[Also published on www.drinkerswithwritingproblems.com]
Exactly, one year ago today, I admitted that I was beaten and raped more than once by the same man; an ex-boyfriend that I loved and thought would be in my life for a long time. I didn’t inform anyone that I was about to “come out”, except for my husband. I didn’t want anyone to know because admitting that you’re a liar, weak, and had a dirty past isn’t an easy thing to do. I meticulously scanned the calendar and made the decision that I would tell my story on Thanksgiving week 2012. This would allow me to “drop the bomb”, then quickly run away to my mother’s house to avoid the internet, my friends, and eat enough dumplings to soak up my bubbling tears.
At the same time, I couldn’t escape the news about “legitimate rape”. For the first time since I left my ex-boyfriend, the memories I stuffed deep into the inner recesses of my brain started tapping on my shoulder. I don’t know if it was the constant news reports or the climate of my life that made the tapping impossible to ignore. Since leaving my ex, I had been on survival mode. Traveling, working, getting married, having children, getting divorced, working out, building a roller derby league, busy busy busy, anything that kept me alive, I did. Then, I met my current husband, who offered me a love that was so honest that I was born again, washed of my sins, because he didn’t care that I was broken and he wasn’t interested in fixing me. He liked me and that was all he needed. This set me up, for the first time in my life, to be quiet. No more fighting to survive and a whole lot of time for reflecting.
For months, I struggled with how I wanted to finally free myself of this secret. When I told my husband that I was going to write about my experience and possibly publish it, he replied, “Absolutely, you should do that.” So, I did. Now, a year later, I’m looking at the calendar. This year the 18th of November falls on the week before Thanksgiving, which means no hiding or running away, which is what motivated me to write this anniversary piece.
Don’t worry, I won’t do this every year until I die, but this year I need to do it as part of myself inflicted healing process. I need to be able to talk about it with my head held up. Over the last year, I have talked it about it openly twice with an audience of one or two because I am still ashamed and embarrassed. I convince myself that I can see it in their eyes, their disappointment and the question searing in their minds, “Why? Why did you stay? YOU of all people could have walked away.”
Sometimes, I wish they’d ask so I can finally say, “I don’t know. I was scared. I thought he’d kill me. I don’t know why I didn’t tell my friends, my boss, my mom. I don’t know why I didn’t call the cops during the year he stalked me after leaving him. I don’t know. I just don’t know.” As I sit here typing, I realize I have so long to go until I can stop being mad at myself. My cheeks are flushed, my stomach quivers with pulses of rage, and my eyelids blink back the watery saltiness that are the only keepsake I have from those days.
Based on that, I feel like I made no progress over the last year, but forcing myself to read my original post makes me realize that I have. For instance, at the time I wrote it, I convinced myself that my friends would abandon me for lying and if my brother or daughters read it, they would somehow be disgraced. I don’t believe that any longer. I was overwhelmed by the supportive and kind words that people shared with me. The stories of their own experience of abuse made me feel so much pain for them and so much relief for me to know that I am not alone. People, as I should have known, only created a wider space in their hearts and minds for me, not less. For that, I have no words and only wish you could see the light that vibrates in my heart.
This past January, I was selected by World Chicago and the US Department of State as a US Legislative Fellow with 5 other people. We spent 2 weeks in Nepal and Bangladesh, where the daily news spews stories of domestic abuse against women and girls. One morning, while having breakfast at our lovely hotel, I read of a 24-year-old woman who was beheaded by her husband, a 14-year-old girl raped in a bathroom, and a 5-year-old girl beat to death by her father’s bare hands. Somewhere along the trip, my team was invited to a college to discuss a variety of topics, but the topic of sexual abuse was rampant. When asked by a young student what could be done about this, I remember saying, “Tell your story. If it has happened to you, if you know someone it’s happening to, tell your story and stop feeling the shame because it changes something in people when they know that someone they know is being affected. It becomes real.”
I’m not going to join a rape victims advocacy group or go to therapy. It’s not me. Writing, talking and sharing is how I’ve been able to handle many of my crisis. It’s my tool to find a way to breakthrough my struggles. It seems appropriate that one year after my coming out that I finally write my letter to my abuser.
