Dear 'Dad' Letter
This letter describes the torment of suffering from all types of child abuse, from emotional to physical to sexual abuse, and the impact it had on the author.
Revenge is a dish best served cold. What an incredible powerful statement. What does it really mean? What is revenge? Does that word really carry the negative connotation that it has become accepted as? When one seeks revenge, do we not see it within the context of the action? Here is a story that begs to be shared, is it revenge?
I am writing this letter now because it is the thirteenth anniversary of my father's death. Every year at this time, I am overwhelmed by sadness, regret and anger. This moment is long overdue. David James was my father. He died November 16, 1993 of suicide. He ran the exhaust into his old Chevy hatchback while he sat quietly parked in his own back yard. He died peacefully of carbon monoxide poisoning. He was survived by two daughters. Their names are Robin, and Melissa. He also fathered two sons, and their names are David and John. Melissa was only 15 years old at the time of his death, and John was just a baby, at 4 years old. The day that I buried my father, it was cold and raining. I remember watching John place his toy trucks at the head of his grave with tears streaming down his innocent face.
I had so many questions that I wanted to ask him. I will never have that opportunity. He never got the chance to see his grandsons, and they will never know their real grandfather. The things that I remember about him are his smile, his laugh and his incredible sense of humor. He had a gift of making people laugh, even when they didn't want to. He never made excuses for his life, or his mistakes. My father's life was long even though he only lived to see his 40th birthday. His choices landed him in prison several times, and he was at times completely consumed by drugs, alcohol, and women. He was adopted at a very young age by a couple who tried to love him despite his explosive temper that developed as a teenager. They did not have the skills or community support to guide their son through life. I have heard many stories of my father's life and wondered how much the loss of two of his children had an impact on his choices.
I saw my father the night before he died. This moment is one that would change my life forever. I went to visit him in his barely inhabitable home in the heart of Garfield. I saw immediately that he had been drinking, which is a violation of his probation. He looked so sad and utterly exhausted. He asked me to come and sit on his lap. I snarled at him, and told him that he was going to go back to prison. I just couldn't understand why he wouldn't change, even for me. He insisted again that I came and sit on his lap. I rolled my eyes, and walked over to him, and sat with him. He looked at me through his thick, tinted, broken glasses and said, "Baby girl, don't do with your life what I have done with mine. I love you." I regret this next moment with all of my heart. I told him that I would never end up a drunk like him, and told him to sober up before he called me again. He was dead the next day.
Now, at thirty-three years old, I finally understand. He knew that the choices that he made in his life had made him what he was. He was warning me about the dangers of poor choices and telling me that sometimes, we just run out of tomorrows. I learned the most valuable lessons in life from a man that society would have deemed a waste. He was my father, and his memory deserves respect. His life and death taught me more than any sheltered suburban family ever could.
Imagine how much we may have been able to learn from each other is it wasn't stolen from us. I am HIS daughter, in my heart, mind and soul. You said once, when I was young, that I was like a wild horse, and that they are the most loyal when broken. How did that work out for you? My father didn't have to break me in order to earn my loyalty, he just had to love me. He accomplished in a fraction of the time what you had a lifetime to teach. My father's legacy ends with broken homes, three wives, and a criminal history, but it was real.
I have seen your legacy. You have passed closet alcoholism, disrespect of your wife, close-minded bigotry, intolerance, and arrogance. The amazing thing is that you were able to pass them along without ever having been home. I can only imagine what the people at the bar, bowling alley, flight club, and golf course were able to learn from you. Maybe I am giving credit to the wrong person. Maybe the credit for your accomplishments should go to your other half. After all, I credit her for so many things in my life. Allow me to give you a few examples. I credit her for my fear of being loved, the constant questioning of my abilities, my poor self-image, and most of all, the emptiness in my soul where a mother's love should be. This brings me to another introduction.
Veronica Lynn is my mother. I am sure that you remember her. She was that child that you put on the stand in a courtroom decades ago. The child that you saw then still lives in my mother today. Her family consists of a long line of women who, in one way or another, betrayed or abandoned their children. For years, through your wife's teachings, I believed that my mother was not any different than them. I was wrong. Sir, I have the transcripts from my adoption. You, your wife, my maternal grandmother, and a gaggle of unethical attorneys stole her one hope at a normal life. You stole that hope from young woman who stood on the brink of a breakdown. As a result of yours, and their actions, that young woman has turned into a mentally unstable hypochondriac. She abuses drugs and abuses alcohol, and is void of the social skills necessary to function in life. The irony is that she now resembles the woman that I was forced to call Mom for sixteen years.
