The message from The Onliner was brief, but the relief I felt was immediate and immense. This further indicates to me the depth of my problem. If a mere message from someone I’ve never met can pull me from the brink of suicide, that is not healthy.
His message was that he hadn’t meant to leave me hanging, and that he’d had the week off work to address his own issues that had arisen from our interactions. It was very short, and we texted for only a few minutes, as I could feel the distance and was scared to push him at what seemed such a delicate time. So we said goodnight.
The morning came. Mum and I made the two hour drive to the house that had featured in so many of my nightmares over the last 23 years. During the drive my sister called to express her concern for our safety. Her husband had stayed home from work that day in order to be ready to come to our rescue should we need it. “He might be waiting with a gun,” she said. When we said goodbye, she added “I love you,”, something I’ve never heard her say before.
If I wasn’t scared before, I was now.
At the top of the long driveway we almost turned around. My father had added a concrete gargoyle to the entry at some point in the last 23 years. As we drew closer, we saw that the gargoyle wore sunglasses, a beaded necklace and a pacifier. The bizarreness of that only added to the dread we felt.
But we entered anyway. We parked with the car facing up the driveway, and left the keys in the ignition.
He and his wife waited on the porch. I knew it was him, but it wasn’t the face that I remembered. He looked like someone different. But I didn’t yet know if he had become someone different, or if we were in for the same dose of fear and bullshit we had been raised on.
We went inside, and sat on the couch. He asked why we came. We said to try to help me get better. We didn’t know how, but we thought talking to him might help.
I told him about the issues I had been trying to deal with, and the ways I thought they related to my childhood. He brushed past all this, said something about how there are all kinds of fears, arachnophobia for example, and somehow got onto the subject of his tractor. As he spoke on and on I grew more and more agitated, the feeling that this had all been pointless building inside me. I began to cry and felt like I was choking, my hands started to lock up and my mother announced that this wasn’t what we had come for and that we would just leave.
My father protested. “Please don’t go yet. What is it you want to talk about? I just want to know that you’re healthy and happy”
“Well, she’s not. We came to talk about the past, and how we can help our daughter get better,” my mother replied.
“Ok then. We’ll do do that. Just say to me what you want to say.”
So we sat back down, and choking and crying, I managed to unlock my fingers to get a Valium from my purse.
I began to talk. He listened. I said all the things I’d been holding back for so long. How I was angry at both him and mum. How as a child I couldn’t understand why he treated us the way we did. How the fear had affected my life. How I wasn’t able to function like a normal adult; the inability to work or have a successful relationship. How I didn’t think the punishments he doled out were fair, or in proportion to the thing we were being punished for; things that he had usually only imagined we had done anyway. That I felt compassion towards him. That I believed he suffered from many of the same issues as myself, and couldn’t control the emotions or outbursts. That he drove us away, the way I drove my ex away.
He listened to it all. He accepted blame. He explained his side of things. That that had been the way he had been raised and it was all he knew. How he had been raped and beaten as a child by the people he had trusted. How it messed him up. That he thought the beatings and over the top punishments he gave us were preferable to our running amok and getting into real danger, or worse, killed. He talked about the last 23 years, the hell he had been through, and how he got through it. One day at a time. One minute at a time.
We spoke for three hours, first about the past, then onto the present, and finally just talking about whatever, almost like friends. For the moment it does seem that my father has overcome his past, changed and grown. Time will tell if this is true or another act. But for the moment, I believe in him. I can forgive him. I can let go of the fear that I’ve carried for so long, that a monster is out there. Maybe I can begin to heal from it. If he can get better, maybe I can too.
We will keep in contact via letters, for now. And maybe more visits in the future.
I feel proud for facing him. It is one step towards getting better, but it was a big, scary one.