Whether it was the abuse you suffered as a child or the drugs you took or your unhappiness about being a monster, you were terrible to me. You spent so much time trying to destroy me, but you didn’t because I am not just a survivor, I. AM. A. WARRIOR. No amount of punches or midnight raids into my body stopped that.
Respectfully, I feel the word “survivor” doesn’t fit me. I didn’t “survive” your abuse. I made choices to change your actions by taking away your power. I was frightened, intimidated and should have-could have done something earlier, but eventually I did. No longer your victim, I emerged as a warrior. I don’t know where it came from or how I found it, but I fought for myself and I claimed my body back.
Yes, it’s true that after finally leaving you, I was on a path of self-destruction that was sure to kill me, that I hoped would kill me. I may still cry when I think of you and my soul is still encased in shame and regret. Even though you’ve never lived here, anytime I see someone who resembles you, I jump. But, I also found that I had an incredible strength and drive to make decisions to change my life and to expel you from it.
God, I wish I was so angry that I could tell you that I hate you and can’t wait until your final demise, but I don’t want to. Actually, I want to tell you that I am so happy. I am so so happy. I have met this wonderful, brilliant man that loves me. I have these smart and amazing children. I have a lovely job that I never expected. I have been to many cities and countries. I’ve eaten and drank at some of the most luxurious places in the country. I have been on some of the wildest adventures. I have a great life.
OH! And I have these friends that are incredible. People that honestly like me and they don’t think I’m dumb or ugly or gross or pathetic. Instead they tell me I’m smart and beautiful and sometimes even funny! And guess what else? When all these people found out about you, they told me that they still love me and some said they loved me even more.
You see, I don’t want to focus on you. Though my scars remain, the ones I dare not talk about (but I know you know them), I don’t care. I don’t. I want to focus on this world that I built. I put my hands in the dirt, dug around, and planted the seeds. I water and turn the soil daily. My work has paid off. My bounty is fruitful, colorful, and growing bigger every day. I am happy.
My compassionate self wants to say that I hope you found happiness and I forgive you and blah blah blah. Instead, I’ll tell you what I’m really thinking – I don’t care. I no longer give a fuck about you. Wherever you are, the moment I publish this piece, I hope you feel a bolt through your bitter ugly heart because we’re done and I won.
This will be the first and last anniversary of my “coming out”. While I will struggle with my history, I will do my best to stop feeling the shame and let the pain fade. I believe that it takes a small drop to make a big wave. We can’t affect change without talking, sharing and acknowledging. My biggest regret was that I never told anyone then and even telling it years later, I still felt shame. No more. Please share my story. It’s not my story, it’s our story. The story of so many women and girls that live in our neighborhoods, are in our schools, are our coworkers. I know sharing this story won’t solve the problems of domestic or sexual abuse, but it’s my way of reaching my arms around someone and saying, “You can do this. You’re a warrior, too.”
[originally posted at drinkerswithwritingproblems.com 2013.10.07 because I clearly can't handle two blogs]
Flaker (flak∙er): A person who consistently bails out on a commitment at the very last minute and sometimes doesn’t bother letting you know.
I am not a flaker. I never have been. Maybe it has something to do with my deeply buried daddy abandonment issues, but simply put, I don’t like the idea of leaving someone hanging without any insight about why. Of course, I’ve had to cancel plans at the last minute. Of course, I’ve been late for events. Occasionally, there are things beyond your control; the keyword being “occasionally”.
What I’m talking about it isn’t the occasional “I’m sick” or “I have to work late” excused cancellation. What I’m talking about are those folks who consistently flake on you. The type of friend whom you know you need to fake the reservation so that they will actually show up close to on time. The type of friend that has made 10 plans with you this week and followed through with 0. The friend that you wouldn’t call even if all your other friends were dead because it’s doubtful he’d show up in time to save your ass.
You may ask why are these people considered friends? Sometimes, it’s a matter of obligation because you’ve been friends for so long. You created a history that bonds you forever, a bond that was created long before you realized how thoughtless and self-centered your flaker friend is. When they actually grace you with their presence, you forge on with the friendship because you’re reminded that you actually like their company. They make you laugh, you share memories, and you love them.
