Tag Archives: Domestic violence

Fatherless child: Part 2

A week ago my big sis had a dental surgery. Dad drove her to the hospital, albeit reluctantly. He didn’t know what went in there but mom, who was with her the entire time came home distraught. She likened her experience to what Mother Mary must have gone through when she saw Jesus being tortured during His Passion; a mother’s pain when she sees her child suffering and can do nada about it.

When dad travelled out of town for work, he left her on an entirely liquid diet and he never called even once to find out how she was doing. He had her cancel her review appointment, knowing that the particular surgeon is only available once a week, so now she’s waiting for tomorrow’s appointment, which he still intimated she should cancel. All this while I’ve been thinking, if he cared even the slightest bit, he would have feigned some concern. That way we would never have known how much he detests us.

In very blunt words, dad has been the bane of our lives. The way I see it, he hates to see us happy. When he gets the impression we’re happy he does something to sabotage it. So if someone asked how it feels to have a father, I may not have anything positive to say about it.

Last Saturday he came home drunk as usual, and started complaining to mom how my small sis had told him he wasn’t her father.

“Mom, let’s find another dad,” he said, mimicking my small sister’s voice when she was younger. I was actually surprised because I didn’t know he had heard that years ago. Those are words my small sis said when she was around five, and now it’s years later. When she said that, she did it innocently because she had seen how happy other kids looked when they were with their dads, yet with us, the only thing we felt was misery.

He let us go hungry when he had money stashed in his bank account; spent nights outside drinking away… he made us know how it feels to live in a house where parents fight, physically, and as mom was the weaker of the two she always ended up hurt.

When I heard him mimicking my sister, I couldn’t help but think, if he heard that years ago, how come he never made an attempt to change? A good parent would have been concerned why their five year old daughter was saying such a thing. Instead, he only became more brutal, as if trying to emphasize the point. He didn’t seem to care what we felt/thought about him.

“Go find yourselves another dad,” he barked. “You think dads are bought in the supermarket. I’m leaving,” he told mom before walking out to go back to the bar, even though he was already drunk. “Let me know when you find another dad.” With that he left, and he came back the next day.

I know this might sound wrong, but honestly, I have more than enough reasons to believe that there are children who grew up fatherless, for whatever reasons, and have led happier lives than my sisters and I. Every time I picture myself raising my children in a home like the one I’ve grown up in-God forbid-I shiver, and I usually find myself thinking that it’s better to not have a family in the first place, because reliving this would be an absolute nightmare. I wouldn’t even imagine putting my kids through what I’ve been through myself.

When I was a child, I had a dream; that my dad would change and be a better man. Now I’m all grown up and almost moving out, and that dream didn’t come true. Sometimes, no, most of the times I fear that once I walk out of that door, I’ll lose his number and sever all possible ties I have with him. I’m afraid that one of the things I desperately want is to change my surname, because it constantly reminds me that he is my father.

Point is, I did grow up with my father. But if that has added any value to my life? I’m not sure. All I know is, I don’t want to be anything like him. When I get my own adorable children, God willing, I want to be everything he’s not; loving, caring, forgiving, empathetic…

There may be someone ‘fatherless’ out there who feels their lives would have turned out better if they had a dad; but take it from me; the grass is not always greener on the other side. For all I know, there are many children who grew up not knowing their fathers but who had very happy childhoods. Because at the end of the day it’s not about someone merely associating themselves with a father figure, but about what role that ‘figure’ plays in someone’s life. To some they are a blessing; and to others a curse. That’s just how life is.

 

 

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Jekyll and Hyde: Part 2

The entire time I was thinking, uh… duuuh… we’re the ones in the car. Obviously we’ll get there first. But I didn’t want to exchange nasty words with him on the first day of the year, so I bit my tongue. As we were exiting the court gate, he took more than enough time signing out and at that point we were all regretting why we thought he would be different that day. He’s pulled his delaying tactics one too many times but every time we fall for it, thinking he’ll do things right.

While we were nearing the junction, he saw my sister ahead of us so he used the opposite route. My big sis asked him to act like a Christian for once and do the right thing but instead he just stepped on the accelerator, speeding up, blatantly ignoring the estate’s 20km/h speed limit. I was afraid we were going to crash.

