Do you have someone in your life that, just by walking back into your life, can bring you down into pieces?
My father does that to me.
I’ve never thought of myself as a damaged person. I don’t think anyone wants to think that they are. I pretended for 3 years to be the happiest person alive. I was happy, in bouts and moments. But I was mostly miserable, naive, and afraid. It made it difficult to make friends, and even harder to study and do homework, though I did not realise it at the time.
It’s been several months since I graduated from a polytechnic. I haven’t found a job yet, much to the dismay of my grandmother and mother, and have been working on a part-time basis. Mentally, I was in a much better place. I am happier, in some ways. My appetite came back. I lost some of the kilos I gained during my internship and final year.
I say I was better, because I’m not sure if I can be.
He visited today. My father visited today.
Just popped by the house unannounced, and asked for some family photographs. He specified photographs of when we had travelled – which were few and far in-between since the honeymoon, my childhood, and my brother’s birth. He no longer lives with us, and recently went overseas despite being crippled after a stroke (he’s in his late 40s.) There’s someone else in his life. I don’t want to know who was foolish enough to choose him.
I have given up asking anything of him. I remain at times angry and other times sad. Angry, because he treated us like ornaments, and couldn’t be bothered to be a good father. Sad, because I realised I never had a father. Just an extended stay from the sperm donor.
In the family dynamics, the father has a big role. He’s the one who gives the tough love, the discipline, but also picks you up and kisses your boo boos. He’s the one you go for when you need boy advice, and when you need some backup. That is what I believe to be the bare basics of being a father. Food, clothes, and a roof over our heads is not a basic – it is the absolute necessities. You have to be able to feed the child, clothe the child and have a place for your child before you can have a child.
My father achieved none of that. In fact, he frightens me more than anything. It’s not just the natural fear between women and men – the fear that comes from the fact that most men are bigger than women (though there are of course, women who are bigger than men) – that makes me frightened. It’s the feeling that I will never be rid of him. That he is looming just behind me, waiting to strike the moment I succeed.
It’s what constantly keeps me from wanting to succeed – the fact that any part of my success is due in part to him – because without him, I wouldn’t exist. I am incredibly selfish in this part – I want nothing that I do, nothing that I am, to be a part of him. But it is an impossibility because he is my father.
Just seeing him there, just beyond the front gates, was enough to scare me. And when I had to walk closer, to speak to him, the scent of unwashed skin, decades of cigarette, and that odour that I still associate with him wafted over me. I realise that I will always remember him. Just like I will always remember the smell of Dettol body wash infused with lemon, and associate it with him. I could feel – and as I’m writing, still feel – my hands shake and my stomach boil with acid and anxiety.
I wanted to do anything that I could to make him go away. And that makes it very dangerous for me to be anywhere near the man. I could accidentally give away something very important, or let slip something else. I hate the man, because he makes it hard for me to feel safe or like I could possibly have a normal life or a normal relationship.
Because of him, I am scared to even live.
I can’t speak of it to my friends, because I have very few, and it is not something I can just say to them casually. So I am putting this post into the hands of everyone who reads it.
I am one person. A person who was hurt, whether deliberately or not, by the family around her. I grew up unaware, realised my naiveté and am struggling to come to terms with it. I bottle up my feelings, because I felt that with everything around me, I shouldn’t add my own troubles on top of it. I choose not to fight or argue, because I’ve already seen and watched all the arguments in my life, whether I was aware of it or not.
But I am glad that that man is going to be out of my life. He might still hold some tiny part of every success I achieve, but my mom will hold more, because she gave me tougher love and more discipline. I will have moments of stress and anxiety due to him – I have long since accepted it – but I will need to learn to manage it. This is just me. Trying.