhood was like being in a continuous hail storm. Little by little my spirit was being chipped away as I stood by helplessly.
The years have passed. My mother died without so much of a mention of those years. My father, who left my mother many years ago, has been out of my life and will never again be a part of it. But wherever he is, wherever I am, we are bound by the past, however unforgivable, however unforgettable.