While we were nearing the main exit gate, we pleaded with him to go back for my sister. The roads looked so deserted that morning and the road to the church was lined with pubs. We were therefore afraid she would bump into a nasty drunk along the way and there would be no one to defend her if God-forbid anything happened.

Maliciously, he refused to slow down on all speed bumps. I really wished he acted like the grown up he was. But I never really bank on people acting their age, because as the adage goes, “If age imparted wisdom, there would be no old fools”.

Eventually he agreed to turn around. When he saw my small sister though, he slowed down, almost to a halt that, even a snail would have beaten us to the finish line.

“You see how she’s walking?” He derided, mimicking her walking style. “I know she’s going to meet up with a boy.”

By then it was around 8.30am; a half hour since mass began. We requested him to drive a bit faster because we were getting late. When we were drawing close to her, my big sis rolled the mirror down and started calling out her name. She didn’t know we were behind her.

We should have known better though, because the instant we got to her, dad branched, driving to the opposite direction. My big sis and I shouted in protest, asking him why he was being so mean. She and a cousin of ours were sitted on the back seat, holding some mirrors that had been taken from the cabinets in mom’s beauty salon, but had been left in the car. They had cost so much money and my big sis was afraid they would break. Mom was already too stressed about closing up her salon and we figured the last thing she needed was to have any of her items break.

We agreed with my big sis I was going to catch up with our small sis, so she wouldn’t walk alone. At the time I was so mad at her because I was thinking if she had waited patiently for dad to get done with his crappy delaying schemes we would all have gotten to church in time for the mass. We’d wasted so much time on the road chasing after her. That however, I would deal with much later. All I needed at that point was to get to church.

As I was getting out, I realized the door couldn’t open, so I would have to use the co-driver’s. I rose from my seat, trying to get to the front but dad stepped on the emergency break and my head rammed into the dashboard. I wasn’t hurt as much as I was pissed.

“I can’t do anything to avenge myself dad,” I told him, “but remember, God is always watching.” With that I got out. I walked the remaining distance to church, huffing when dad just drove past me. He was clearly doing to me the same thing he’d done to my sister. I walked behind my sister all the way to church because I couldn’t catch up with her.

By the time I got to church, all the readings plus the gospel had been ready and the priest was giving the homily. I had missed much but I was glad to be in the house of God. I was mad and hurt, so I took a while to meditate, in an attempt to calm myself down.

My sister and my cousin made it to church way after we had given our offertory but I was happy they had made it. Turns out they had gone back to the house to take mom’s mirrors.

When mass ended we all walked back home sharing our morning experiences. Obviously, my cousin was so shocked by the whole incident. “Is this how we’re spending New Year’s?” He’d asked. Luckily we had already given him a crash course on dad’s misbehaviour in case our old man screwed up while he was still visiting.

Dad was sound asleep when we got home. The morning had just been a weird one. When he woke up in the afternoon, it’s like he had morphed into an entirely different person in his sleep. He was jolly and meek, and even agreed to take mom shopping for some household utilities. When I served him fries for lunch he didn’t complain even though he’s always saying how much he hates them. Later, he asked for some more. We couldn’t help but wonder if that was the same man who had sabotaged our church going. It was all too unreal.

I couldn’t help but think Mr Hyde had screwed up with our morning and Dr Hyde had spent New Year’s with us. One person; but totally different personalities. One thing I know is that dad has some good in him, only that it surfaces very rarely. Unfortunately for my family and I, Mr Hyde is the one who’s in control most of the time.

Jekyll and Hyde

The first time I came across the phrase ‘Jekyll and Hyde’ was in the Oxford dictionary; and the images that first sprung to mind were the people who had split personalities that I had watched in various movies and telenovelas; people, whose personalities shifted from saintly to villainous in varying circumstances. The thought was very intriguing, mainly because it was incomprehensible, how one person could have two personalities that were as patently distinct from each other as night and day.