I was born to an alcoholic father and mentally unstable mother, and I was stolen by the exact same people. The one difference was age. My parents were still young and possibly, with the proper guidance and support, could have been more than they became, especially my father. You, and your wife through arrogance and selfishness that had been well established in you by then, stole something that did not belong to you. You have always justified your actions by asking things like, "where would you have ended up if we had left you there?" You have tried to convince me that you gave me more than they ever could have. Then your arrogance told you that you were more qualified than they to raise me. Who gave you that right? Sir, you were never able to steal me from the feeling that I did not belong with you. You cannot force a child to love you with guilt, shame and manipulation. Let me solve the mystery of how to "break me" and make me into "one of yours". The only thing that you ever had to do was respect where I came from, understand that I was different from your children, and most of all love me in spite of where I came from. You, and your family are incapable of these things because your intentions were reprehensible from the very beginning.
I heard from your wife for years that you had "paid enough for me already." You paid monetarily, but your cost was nothing in comparison to the cost that you created for my father, mother, brother and myself. You stole my soul. I have held inside of me secrets and pain that I will now share with you. It is time for me to empty the garbage that is piled up inside of me, and reclaim my soul. So, sit back and grab a beer or a Bloody Mary and see if you can stomach this information. Please forgive me if I lose a time frame for reference, I cannot always remember my age at the time of the events.
The earliest memory that I can recall was meeting your mother. I was terrified. I felt out of place, confused and as if I were a new toy being shown off. I wanted to run away and go home, if only I could remember where home was. No one cared about or even noticed the pain that I was feeling. It all seemed to swirl around me as if I were having a dream. I cried myself to sleep that night in a room that did not feel like my own. That was the first night of silent tears, and would be followed by many more.
I remember first grade, I was in Mrs. Rhule's class. I went to school one day with such severe pain in my ear that the sound of her voice and the ringing of the bell cut through my head with a force that made me cry. The teacher asked me if I would like her to call my mother, and I hesitated and then said "yes". I hesitated because I had informed your wife that morning of the pain in my ear and she told me that I was simply trying to get attention. She then told me to go to school, and that she had better not get a phone call. I was scared for her to call your wife because I knew that she would hit me when I got home. Thankfully your wife was not home when she called. I came home, and said nothing. I simply ate my dinner and then went to my room and fell asleep. When I awaked the next morning, I was in even more pain than the previous day. This time the teacher called right away. I couldn't hide it from her, the pain was too unbearable and I kept my hand over my ear to muffle the sound. Your wife came to the school while I waited in the nurses' office. She seemed kind, and concerned while we were in the school. Then when I sat in the passenger seat of the car, I felt a sudden blow to the back of my head that shot searing pain through my ear. I don't remember what she said, I just remember the pain. When we saw the doctor, he gave us drops for my ear, and I remember him telling your wife that my eardrum almost ruptured. He was an Indian doctor with lollipops in his pocket. I wanted so badly to go home with him. He was so kind and gentle, and seemed to know how much I hurt.
Those drops turned out to be penicillin. It turns out that I am allergic to penicillin. Do you remember? I would guess that you do not, you most likely were not home. Do you remember Veronica Lynn? She knew that I was allergic to penicillin because it had been given to me when I was with her. I wonder if during the theft of her child, if anyone ever bothered to ask those questions. If I had to play that scenario over again with my real mother, I can imagine that she may not have had the money to take me to that nice pediatrician, but I would be willing to bet that she would not have hit me and let him give me penicillin. By the way, I had many ear infections over the years to follow and your wife kept that bottle on penicillin as a reminder for me to not complain about it.
This was just the first of many of these moments yet to come. The neighbors who lived across the street from us took care of me when I had a stomach virus. The school called your wife, and again she was unreachable. This was amazing to me, considering that she never worked a day in my life. I got in trouble again, and shut in my room for two days with only water. She would open the door when you came home, but I knew not to come out and say anything. My woodshop teacher sent me to the nurse when he became aware of my shoes being untied. Do you know why they were untied? My right foot was so swollen and purple from an allergic reaction to a bee sting from the previous day, that I could not tie my shoe. I was yet again, met with a punch to the head. She then told me that she hoped that the doctor would poke me so full of holes that they could use me for a spaghetti strainer.
Each of these incidents, among many others, culminated my senior year of highschool when I was injured during a track meet. Your wife told the coach that I was faking it and not to allow me to pull the wool over his eyes. He listened to her, and my fear of her, and the repercussions of what would happen if I told the truth about my pain forced me to continue running. That injury being left untreated ended my future as a runner. I had been offered a scholarship to a good university after an invitational the month prior to my injury. I never told you about it because, at the time, I thought that I wanted it to be a surprise. Now I realize that it was more a fear of her doing something to ruin it. Isn't life full of cruel irony?
OK, so that was the easy stuff. Are you warmed up? I have to tell you that, as a child, I thought that your girlfriend at the flying club was very pretty. The bartender was very beautiful also. I know about these women because your wife took me along when she would spy on you. I remember how I hoped that you would leave her for one of those women, so that I would not have to go through this anymore. She told me that you slept in separate bedrooms because you had sex with other women. You see, she used me as her friend when it was convenient for her. I was her thief, her messenger, and her partner in crime. I would do anything that she asked me to in the hopes of winning her love. She would use me for the purpose of being someone to blame it on when she got caught. These were building blocks for one more important mission that took place much later, all of which I took the blame for.