If you’re still wondering what I’m talking about, let me give you a few examples:
1. I-always-RSVP-but-never-show-flake: This is that one person who always says he’ll be there, but never shows. This person is the worst because he could avoid the situation by simply saying that he was not available for the evening. Instead, you spend your time and money preparing for the visit or date and turn down other opportunities to hang out with responsible people, just to end up sitting alone. Worst yet, you know that this person has a cell phone and your number is in it.
2. It’s-ok-that-I-showed-up-two-hours-late-flake: This flake sets up a time time to meet. Not a vague time, like high noon or after 6, but a solid 7 p.m. You arrive a few minutes early because you don’t want anyone to have to wait for you; she shows up at 9 pm and wonders why you left. Worst yet, you know this person has a cell phone with your number in it AND it has a clock.
3. Let’s-make-plans-so-I-can-bail-flake: Some would argue that this is not officially a flake category because he bails on your plans with some advance notice. I’m going to disagree. The problem with flaking is that while the said bailer did make plans with you, it’s consistent that he doesn’t follow through. This is problematic because you make arrangements to accommodate him and turn down other opportunities that you would have rather enjoyed, like being forced to put on pants and get off the couch. Worst yet, you know this person has a cell phone and there’s a calendar in it.
4. Because-I-don’t-want-to-be-considered-a-flake-you-get 10-minutes-flake: This creature is worst of all. This is the one that can “squeeze” you in between appointments and give you 10 minutes of their time. I’m supposed to be your friend, not your appointment. These are the kind of people who are so busy that they can’t be bothered to schedule any quality time with you and if they do, it MUST be around their time, not yours. Not only that, but (and this may warrant its own category) they spend that 10 minutes looking on their phones. The first sighting of this kind of flake and I’m out. They have a cell phone and I know what they can do with it.
5. I’ll-do-that-for-you-just-don’t-count-on-me-flake: Need a ride somewhere? Need help moving? Need someone to take you to the hospital because you’ve severed your arm? This is not the person you call. This person has volunteered to pick you up for an event. You have expressed that you both need to be there by 7 pm. At a quarter to 7, you text her and ask if she’s on the way. She is and you’re nervous, but you’re ok with the fact that you’ll only be 10 minutes late. What you don’t realize is that on her way to you, she needs to walk the dog, stop at Walgreen’s to get a pack of gum and some mascara, get gas, go shopping for a pair of shoes to wear for the evening, and drop off a casserole at her sick Grandma’s house. Apparently, this person’s cell phone doesn’t dial out.
What all these things have in common is that the behavior is selfish and shows complete disregard of the non-flaker’s time or feelings. Simply put, it’s disrespectful and rude. To avoid being a flake all one has to do is communicate truthfully. For some I know this is hard, but someone who is counting on you will always appreciate the truth in the long run. Some great ways of doing this is are:
1. I’m so sorry, I can’t make it to your party. This is simple. You don’t owe anyone an excuse for not accepting an invitation. The invitee is likely to assume that you have something else going on, but if you want to give one, then do it. If you’re afraid that someone will never invite you to an event again, then your approach is simply, “I can’t make it this time, but would love to come to the next….” or “Can’t make it, but don’t stop asking!”
2. I’m going to need to push back our date. Can you still meet at 8 or should we reschedule? This notifies your date that you’re running late, but it also gives him the power to decide on their next step. You’ve offered him a timeline and an opportunity to meet again on another day because he might have other things to do. That lets your date know that you respect his time even though you’d still love to see him.
3. Can we just play it by ear? I use this one a lot because I hate commitment. I like to do things that I want to do when I like to do them. I do understand that people like to make plans. When someone contacts me about an event that I feel “iffy” about, I tend to reply, “Can we play it by ear?” then the person can, once again, take control of the situation. She’ll usually reply with “sure” or “I really need a commitment or I’ll ask someone else”, which are completely acceptable responses. Admittedly, you don’t want to abuse this particular response, you have to actually commit at times.