The most recent case I have come across on TV is in vampire diaries, where Aleric Saltzman, a mere mortal, dies; but with the help of a magical ring he comes back to life. He’s killed one too many times in the show that at some point his constant encounter with the underworld has him transforming into a hard-nosed hunter. Apparently, a spirit in the other world (who we later find out is the mother of the originals) was grooming him to become a hunter of the supernatural beings. Due to that, his personality keeps shifting from the good to the evil Aleric, who slays unremorsefully.

That’s just a TV show. Now back to the real world. I recently discovered a real life Jekyll and Hyde; my very own father. He could give the real McCoy a run for his own money. Now I’m not just imagining it, or watching it from a scripted show. I’m watching a real life version of the proverbial Jekyll and Hyde and one thing I can say for sure is that it sucks big time.

I tried comprehending how one person could have two distinct personalities and until now it beats me. I know for some people it’s a clinical matter but in this case, I would say dad’s is totally a personal choice; to be good and alternately evil.

I would love to say his is an involuntary thing, but based on my deductions, he has full knowledge of his actions and how they affect us. I would attribute his behaviour to alcoholism and receiving wrong advice from ill-wishers, starting with his mom and siblings.

For starters, the other day mom asked him if he knew the things he does are wrong and karma would catch up with him at some point. It may sound hard to believe, but he said he did, with absolutely zilch remorse. That’s the easiest way to tell when someone’s actions are bordering on evil; when the person does them consciously and worst of all impenitently.

One Wednesday, for instance, only days after mom had closed down her business, dad came home unannounced. His office is located away from the city so he only visits during the weekend. He didn’t say why he’d come. In any case he said he didn’t want anyone asking him why he was home.

A week later, he was still around, making our lives miserable as hell. He would get home from the bar in the early morning when everyone was asleep and despite the fact that he has his own keys, he’d just ring the doorbell incessantly, just so everyone could wake up. One would be tempted to think it was a child who was greatly fascinated by the chiming of the bell.

If somehow we ignored him and he let himself in, he would go to the living room, turn the music on, playing it so loud and if anyone requested that he turned it down, he would maliciously turn it up. So now that we know that we never ask him. We just shut our bedroom doors and pray that God will intervene somehow.

Before mom closed down her business, she had asked dad to help with the house expenses but he had refused. Instead he’d callously scoff at her, saying he’d given her permission to use other means to make money; and that was him alluding to mom whoring. I couldn’t have been more offended by his words, because I felt he was scorning her faithfulness; he knows she’s been nothing but faithful to him.

silently, I thought if only he knew how many men hit on her; but she, like the conscientious wife, turns their advances down; not because she’s afraid of him, but because she values the sanctity of the sacrament of matrimony.

On New Year’s day, he said he was coming with us for Mass. Happy that we were all going to start the new year together in the presence of God, we didn’t question his motives. Mass was starting at eight and as the church is just a twenty minutes walking distance, we knew we would be there before it began.

At 7.50 am we got into the car, strapped our seat belts on and waited for him to step on it. Twenty minutes later we were still at the parking, waiting for him to record the mileage, even though I usually find the whole exercise pointless. Patiently, we waited as we didn’t want to set him off. At some point I offered to help him out as he didn’t have his glasses on, but he just pinned me with a withering glare.

My small sister got out of the car, deciding she was going to walk. We all regretted why we’d agreed to let him drive us. Luckily mom had already left as she had finished preparing before us. When my sis left, dad started complaining how he was being forced to go to church. Putting away the sheet he’d been filling, he pulled out of the parking.

“Your sister thinks she knows too much,” he carped. “We’ll see who gets there first.”

Letter to my husband: Part 4

Experience has taught me a few things. One of them being that there’ll be at least one person who judges someone for some misfortune that befell them; and personally, I’m not big on sob stories. In any case, I avoid circumstances that will make people want to pity me…or think I’m weird. In light of that I figured I couldn’t tell every guy I attempt dating the issues that cause me anguish. I also figured on the same note that if I explained this to anyone, it would be my husband. The man I hope to share my life with.

Looking at the events that have happened in my life, this doesn’t even get close to putting it all into perspective. All I know is that after living for more than two decades, witnessing domestic violence, I came out of it relatively wiser; but damaged.

Wiser because now I know many things I didn’t know before; things they’ll never teach in school. For starters, I know what I want in a relationship. I know the qualities I seek in a man; and money and looks aren’t it. If those two counted for anything, my mom would be the happiest woman on earth; but we already established she’s not.

