DADDY’S LITTLE GIRL
One of my earliest memories took place at this church; I was walking with my mother when a woman stopped us and said that I looked like my mother. I looked at her and said with the simplicity of a child: No I don’t, I’m my daddy’s girl!
As young girl I was my dad‘s shadow; to me, the sun rose and set with my father. If my dad went somewhere, I was always right there by his side. I was there when we got into his truck when it was still dark outside, and we stopped to pick Frank Tribble up, so we could set off on one of our 5a.m. fishing trips. My dad had a secret spot on the northern end of the county. On my first trip, I of course caught the largest & most fish. I can remember the excitement that I had when I described the “big mouth” bass that I caught. My dad just smiled and didn’t even tell me that it was really called a large mouth bass.
Then there were all the football practices that he took me to; I would yell at the players to get their legs up higher as they ran through the tire drills. I can’t forget the nickname that he used to call me, Little Bird. He painted the wood trim around our rock garden white and I got into the wet paint. He told me that it looked like a little bird had gotten into it & thus my nickname was born.
When I was little I would get scared every-time he went to work because,I didn’t know if he would return home safely. Well, I paid attention to all of the lessons that I had at daycare on calling 911 to call the police. In fact, you could say that I learned the lesson too well. I would always call 911 & ask if I could speak to my father. However, that all changed the day the 911 dispatcher called my house and spoke to my mother. She asked my mom if she could teach me the non emergency number for the police department, apparently they didn’t feel that my wanting to speak to my dad was an emergency….ooooooppps!
If you knew my father in a professional way or if he was ever your football or wrestling coach, then you know that my father could be tough. He wanted you to give him 110% of your effort, because that’s what he always gave. I’ll be the first to admit that at times it could be frustrating. But to this day, I can still feel the pride he had when he told me that he’d heard my name on the radio after I’d won the 300 meter hurdles, at my first high school competition.
However, my father wasn’t always tough. I can still see the tears that ran down his face on the day of my prom. You’re probably thinking that his tears had something to do with me growing up, but you’d be wrong. He was really crying because the thing he wanted the most for his birthday in 1992, was for his little bird to get better from my paralysis. So for his birthday, I was able to walk to him unassisted and I saw my father cry. He also cried when he held each of my daughters’ for the first time. I may not be my Daddy’s little girl anymore, but I will always cherish the memories of when I was.
THE WORDS THAT I COULD NOT SAY
I read the above words at my father’s funeral, I spent a lot of time thinking of what to say. This was the last day that I was going to have to publicly live the charade, the last time I would have to publicly act like my father was the amazing man that everyone else thought he was. The real quandary however, was to write a heartfelt and loving commentary without lying. I think that the words that I couldn’t say at the memorial are the words that best describe the truth; the words that describe the legacy of pain, sadness, self-doubt and anger that my father gifted to me over the past thirty-six years.
For example, I couldn’t stand at the front of the church before three ministers, the mayor, several judges (including a judge from one of the states highest courts), family, friends and countless people who knew my father and say: You want to hear something funny? Well, I actually thought my friend was teasing me over a Facebook status, but it turns out he was trying to tell me that my father had died. If I’d said that, then I would’ve had to tell everyone that I hadn’t talked to him since December. Because, then I would have to tell them, that courageous man who had become the first African American police officer of our town, had also become such an verbally abusive ass, I couldn’t try and assist in making medical decisions for him any longer. I couldn’t say that each time that I went to his house I had horrible nightmares.
While standing at the front of the church, I couldn’t say: My father was not the man that you thought he was; he was a great police officer, a caring and wonderful coach, but he was also the creator of my personal hell. After all, I was in a state of confusion and turmoil during the period starting with his death until about the one month anniversary of his death. As sad as it sounds, the first thing that I said when I was able to truly comprehend that he was dead was: Well, hopefully now we can both have peace.
