Today, my odometer passed 144,444 when the trip meter read 22.22.
Last week, I saw license plates with double ones, twos, threes, fours, fives, sixes, and sevens. “Alright, angels,” I issued the challenge. “If you show me eights and nines, I’ll be impressed.” I found eights, nines, and zeros! (I watch the road, too.)
On Sunday, I saw a plate that said Y73 9LV, which I took to mean 1973 9 lives. I saw a reminder to hang on. I don’t really want to anymore, but that’s what I read. Maybe it meant, “You’re almost done.” I like that better.
I’ve been crying since Friday. I finally told my father what my sister’s husband did to me 5 1/2 years ago. Naturally, I thought he’d be disappointed in his son-in-law and feel for me, but he dismissed the whole thing as my “perspective,” which clearly deserves no credence or compassion. I told him to ask my brother, who overheard it (and didn’t even come out of the room). (There was time.) I told him to ask my sister, who held her husband off of me, though she still denies it came to that.
My dad told me that if someone crossed the line in his house, he’d make sure they left, too. “You’d tell them to leave,” I said. “You’d be firm. You might even be angry, but you wouldn’t scream and curse at them. If they refused to leave or became combative, you’d remain calm and involve the police. They’d understand you were serious about protecting your home.”
“That’s what I would do,” he agreed.
“You would never physically threaten, menace, and terrorize a woman, run at her from upstairs, with your chest puffed out, purple-faced, fists clenched, veins popping, in your holy garments!”
“No,” he conceded, “I wouldn’t.”
How had I crossed the line? I was talking to my sister. It’s true we disagreed, but our voices never raised. We would quickly have come to understand each other, I imagine. If her husband hadn’t attacked me, I’m certain that my nieces, who witnessed the whole thing, wouldn’t have noticed the discussion at all. It wasn’t extraordinary.
He crossed the line! Even if we had been fighting, nothing can justify what he did. It was disgusting. It was violence intended to make me very aware of my vulnerability. I was meant to be terrified. And he didn’t tell me to leave the house. He just screamed, “Shut up, you bitch!” over and over and over. (I left.)
I told my dad that all these years I’ve dreamed that if he knew, he’d tell my sister’s husband he didn’t appreciate how he treated his daughter.
He defended him.
“Maybe you don’t consider me your daughter anymore.” He didn’t say otherwise. I really thought he’d find Dan’s behavior inappropriate. I would, even if I hated the person he did it to. It was wrong.
I don’t think I appreciated what that daddy rescue fantasy meant to me. It was ridiculous. My mother beat me for 19 years. He was there for 9 of them, and did nothing. When I finally punched her back… Well, she had me on the ground again, kicking the shit out of me. I finally stood up. Dad’s the one who kicked me out, and that was that. No one’s ever apologized.
(Incidentally, she had ripped my pajama top off. My father saw my naked breasts. In fact, he kicked me out while I standing there topless, still catching my breath.)
What should I have expected from the man who, when I confessed on my 17th birthday that I wanted to kill myself, explained paternal responsibility to me?
My father said that when he married my mother, he had made a commitment to God that he would protect and provide for our family.
“I’m the head of this family,” he explained. My heart was pounding so hard I could hear it. I thought he was about to say, “And without you, we wouldn’t be this family.” I thought he was going to tell me I mattered.
Here it was! He was going to tell me he loved me. I was special to him. To someone.
“Until you’re 18,” he continued. “I’m responsible for what happens to you.”
“Kill yourself next year,” is what I heard.
He was afraid of getting in trouble with God! He didn’t care about me at all. He should have wrapped me in his arms. He should have cared that I was in pain.
He thought of himself. I was nothing to him. I’m nothing.
Not one person in my family has apologized for what Dan did to me. Not to take responsibility; Only he can do that and he’s not sorry. But I want someone to see me in here, to see that I’m hurting, that 5 1/2 years later this hasn’t gone away for me. Not one person has hugged me, held me while I cried, or told me they were sorry to see me in pain. Not one person has said, “I’m sorry that happened to you.” No one cares.