And damaged because, of the things that cause me anxiety, relationships top the list. I have met some men, who would possibly have made wonderful husbands, but the instant they started exhibiting traits that reminded me of my father, I cut loose before it got too real. Such, is the extent of my ‘damaged-ness’.

I could pay a professional shrink tonnes of money for them to tell me what’s wrong with me and how I could make things better, but as I said, I already figured myself out. Relationships are a hard limit for me. Mom’s miserable life makes me dread the sheer thought of vowing to spend the rest of my life tied to someone, because truth is, it’s not easy getting out when things start going downhill.

Unlike the younger, naïve version of me who hoped to be swept of her feet by a tall, dark and handsome guy, now I know what I want; or what I don’t want.

I don’t want a man who will take me for granted. I need someone who will love and cherish me for me, without hoping to turn me into something I’m not for his own convenience. I realized, if mom had her own money from the beginning, her fights with dad wouldn’t have been too frequent. They fought a lot because she was dependent on him; and he was too tight-fisted. I would love to have a career, and for it not to be affected by our family life.

I don’t want a man, who wouldn’t be moved by our children’s grief, when they’re hungry, or crying because he is abusing me. I would want a man who wouldn’t eat or go on a binge-drinking spree when our kids can’t sleep because they are too hungry.

I would want a man who smiles at least, when his daughter tells him she’s graduating magna cum laude, or seem moved in the least when another one tells him she’s done working on her novel. Sometimes people think it’s all about money, when all one needs is just a simple hug. I would want a man who can spare a thought for our children; how his actions affect them.

I don’t want a man who will fill our children’s heads with sad Christmas and New Year’s day memories, because he just couldn’t help throwing punches at me; and on the same note, I would want a man who respects my mother, because were it not for her love and sacrifice, I wouldn’t be there to be his for the taking in the first place.

I wouldn’t want a man, who makes our children develop anxiety disorders and some other stress related illnesses like depression and peptic ulcers because they are afraid he will kill me when they’re in school.

And when eventually we decide to get married, I would be happy to have just a small wedding with just us, our witnesses and the priest.

So, unlike my younger self, I’m not interested in looks and money. All I want is someone with whom I can spend a happy forever with; someone who will give our children the happiness I didn’t have growing up; the lack of which has caused me so much anxiety.

I don’t have any children yet, but when I get them, I hope to raise them in a love-filled home, so they won’t dread marriages and relationships like I do. Truth is, if I had to choose, I would opt for a life of utter solitude, rather than live the miserable life my mom has lived. It’s not one I would wish, even on my worst enemy.

All I want is happiness…and love…and some peace of mind.

My beloved husband-to-be, if you can give me that, then I too will go out of my way to make you the happiest man on earth.

Letter to my husband: Part 3

Why do battered women stay with their abusers? There could be very many answers to that. But I know one woman’s reasons. My mom’s. Most of the time she and dad fought, she would vow to leave. However, when everything had calmed down, she would take back what she’d said in a moment of heart-wrenching anguish. “I want you to have a good life,” she would tell us forlornly. “And right now I can’t afford your school fees. Only your dad can.”

She made it clear that if she left, she wouldn’t leave us behind; but therein lay the problem. She was jobless and finding one wasn’t easy. She never left. But that didn’t do anything to keep my nightmares at bay. In the dead of the night, when everyone was asleep, I’d be haunted by dreams of her leaving. Crying, I would wrap my arms around her leg, pulling her so she wouldn’t leave. Then I’d wake up to realize it had just been a bad dream.

As a child, the nightmare plagued me even in my waking hours. I was always anxious that one day dad would do something so dreadful that would finally push mom to leave. With all that worrying going on, I eventually developed an anxiety disorder when I was thirteen. I’d fall sick often and though at first it was difficult to diagnose, one doctor eventually told me it was anxiety. My life was never the same again. Everything made me anxious and panic attacks became a common occurrence.