4. Let’s plan something in a month. I know that sounds obnoxious, but I’d like to spend some real time with you. We’re adults. We all have busy schedules. It’s hard to believe you have to schedule things a month out, but you do. By phrasing your position this way, you allow your friend to know that it’s not personal and you do care to be with them.
5. Don’t say anything. Be self aware. When you know you hate doing something or are consistently late, don’t say anything! Simply listen to your friend as she complains about not having a ride somewhere and let her figure it out. While it may take some major maneuvering, your relationship is likely to be better for it because you didn’t make her miss her plane.
I can’t get behind the mindset of a flaky friend. I don’t know why we feel we can’t be honest about our lives, our situations, or our friendships. Each relationship is different but that doesn’t make the love and camaraderie any less genuine. I have some friends who I only need to see once a year. Others, I need to see as much as possible. Some are my closest confidants. With some, I serve as theirs. Don’t demand something from me and not give as much in return. Respect my time and understand that I matter, too. I really don’t want to have to delete you from my phone.
This week, there was some controversy over a blog post called FYI (if you’re a teenage girl) by Given Breath – someone I never read before and have no reason to read again. This poor, albeit boring, woman was trying to advise young women to be classy and not send revealing texts of themselves to teen boys. I will agree that her post was a bit creepy and her post was bush-league*. However, at the heart of it, we all know that she had good intentions.
As the interwebs does, there was a backlash about Given Breath’s post. The post went from a Christian (important detail) woman’s advice to young girls about ways to behave to outrage about the fact that she is slut shaming. Others in turn responded by writing pretty vicious parodies of the original one. The result being that those who judged Given Breath about slut-shaming were basically Christian-mom shaming her.
I don’t want my daughters taking pictures of themselves in their underwear and sending it to boys. Does that make me a terrible person or a Christian? No! It means that I don’t want my daughter to regret her decision when her ex-beau posts it all over Facebook. On the other hand, do I like to show off my tits when wearing a slinky thigh long dress to feel “sexy”? HELL YEAH! But, I’m an adult and I understand the long term effects and consequences of my decisions.
I’m not going to say too much more on the topic, but I wish everyone would get off their high horse. Because every child and family dynamic is so diverse, I don’t know anyone who can call him/herself an “expert” at parenting. Our roles as parents is to help provide guidance and tools that will help our children live beautiful lives while being contributing members of society. For every person, that’s different, even if it’s our own child. As parents, we’re all trying to do our best.
Last year, I wrote a piece called 10 Thing to Remind Your Daughters (or sons). While I don’t encourage you to waste all the time I did reading the FYI (teen girl/boy) crap, I hope you’ll take some time to read the list below and maybe pass it on as a simple reminder to be good people.
1. Don’t be a bitch – being rude or mean doesn’t make you anything but rude and mean.
2. Stay classy – respect yourself and respect others even in the most trying of times, you don’t have to sink to their level.
3. Have a set of rules/beliefs and follow them – take time to understand what they mean to you and how they affect your life and the people around you.
4. Find compassion and patience – it will make dealing with difficult people and situations much easier as you get older and you’ll be better for it.
5. Go ahead and wear white after Labor Day – some rules are meant to be broken.
6. Forgive yourself – you’re bound to make mistakes, learn from them, then apply those lessons to become a better citizen of our world.
7. Learn to change a tire – you don’t need a man around to get things done. (for boys: learn to bake cookies because who doesn’t like boys who can bake cookies?!)**
8. Remember the power of politely asking – Please, thank you and have a good day goes a long way, trust me.
9. Love and laughter is a never ending resource – give it away and take it in as much as you can for as long as your can.
10. Listen to your mother – more times than not, she’s actually right.
11. Don’t judge - Atticus Finch from To Kill a Mockingbird put it best, “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view…Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.”**
12. Forget labels – You don’t have to label or be labeled. If you’re a slut, that doesn’t give anyone the right to label you one, even if it’s suppose to be “liberating”. You are who you are. And if you’re happy about who you are, you’ll never need a label.**
*Actually listed in the dictionary! WOW!