I should have protected the dream, I think, and never asked them to.
I was stunned to learn how truly unloved I am. I really didn’t understand how complete their disregard was. As far they’re concerned, I don’t deserve their concern. I’ve chosen a life of sin; I don’t matter. They absolutely do not care.
My heart is breaking.
I don’t know that I’ve ever felt loved. I don’t know that I could at this point.
I didn’t expect to be so upset. I just didn’t get it. I was living in a fantasy world. Well, yeah. The angels speak to me through numbers, but I believed this one. I needed it.
I don’t think they’re awful. I know they mean well. That’s different from saying they did their best. They didn’t, but it’s still true that they’re decent folk. They mean to do good, but they’re profoundly misguided. They’re sick. I mean, I’m sick. There’s a reason.
It’s best to divorce them for good. I’ve tried everything. I can’t keep doing this to myself. They literally make me sick. I need to recover at last and let these wounds become well-healed scars. I know that others have survived worse things. Some have gone on to live fulfilling, joyful lives, so certainly I can at least get by without this searing pain.
I have 9 lives. I have to be close to the end of those. Surely, I’ve saved the best for last.
Oh God, this just keeps getting worse. I just asked my brother Aaron why he never stepped up for me, and he said I’ve rewritten history. He said he doesn’t remember Dan ever saying, “Fuck you, you bitch.” Neither do I. I’ve never said that.
Aaron just told me basically what my dad believes. So they’ve talked about this before. HE’S REWRITTEN HISTORY, TO DEFEND DAN! He told me he doesn’t remember any cursing or profanity, and that Dan never raised his voice!
He did! He screamed, “Shut up, you bitch!” over and over and over. I know, because I was screaming back the whole time, “All I’ve ever said to you is thank you! Thank you for being a good provider! Thank you for being a good father,” which is easier than the truth, that my nieces know their daddy loves them, so long as they don’t deviate from his very narrow command on what they must be and act like. Over and over and over and over, until my sister screamed his name and I ran upstairs. (Melanie almost never yells, and she was pushing her whole body weight into her husband to counter-balance the rage of his violent lunge at me.)
A couple of times he said, “Don’t you ever stop talking!?” Hahahahahaa! and “You ARE a bitch!” (That’s my favorite. He actually thinks I didn’t know his opinion of me. God, he’s stupid. All strong women are called bitch.)
“Shut up, you BITCH!” (I was playing nice for 20 years! I coulda made him miserable! “You call me bitch? Watch out! You’ve never met my bitch!”)
I didn’t say that. I just said thank you. Over and over and over until Mel yelled his name and I ran upstairs. IT HAPPENED.
I can’t believe this. I can hardly breathe. I was counting on Aaron. At this point, I don’t think he’s lying, but he is wrong. He was my only witness. I thought he’d step up for me, but he forgot the truth and sold himself and the whole damn klan a lie. He lied! To protect him! I’m losing it! They care so little they’ve rewritten a history that completely and utterly vilifies me. It nullifies me! It erases me.
Aaron, the one ally I thought I had left, has rewritten a history that protects that man.
That’s it. That’s all I can handle. That’s it. I’ve found it. I cannot handle any more than this. It happened. I’ll tell you what it is: It happened to me. That’s why it doesn’t matter.
And I’ll tell you who remembers: Dan. He knows what he did.
I’m not kidding, I can hardly breathe. Aaron was the one person I thought had my back. He was the one person I trusted. And he’s been telling them the whole time it never happened! Oh my god, oh my god, oh my god.
I’m such an ass. Of course they’ve discussed this before. That’s what they do. They get together and judge me. Then they find ways to make it all my fault, so they never have to take responsibility for the things they do to me. Then they tell themselves they’re good people, in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.
Oh my god, I’m so stupid. I don’t want to wait another 5-10 years for my cats to die. I want to kill myself today. Oh my god.