By the time I was finishing high school, the anxiety was slowly morphing into depression and ever since, I fall in and out of depression with ease. Dad has never changed and the situation in the house is pretty much the same. Once I’d considered running away from home, but I thought against it, realizing I would only bring myself more harm because I didn’t have a backup plan. I figured maybe I would end up homeless, with a child I couldn’t take care of. Stomaching the violence at home felt like the lesser evil.

I have thought an awful lot about this man I call my father. He’s done outrageous things, but somehow, I can’t bring myself to hate him. Sometimes, when things get too intense I say it my head. I even tell my sisters what I feel. But I constantly ask God to help me, so there never comes a day when I shout, “I hate you so much,” to his face. I would be lying if I said we didn’t have some good moments in the past, but those ones have slipped into the background as they’ve been overshadowed by all the bad memories.

I have watched the relationship my parents have and honestly, there is nothing about it that makes me want to be in a relationship. The last time I tried explaining that to a guy who I liked and who was so interested in me, it didn’t go down too well. Everytime we talked, I had the feeling he was going to ask me if I was raped or something.

See that’s the thing. It’s difficult explaining this life I have lived to anyone because if I don’t delve into the details, it’s just another shallow story about a girl who grew up in family plagued by domestic violence. Normally, instead of talking I just clam up completely until I’m confident the issue won’t come up again.

That guy for instance, couldn’t understand why I didn’t want to be in a relationship with him simply because I had grown up watching my parents fight. I don’t blame him though. I never gave him a detailed account because again, it’s not easy telling it. Digging deep into a past that has turned me, into this damaged woman I fear I am, isn’t something I relish.

Letter to my Husband: Part 2

Most of the Christmas eves and New Year’s eves I remember were sad ones in our house. They were tear-filled. We would attend mass on Christmas and New Year’s Day with our eyes red and puffy from crying so much the previous night.

Dad would go out and come home drunk, unleashing hell on anyone he could get hold off. One time he got into our bedroom, where my late grandma was sleeping, and he brashly pulled her out of bed, so she could see how her daughter was behaving. He’d found out we had gone to visit one of his female cousins earlier in the day. I was only ten at the time and I remember panicking at the sight of it. Grams was only in a sheer nightie and he was shirtless.

In catechism we were taught to respect our elders, but what he was doing seemed anything but. I was traumatised; and the memory remained with me for a very long time, until he gave me new horrifying things to ponder over as I grew up. He always out did himself, sinking lower and lower at every turn. And it has been so to date.

I would wish the memories were good, but they’re far from that. Growing up, we cried more than we laughed. Mom has always been a social woman, friendly and all. So she made friends easily. Most of the time these friends would come to visit, but dad found fault with that. He couldn’t stand the thought of finding guests in his house. It didn’t matter that those guests were priests or nuns. All he saw were intruders in his house. In a bid to change that, he moved us to a very tiny house, so mom would never be able to host guests anymore.

As it is, they say one only knows her true friends when they’ve hit rock bottom. When we moved, very many things changed. Apparently most of those friends were not real because most of them stopped visiting. We became loners. I was always introverted, so I never socialized a lot really, but then the loneliness that ensued wasn’t something we chose. It had been imposed on us by a man, who was too selfish to care about his family’s well-being.

Given the unfavourable location of the house, mom and my baby sister developed a dust allergy. Everytime mom would visit some nearby clinic and the doctors would give the same diagnosis; allergy. I often wondered why dad didn’t care enough to move us back to a nice neighbourhood.

When all that was going on, mom and my sister falling ill constantly, friends ditching us, dad getting more violent… dad’s relatives, who had always considered us paupers, as apparently everyone else was pretty much moneyed, would show up just to see the kind of hell-hole we lived in. The sadists they are, they enjoyed every minute of our suffering. It wouldn’t have hurt as bad as it did if I knew dad didn’t have money; but he had.

Every time schools were re-opening, mom and dad would always fight. I was never sure why it always had to be that way every damn time. The fights would start in their bedroom, with them exchanging bitter words (that I slowly picked up on and used later to insult kids who rubbed me off the wrong way) and ended up in the living room or our bedroom, when mom fled, afraid he was going to hit her.

Once, when they were arguing, he threw my school fees at me and the notes scattered all over. I left the money and went to sleep, crying and traumatized after what I’d seen that night. In the morning, before I left for boarding school, I woke up to find the money and I couldn’t help the choking lump that rose in my throat as I realized some notes had fresh blood stains. I didn’t know where the blood had come from or whose it was, but the very thought was horrifying.