[originally posted for drinkerswithwritingproblems.com. I promise original content with be coming...one day]
Anita Mechler, a fellow contributor here at Drinkers with Writing Problems, wrote a piece about the reasons she didn’t care for those in coupledom. While I understand her antipathy for those who appear to be glistening and overcome with love, joy and the security of having someone change your adult diapers, I felt compelled to write a counterpoint to her piece.
Let’s start with the fact that I don’t hate single people. As a matter of fact, I LOVE THEM! I love them to the point of unhealthy obsession. I spend a copious amount of time asking my singles what they are doing; not so I can make plans with them, but to listen as they tell me of schedules that don’t involve children, husbands, homework or beginning a 7-day-long grout scrubbing project.
Single people do crazy things. THANK GOD FOR FACEBOOK! My imaginary swinging single social life would be nil except for the magic that is Facebook and Instagram. Instead of being somewhat productive each day, I maneuver through pictures of what my single friends have done over the weekend for hours. “Why is she wearing antlers and playing a tuba?” I ask myself with a deep sense of sadness as I reflect on my weekend exploring various methods of removing gum from my 12 year old’s hair.
Single people pursue dreams. For years, I have been the breadwinner of my family; forced to punch the clock daily so my children don’t have to starve. My artistic soul yearns to be free of its PC and keyboard cage. I can’t pursue dreams! I want to pursue dreams. Do I even still have dreams? If I were single, I’d be able to quit my nightmarish day jobs. I’d live off stale office donuts and cheap beer so that I could one day realize my vision of writing and directing a Las Vegas show of Wallstreet with ice dancers.
Single people get tattoos and new clothes! Every cent that I earn goes straight to my family. The days of frivolously spending money on tattoos of pelicans eating pierogis, motorbikes, and designer purses are long gone. Instead, I am forced to pay for boring things like groceries, health insurance and education for my children. When I was single, I often skipped paying my monthly gas bill for a new dress and a sexy pair of 10-inch heels that would make my feet bleed.
Single people are sexy. They get on with their bad selves. They still have a sense of style and flair. They have sex in dark alleys (always in leather), fast cars, and beaches (only in white blouses and denims). They take days off of work just to indulge themselves in the pleasure of their lover’s skin. They are beautiful in the mornings when they wake up, tousled hair, hard bodies, and the ability to whisper to their lovers without smelling like the Thai food from the night before. And when they have lost the spark they once knew, they toss their paramour aside for another.
Single people jump out of planes because they can. I am too much of a jellyfish to ever jump out of plane or kill a spider, but even if I did, I’d have to “consider the children.” Even for actions that don’t include extreme sports, I have to stop and think about how it would affect or reflect on my family. For example, I’d love to quit my job, steal a car, drive to a small town in Mexico and snort a mountain of cocaine off the back of a 25-year-old hooker man, but I can’t. If I did, my husband would lose his job from alcoholism and depression. My daughters would likely end up runaways addicted to amphetamines in a grunge band (yes, I assume they’d move to Seattle). None of that is helpful to society.
Single people travel and move. Before settling into a life that will eventually become blanketed in regret, self-loathing, and bitterness, single people have the opportunity to move. I use to move! I would travel on weekends or take days off during the week to go “somewhere”. Hop in a car, get on a train, whatever! Whenever I was tired of a city, I simply packed my duffle bag, closed up my accounts, and took my $75 to the next state. The only person who suffered for these decisions was me AND the only person who had to make these decisions was ME! Now, I have to talk it over with Mister or think about the “trauma to the children” or consider a relocation plan for my ex-husband because he’d never let me leave the state with the kids. Single people, if you’ve never done this, do it now, while you still love living.
Single people can eat ramen EVERY DAY. I know that this doesn’t sound like a luxury. Most people conjure images of college dorms and empty pockets when they think of ramen. I do not. Ramen is one of the few things that I live for now-a-days. Freshly made or cheaply packaged, I love ramen. Growing up in a household with my Asian waitress don’t-know-how-I’ll-pay-the-mortgage mother, we had to learn to love (and doctor) ramen. I can’t feed my children ramen because I am aware of how the sodium content alone would give my 15-year-old a stroke. So, we go to the grocery store and “make” dinner. I waived my right to eat ramen or a bag of pizza flavored Combos every night once I committed to having a family. Instead, I am beaten down by the sounds of Nickelback as I peruse the grocery store fighting with my family about steak or chicken and resisting the urge to drown myself in the bathtub.