(Aaron took me to the bus station the next morning. “I don’t want to put words in your mouth,” I said to him, “but I wouldn’t mind if you told Dan you didn’t appreciate how he treated your sister.”
He said nothing. Now I know why. It happened to me, so it didn’t matter. And now he’s rewritten history. Worse, he’s forgotten. Dan first screamed, “Shut up, you bitch,” from the top of the stairs. He was right next to the room Aaron occupied with his brand new bride. What followed is not just my perspective. It happened. My brother heard it. Dan yelled again and again, “Shut up, you bitch!” until I ran upstairs and hid, crying, not sleeping until I could get online in the morning and find a bus. It happened. And, like them, Aaron doesn’t care. It happened to me, so he said nothing. He did nothing. He lies like all of them. And he believes it. They all do! I don’t matter. Period.)
I’d love to know what Ali thinks. I’m afraid to assume – now that I have a picture of how the incident has shifted, at least in Aaron’s view, and what he’s shared with our father – that she, too, has forgotten the seething, violent rage, the hatred of women-who-don’t-obey-men that Dan betrayed that night.
I can’t imagine it, though! She’s such a strong, self-assured girl. I just can’t fathom it. However, I also can’t imagine Aaron and Ali not discussing it thoroughly. They’re such a strong couple, with strong opinions, each, and respect and love for one another. I have to believe that she shares his memory of the event?
I’ll tell you, the only eye-witnesses other than my sister were my nieces.
My sister denied the whole incident completely, days after it happened, only to admit it when faced with evidence. Then she excused him, because I “didn’t act afraid.” (I was perfectly groomed after a life of violence to never show fear, duh. I’d die before giving him that. It doesn’t mean I wasn’t terrified. I was. It doesn’t mean he didn’t do it, simply because he failed to frighten me, or seemed to.)
My nieces were very young, but I can’t imagine they don’t remember the night Daddy’s thinly-veiled hatred for Aunt Christie finally boiled over into dangerous, violent rage. The night Mom yelled at Dad for the first time ever, probably the last. Melanie’s gentle, but she was scared, too. I can’t imagine the Christmas that Daddy called Fun Aunt Christie a bitch, over and over and over, at top volume, isn’t seared on their brains.
They don’t have challenging personalities and they’re all decidedly, devotedly Mormon. And they love him. He’s Daddy, their hero, as well he should be. I want that for them. That’s why I thanked him that night. I’d been thanking him, aloud, for years.
It’s true I’ve never liked him, or what he’s done to my family. He’s a shameless racist, homophobe, misogynist bigot. We didn’t spend every meal denigrating Others and explaining and rehearsing our hatred of difference until Dan joined our family. I’m endlessly disappointed my dad didn’t notice the shift in conversation, but instead joined and emboldened it.
Years ago, I consciously chose to focus on the positive. My sister was happy. Dan had succeeded in ways my biological father hadn’t. And he had a talent with animals, which says a lot about a person. So I started pointing out his strengths and successes. I even gave him a church magazine I found about Daddy/Daughter dates as the oldest, Rachael, was entering her teens. He didn’t know what to do with kindness from me, so after a brief experiment to reach out, I decided to live side-by-side in the same family, with no personal involvement together. I would always speak up against prejudice. It was never a secret where I stood or when I disagreed. It’s wrong not to speak out against wrong. And my nieces needed to understand that they were never alone, no matter who they were or would become.
There’s the slimmest chance Rachael would remember accurately. She’s the oldest, and she’s an artist. She’s had the most challenging relationship with her father, but that’s still cohesive compared to anything I’ve ever known of relationships.
Finally, I could never ask one of those horrified innocents to recall or report on what they witnessed. But having lost my one ally, I’m sorta dying here. My mind clamors for anyone else that was there, anyone to remember me. Anyone to see. Anyone to care.
They don’t. It happened to me. Disobedient women deserve it.
I’m a bitch. I had it coming.