Every time our parents fought, my sisters and I would intervene, breaking them apart. Sometimes we even got hurt in the process. That had me wondering what would happen if we weren’t there to stop it. I always feared the worst.

Letter to my husband: Part 1

My beloved husband,

I hope this letter finds you well.

This past few days I’ve been thinking a lot; about everything. The life I have lived so far, and the life I hope to have in future. I contemplated seeking a professional’s help so I can put all this into perspective, but turns out I did good just on my own. As I find writing very therapeutic, I figured I could write to you because my final discoveries wouldn’t be of any use if I didn’t share them with you. So here goes:

Every little girl has a dream; an idea of the kind of man she would wish to spend forever with. Most wish their shining knight will be the life version of Barbie’s Ken, or one of those charming men from the numerous fairy tales. After reading too many of those stories and watching movies of them, they hope for grand weddings. In most cases, the average girl’s ideal husband is Mr tall, dark and handsome, as the cliché goes. Well, I can’t fault them because I was one of those girls.

However, as I’m growing up, I’m slowly realizing the stories we read in books are so different from real life happenings. When writers are writing the books, they omit some very crucial details, for fear of planting bad seeds in infantile minds. I’ve read some original versions of these fairy tales children love so much, and honestly they are a bit depressing. So I understand why.

Some of those omissions are the fact that Mr tall, dark and handsome may be an alcoholic, a pathological liar, a wife beater, or a serial killer, or a paedophile… I could only think of so many nasty things. Point is, young girls look at the physical attributes of their potential husbands/partners, but now I know that is myopia at its best; and how do I know that, you ask?

It’s simple; my father is a very handsome man (and I say this with absolute filial love), he is tall and dark and earns a six figure salary. In my books that’s the perfect definition of prince charming. Sadly, I have never known a more miserable woman than my mother. Everytime I look at her I sympathize with her; I wonder if this is the happily-ever-after she signed up for. Judging by the high levels of misery she’s enshrouded in, I doubt she ever contemplated the life she is living now. No one in their right mind would.

Love, they say, conquers all; but guess what, sometimes love could sink someone. Ask my mother. She will give you a litany of the suffering and privation she’s put up with in the name of love. I will say it from my perspective though.

Growing up, my two sisters and I went hungry a lot. Most of the times we survived on one meal a day. That’s not a big deal though, because I know there are people who don’t eat at all. Problem is, while we were going without food, my father was club hopping, spending whatever money he had on booze and roasted meat.

My baby sister, who was a little young at the time when we started realizing what was happening, would tell mom, “He smells of meat and beer.” She was around four years old. When walking on the streets, her tiny hand in mom’s, she would see a man loading shopping bags in the trunk of his car then she would look up at mom and ask, “Mom, can’t we get another dad?”

I understood why she asked that. We envied the lives normal families had. A life where the father would lovingly teach his kids how to ride bikes, buy them small gifts for small achievements… I know this could sound like we hoped for too much, but it was only because we were aware our father could afford it.

Mom wanted for us to have this life, but she’d been rendered financially helpless when she quit her job. When she got pregnant with me, she was working as a chef in a five-star hotel, and when she went on maternity leave, she never went back. Dad had requested her to become a housewife and gullibly she had accepted.

That however, (in my opinion) was one of the worst mistakes of her life; because ever since, she was subjected to his mercy. He only bought food when he deemed it fit, which was rare, so mom had to run some small businesses that didn’t flourish so she could feed us. She suffered so much, and we struggled a lot, but somehow we managed. It was hard.

Then in the midst of all that came violence. Mom’s tall, dark and handsome man, became an incorrigible wife beater. Sometimes I would go to school crying because shortly before I left home I would witness him hitting her.

Ever since I was small, I understood the importance of keeping the family’s dirty laundry away from the public’s eye, so I never told anyone. Except this one time; it was too much to hold in, so I talked to my class teacher. I was eight then, but the teacher didn’t do much; just the usual pep talk to help me get through the day. In the late afternoon I went back home after school, to my warring parents.