I won’t pretend that my life isn’t full of blessedness, warm fuzzies, and rainbows. To be honest, when I hear the words “Mom” or “my wife”, my heart flutters. Marriage and children were things I never expected because I never wanted them. I loved being single and even now, my husband and I work very hard to manage our relationship to allow me some of those freedoms.
Being single and taking advantage of your freedom prepares a person to be wiser, more interesting, to share lessons, and to remind their married friends that life can be lived passionately. It makes you a better spouse or parent, if that’s what you want. If it’s not what you want, then it allows you to be that fascinating single person who gets invited to dinner whom all the kids love and the adults envy.
In Anita’s piece, she is frank about her fears of not “checking the box” or of dying alone. I haven’t checked many boxes (no college degree, no house, no European backpacking trip) and I’m always worried about dying alone. These fears aren’t about being single, but being human. I’m able to deal with these things because of the diverse perspectives of the people in my life.
Thank you, Single People, for being prodigious, diverse, and exciting! Even if you’re none of the things I listed above, I need to believe you are because I can’t live in a world that is only about Target Superstores and endless methods for potty training. I need you, Single People, I do.
[originally posted for drinkerswithwritingproblems.com, another project to keep me writing, but tends to make me ignore this blog.]
Dear Men Who Insist on Texting Pictures of Their Penis:
I’m not judging you, honestly, I am not. Alright, I totally am. You deserve it, frankly. Listen, I’m into sexual fantasies. Really, I am. I love dirty things just as much as the next guy. Threesomes? Hell yeah! Riding crops and bullwhips? What a delightful treat! Bathing in baked beans while you wash my hair with beer? Is there a better way to spend a Sunday afternoon?! I love it all and I applaud you for bravely exploring your sexual freedom.
But, here’s the problem with your fetish: it’s boring. It just is. Have you ever looked at your penis? I mean really looked at it. It’s not that impressive. It’s fleshy, fat, and has those two weird bags hanging from it. It may curve left or right, but if you sent me a picture of a Slim Jim, I’d probably be equally impressed. Maybe if you threw some donuts around it like one of those stacking ring toys for babies or drew angry clown faces on it, I’d be moved to text you back and we could have coffee.
I’m confused about what you think happens when you hit “send”. Do you think we look at that picture of a semi-hard cock and your fat hairy belly and think, “Delicious!”? No, it is not. Let’s take a moment to review what happens once your lady friend receives your message:
OH! LOOK! I have a text
(open text pic, tilts head slightly)
Is that mushroom? Wait? Is that…..
(open text and forward to all our friends)
Message reads: BWHAHAHAHAHAHA! Can you believe he sent me this?
(post on Tumblr or forward to the New York Times)
So, let’s talk about the risk factor. At least when a person is tied to a bed of nails and spanked with a cat of nine tails, there’s some touching involved. There’s physical pleasure and maybe even an orgasm. Ruin your career and marriage over something exciting like that. A picture? Of your penis? C’mon. That’s as far as your deviance allows you to go? I know you can go further, I know you can. You’re a sick fuck who send pictures of your average penis to young women (I know it’s average because men who have above average penises like to save that information like a prize at the bottom of a cracker jack box). What I’m telling you is that if you’re going to ruin your reputation, do it with some umph! Put some energy into it! And by golly, let your jizz flow freely!
I know you’re a lovely man with “family values”. I’m sorry that your wife hasn’t given you a blow job since she clawed her way to an engagement ring and a miserably boring life in the ‘burbs. But you must, you must, find another idée fixe. Have you seen the internet? Take my advice: next time the ol’ ball and chain is at Saturday soccer game with the kids – light some candles, turn on your PC, and pull down those pants! Consider sites such as XNXX, RedTube or Pinterest. There are many exciting creative suggestions and it’s a great way to “productively” spend your mornings.