Unfortunately, peace was the farthest thing from the feelings that I actually had; I was painfully sad, I could actually feel an ache of sadness in my chest. For the first four days, I could barely think of anything besides the fact that I would never see my father again, he was just dead. I would look at my daughters’ and see characteristics in their features that I knew came from my father’s side of the family. This thinking began to take a circular motion, because I would then start thinking about a time when a man I didn’t know came up to me and said that I had to be Charlie Brown‘s daughter, because I looked just like him. Then I started thinking about the fact, that the person that I look the most alike in the whole world was dead. I always arrived at the same conclusion,the same words that I didn’t want to admit:
I always thought that somehow, we would miraculously become a part of one another’s lives again, and my father would once again be the wonderful father that he was when I was little. I couldn’t admit it to myself at that point, but what I really wanted, what I needed and craved was to hear my father tell me that he loved me.
However, I wasn’t allowed time to process any of the feelings that I was having about my relationship with my dad. I needed all my strength to deal with my mother and sister. I couldn’t ask my mother why she even wanted to come to my father’s funeral. My husband told me that she should come to the service because she was the former wife and mother of his children. When I told my mother that I was surprised that she would even want to come to his funeral, she told me that my sister wanted her to come and everything suddenly made sense.
Of course my mother wanted to be at the funeral, I’m sure my sister convinced her that she wouldn’t be able to make through the service without her support. I repeatedly had to fight back the words that I wanted to say to my mother and sister, I understood that the important thing was to lay my father to rest.
So many times I wanted to say to my mother and sister : You may have been married for twenty-six years, but for the last 17 you’ve barely said hello to my father, mom. You know at all of the birthday parties that I had for my daughters’, or when you attended my college ring ceremony, or my college graduation. Hell, he couldn’t even come to my wedding because you forbid it. You told me that if my father was going to attend then you wouldn’t come, but since your current husband was the minister performing the ceremony, what choice did I really have? And you, why did you come?
Yeah, I know you’re his daughter, but did YOU know that you were his daughter? It sure as hell didn’t seem like you remembered it after the first stroke, when he was first diagnosed with congestive heart failure, when he caught his house on fire. Was there any time during the last six years that YOU remembered that you were his daughter? Hell no you didn’t; he didn’t have any money then, so his usefulness to you had ceased. Do you know how many fucking times I listened to him bitch, or cry because he couldn’t see YOUR kids. Yeah, it got really old, but of course you were still the fucking golden child.
What the fuck was I, was I not important too? I was the one taking care of him; go figure the one that he beat was the one who tried to make sure he was alright. Did you really think that it was helpful to me when you told me to take care of myself? No shit, but in the real world sometimes you have to place someone else’s needs above your own! I didn’t have the luxury of living in Ireland and acting like none of the problems I was dealing with existed.
I was never the “golden child”! I was never the child who got private music lessons, never the child that our mom cared about. I was the scapegoat in our family, the person that EVERY problem was blamed on. I was the one who got beaten while trying to protect everyone else, and the one that nobody cared about enough to protect. Wasn’t it about time that you had to deal with some of these problems? But, I still tried to do what was in his best interest.
I was a prisoner in my own fucking house, hiding when he would knock on my front & back door. I had to train my girls to be quiet whenever there was a knock on the door, because I never knew if that was going to be the day that Dad had the energy to go around my house. He would somehow manage to walk around my entire house. He would knock on every single fucking door or window in my house. And you know what, unlike you, I took care of things because it was the right thing to do. Because no matter what happened or what demons I was fighting from my time growing up in his house, I wanted my girls to know that sometimes you do what’s right, just because it’s the right thing to do.
I’m wondering if perhaps you thought there would be some kind of will, that somehow the two of you selfish and uncaring bitches thought he was going to leave you something. God, just the thought of it makes me want to laugh. There we were sitting in the front row, the ex-wife and the daughter that couldn’t stand him, the grandchildren who loved him, and me, the daughter who’s pain was evident. The daughter who actually cried during the service & at the burial….neither one of you had so much as a tear drop from your eyes. The daughter who’s gone through her whole adult life and teenage years, wondering what she did to make the person she loved the most not love her.
I also couldn’t say:
Mom, where the fucking have you been for the last twenty-five years? Where were you when I needed you to protect me, just like you did all of your child protective services clients. I try to maintain some semblance of a Mother/Daughter relationship. But, it’s very difficult when you still have the audacity to say the stupidest things to me. For some reason, I thought I’d try to understand and see things from your perspective. God, I even asked you if you stayed with my father because you were scared of him. Honestly, if you had said yes I still would’ve thought that it was a cop out. But, you said that you were never scared of him while you were still living with him.