In conclusion, Men Who Insists on Texting Pictures of Their Penis, please stop. Please.
I didn’t grow up with a father. As a matter of fact, I pretty much grew up alone, along with my brother. When my dad left, my mother had to start working and did she ever! She was a good mother and you can read about how incredible she was here. She’s been my idol and my hero all of my life. But no matter how hard she tried, she was never able to fill a gap in my heart that was left by my real father.
My memories of my dad are pretty vague. I’m now a few months from 40 and since I haven’t lived with my dad after reaching my double digits, I think you can understand why. The only thing I can clearly remember is that as a little girl, I loved him so deeply that sometimes I thought I’d burst open if he hugged me. While I have my Apa, I still can’t forget my daddy.
My father was a military man. So for the years we did live with him, he would go on weeks long training excursions; leaving my mother, brother and me alone trying to navigate our way through whichever foreign country we were living at the time. Once he moved us to live in Virgina, my father essentailly disappeared. Over the decades, we would rarely receive a letter or a call. Once every few years, my brother and I would hear our mother yell, “Riiiiiiiisssssa! BRRRROOOOTTTTTHHHHER! You daddy on phone. Come.” I would reluctantly approach the phone, my brother would continue playing Legos refusing to break concentration.
My father: Hi, Lisa. It’s your father.
Me (head down, heart pounding, brain swirling): I don’t have a father.
My father: Lisa, it’s your father.
Me: I don’t want to talk to you.
And then I’d hang up and go to my room and cry. As a teen, I was already filled with confusion and anger, talking to my father only compounded the challenges set by my hormones or listless thoughts about who I was or what I was going to become. I couldn’t understand how he could let years slip by without calling his own children. I pretty much started considering him a sperm donor rather than a father. I watched other girls run to their dad’s arms and talk about how much better their dads were than their moms. It made me jealous and resentful. To this day, I can’t watch a father and daughter commercial without wondering how it could possibly be. My girlfriend, Anita, wrote a blog piece this week about her dad and I still keep thinking…..How could you possibly feel like that about your father? But, she does. And my daughters feel that way about their dad and their half dad. And I still don’t get it.
He hasn’t seen me since I was 19 (for a weekend) and before that he saw me for about 5 minutes when I was 16. I think before that I may have been around 11 when I saw him last. My brother is currently 35 and I think my dad last saw him when he was 8. My father has never met any of his four grandchildren. He’s never met my husbands (current nor former) or my friends. Last year or so ago, he found my brother and me on Facebook. That was strange. I called my brother and asked him if I should friend my dad, my brother replied, “Elizabeth, you have 100′s of people who you don’t really know peeking into your life on Facebook. Just let him. I did.” That was shocking to me because my brother has almost never spoken to my dad since he’s been gone.
I can’t remember the last time I spoke to my father. So, you have to imagine my surprise when my father helped me put together this post. I begin writing it for Father’s Day. As I was drafting it, I felt there were a number of holes in my narrative. I felt brave and strong, so I decided to use the last email address I had for my father to ask all the questions I wanted to know for this post. No immediate response. A day or two passed and I had forgotten about it. When I opened my email today, I was stunned to see that he had answered me; shared below. I’m not sure how I feel about his responses and probably need to noodle them over some more and there will probably more posts about this relationship in the future. But, for now, it is what it is.
Look, I don’t feel like my father owes me anything. I honestly have moved through the bitterness and pain that I use to have. I’ve worked hard to find understanding and compassion for everyone I know; finding forgiveness for even the worst that have offended me. So, with that in mind, I want to sincerely state that I think my father is a brave and strong man to have made the decision to respond to me. I know it hurt to have to re-live some of these memories and I am grateful that he did. Even though, one email can’t change our history, it can give us hope for another type of beginning.
Editors Note: Combined questions with answers to make it easier for reader to follow; answers in italics; changed names to respect privacy; edits were only for general typos and format
———- Forwarded message ———-
From: Juanna Rumbel <email address>
Subject: A few quick questions……
To: Father <email address>
- How old was my brother and I when we moved from [this place] to [that place]?