Boy, I really wish I’d known that before I yelled at him when I heard your screams; it would really have been nice to know before I grabbed that baseball bat. Who would’ve guessed that he would’ve broken on that damn thing on my back? Who would’ve guessed that after he broke the bat on my back, that you would show how pathetic you really were. For some reason, I had still been holding out hope that somewhere in your microscopic soul, you had an ounce of radiant awesomeness that is required to be an amazing mother. I was horribly wrong. Go figure!
Honestly, I didn’t think that it was possible for you to say something that could make me think any less of your mothering skills. When you said that the things that occurred when I was a teenager weren’t fair, I was beginning to think that maybe, just maybe, you were going to be able to redeem yourself to me. But I should’ve known better. You opened your mouth, and when you began to complain that it hadn’t been fair because , you always had to be the adult. When I responded that I always felt like I had to be the adult too, you must not have understood me.
You actually went on to describe how hard it was for you, always having to show up to court during the time the state removed me from your care. Guess what bitch, it was pretty fucking hard for me to go around my school with fingerprint marks around my neck from where your husband choked me. It’s funny how you don’t remember any of that. Nor, do you remember how you’d promised me that you’d be home when I got home from school that day. Since you have the memory of a fly on a piece of shit, let my tell you what day I’m talking about:
I’m talking about that day in January, of my freshman year of high school…You know, the day I called you because your husband had just finished telling me he was going to beat the hell out of me when I got home.
I don’t know why I thought you would help me when I called you. I still wish that I hadn’t gone home on the bus that night, like I’d originally planned. Because, maybe if I hadn’t done what you said my father wouldn’t have almost choked me to death; most importantly, I wouldn’t have known how much you didn’t care about me. It would’ve made it a hell of a lot easier for me to love myself; if id known then that there truly was nothing i could do to make you love me. But, when you and the Golden Child walked through the door,( at a time that was later than you normally got home)you had already failed me. I’d already learned that holding your breathe like on the movies really can make the person who’s choking you, think that you’re dead. I’d also learned, that to you my sister would always be more important to me.
But alas, I couldn’t say any of those things to my Mother or sister because my husband said it wasn’t the right time. So instead, I welcomed the Golden Childand my mother into my house with open arms. Of course, I couldn’t say any of those things at the funeral.
For some reason, I felt that it was important for my father to be recognized for the sacrifices that he’d made, and acts of bigotry and hatred he’d had to overcome. I thought it was important for the city that he served to honor him. The little bit that he shared with me about his early days as the first African American police officer, left me with the knowledge that things had been very difficult for him.
I guess the most important things I wanted to say to you or ask you, are as follows:
Dad, what happened while you were in Vietnam? What were the demons that you couldn’t escape, that changed you from the shy and somewhat quiet teenager that people say you were? What is it that you saw or had to do there, that kept you up almost every night? Dad, what caused you to change? Why did you stop being the man that adored me and become the man that I feared? What was it that you learned as a police officer, that made you scared to let me grow up? Do you know that because of the way you treated me, I was willing to sell my self short just to make sure that YOU couldn’t hurt me anymore? Do you know that I have scares all over my left arm, I got them when I would cut myself because I couldn’t handle the emotional pain. Did you know that all of the fucked up shit you did, causes me to have night terrors? I rarely remember any of the dreams that I have; the only “dreams” I remember are the one’s that involve you trying to hunt me down and kill me.Do you know how much guilt I’ve carried around for the last 26 years? Guilt, that was caused by you; I felt like a slut through all of middle school, because some asshole that was mad about you arresting him, decided to molest me at the beginning of seventh grade.
Yesterday, was the first time you birthday occurred since your death. Understandably, I experienced periods of sadness, and also periods of anger. I’m angry because I never got to experience the father you were before May of 1986, again. I’m angry because no matter what anyone did to try and help you during the last year of your life, YOU WERE AN ASSHOLE!
I’m also sad…I’m sad that I never got to say good-bye to you.
- 30 Day Challenge – Day Nine (journeybits.wordpress.com)
- There are some things that I am coming to realize about my mother…. (victimnomore.wordpress.com)
- Daddy’s Girl (mstruthinlove.wordpress.com)