Leaving [this place] and moving to [that place] you were 11, and your brother was 8.
- At that point, did you know you wanted to leave Mom for [the lady who shall not be named but that I hated without knowing her because she'd call our house and make my mother cry]?
Leaving your mom for [her] was a terrible and major mistake. I had found out about [her] whereabouts during one of the trips we made to [friend's] house in [state] and just before leaving Germany to [this place]. Once in [state] I found out her number through her mother and I called and we met.
- Did [that woman who didn't have the decency to remain in the background and stay away from our family] move to Germany with you? How old were we then?
When I got orders to go back to Germany I left alone and during the first 6 months [she] followed me there, at the time you were 13 years old [and bro] was 10 years old.
- Why didn’t you contact us for so long?
Reason for not contacting was stupid, I wanted my divorce and your mom kept saying no. That time I believe that the best way to get her to grant me the divorce was to not have contact with her at all, but that was incorrect because you and your brother had nothing to do with the reason why I wasn’t contacting her.
- Do you remember the time, my family walked out of that Chinese restaurant in [the town 4 minutes away from where we lived]? How long had you been there and why didn’t you tell us you were in town?
I had just gotten there to attend school before leaving back to Germany. The course lasted 30 days and because of what happened I thought it be best that I just go to school. Hurting your mother was not what I wanted to ever do.
- How did it feel to know your children were so angry and did you miss us?
I do and always will miss the both of you and I regret it even today. The fact that I understand why you won’t talk to me is something I hate living with. Maybe you and your brother might just say something like “live with it, that’s life.” Seeing pictures of the both of you is all that I have and not having growing family memories HURTS me.
- Can you remind me how we got in contact when I lived in [art school - a talent that I clearly derived from you and all the times you made me draw Beetle Bailey cartoons as my art lesson]? What were you thinking when you were going to see me for the first time after so many years?
Visiting you in [art school] was the GREATEST and BEST day of my life just to be with you (MY PRINCESS). Spending the night with you at grandmother house was so wonderful for me.
- When I think about you, it’s strange because it’s almost like you’re imaginary. I have these hazy memories of you. Is that how you feel about us?
I remember 2 beautiful kids that I help bring into this world that would make our lives the perfect lives. A wonderful girl that was and still is my PRINCESS. Someone who fed her fish until they died, someone who enjoyed the world I walked on. My kids who would have long hair as long as their great grandmother and when your mom cut your hair in El Paso I was so upset that I never gave [brother] a haircut and it just grew and grew.
- When I think of you, I always imagine you in your BDU’s – green tshirt, camo pants, slightly wavy black hair, well trimmed mustache and listening to big huge headphones. You loved music and I loved watching you when I was a little girl. Do you have any fun memories of me or [my brother] like that?
You have always been the defender of the under dog, when I was teaching your mom how to drive and I had to correct her you would start to crying as if I was yelling at her. In Korea you protected your baby brother from everyone even the maid, you worried about him even while he was in the hospital. [Brother] was so wonderful just being [brother], never crying, wanting all the time to be with me just like you did whenever I came home. Excited that I was home and we would watch wrestling and play Pac-man, but he also watched out for his big sister. When you got into trouble he was the one who told me (AAFES).
- Do you know that the idea of having a relationship with you feels near impossible, but I still have a place in my heart for you? I hope you know that I have no anger for you and wish the very best for you. I think of you often. I wonder if you feel the same about me (and Brother).
Nearly impossible means that there is hope even as slightly as possible. When I returned back to the U.S. I wanted to get with both you and [brother]. While in [state] I asked if we could get together and there was no time nor possibility. I always want to see you and [brother], but, he said that’s not possible and you are very busy. I presently live in [state] and drive a city bus just like my son. So, I guess I grew up to be like him. Every time I get onto Facebook that’s the best part of my day, because I get to see you and your family as well as [brother] and his family. Both of you have a wonderful family. Elizabeth, I hope that I’ve answered your questions. Just one more thing I hope that one day you both would allow me the opportunity to meet your family even as a friend of the family. If not possible I want you to know that you and [brother] are always in my thoughts and in my heart. I love you both and your family.