She would have me go through your desk looking for various things. I would find letters to your girlfriends, medications or whatever she was looking for at the time. She would tell me that I could get away with it because if you asked who went through your desk, she would tell you that I did it but she would not let you punish me. It was on one of these little adventures that I found the letter that you wrote to my sister when she was in college. I could not determine what the letter was intended to express at the time, but I was very afraid that you were going to kill yourself. Your wife confirmed that concern by sitting me down and telling me that your father had committed suicide and that your mother had attempted it several times. I became terrified that you were going to die. She told me that she would take care of the letter. I was also told to behave myself and not do anything to upset you. Then the best part of her game was to tell me that if I did not keep her secrets, that you would kill yourself and it would be all my fault. She maintained that control over me for years.
It worked fairly well until one day you beat me so badly that I landed in the guidance office at school the next day. I had bruises all over my face and choke marks on my neck. My teacher sent me to the guidance office and the counselor demanded that I tell him what happened to me. I kept your secret then, but you can have it back now. It was at that moment that I was freed of your psychosis. I wonder if you remember that day. Let me refresh your memory. I dropped a class to take an additional art class. Your wife lied and told you that I had been kicked out of the other class. You asked me to tell you the truth and when I did, you became enraged. You threw me down on the bed and began to strike me. I can still see her standing there with her arms folded appearing pleased with what was happening. You held me by my throat and demanded the truth, I couldn't speak but even if I was able I would have begged you to listen to me, and to call the school. You were a crazed madman, and just continued to hit me on my face and choke me. I can't begin to tell you how frightened I was. I did not feel the pain until the next day. My throat hurt too much to even speak, and my right eye was blurry for days. You did not come home for two days. I assume that it was because you could not face what you had done. Well, you can face it now! You tried to create fear in me, and you succeeded. Unfortunately, the fear was only of you. That fear only lasted for a short while. I realized that you knew that it better never happen again because next time I may not keep your secret. I am lucky that your image was more important than your need to inflict physical pain. Emotional pain doesn't leave marks.
Now may be a good time to let you know that my artistic ability comes from my mother. I doubt that she would have allowed me to be beaten for having been accepted into an advanced placement art class. Oh, that is right, I may not have been able to attend that class had I lived with her, right? Well, let me ask you this, what good did it do me when I was not able to follow my dream to attend college to grow my talent? You and your wife always reminded me that you had "paid enough for me already". This has always begged the question, how much did you pay for me, and who was it paid to?
Do you remember when your wife broke her wrist punching the freezer door? That isn't exactly true, unless my head had taken on the shape of a freezer door. That's right, she broke it punching me in the head. She was always good for hitting me there. I can only assume that it was an act of cowardice. She told me that she was saving me the embarrassment of the truth by lying about how she did it. I told her that it didn't matter to me because it was her embarrassment, not mine. By this point, I was beginning to have enough of this.
Despite all of this, I still hoped that one day, your family would love me so I tried so hard to fit in. I just couldn't do it. I continued to give your wife chance after chance. Each time I was met with heartache and disappointment. I was reminded over and over again how much I didn't belong. I don't know exactly what it was, it could possibly be the vile names that I was called my entire life. You may remember some of them. Does this list ring a bell? I was a whore, a slut, a tramp, a piece of garbage and my favorite came from each one of you "you were not only a mistake once, you were a mistake twice".
Well "Dad", I have saved the best for last. I hope you enjoy hearing it as much as I enjoyed living it. I refused to see your mother when she was dying in the hospital because she was a child molester. Yes, I saw her. She repeatedly molested your nephews. I saw her do it. I informed your wife, and she told me not to tell anyone because you would kill yourself, so I have carried that inside of me for too long. I watched her sleep naked with those young boys. I saw her rubbing their genitals with Vaseline for long periods of time, until the boys began to cry. I know what she did to them, so I can only assume that she did it to you and your brother, as well. That would explain much of your behavior, but it will never excuse it.
When your mother's boyfriend died, I became concerned when your wife called me and told me that she was acting weird. I asked her what she meant, and she said that she seemed depressed and was talking a lot about the boys being with her forever. She asked me to call the school and inform them of what I had seen and that the boys may be in danger. She told me that it would be a secret between her and I. Well, as you know, that was not the case. She immediately told everyone who made that call. I am telling you now that what I saw and what I know is real. Your mother should have gone to prison for what she had done. She died peacefully in a hospital room and she should have died alone in a cell.
I know that you have suppressed those memories deep in your mind, and I am here to bring them all out for you. I have carried your pain and my own for too long now. I have flashbacks of my life often. They are painful and grasp my heart so forcefully that it takes my breath away. It is time for those memories to grasp your heart and set mine free.
My sons will never know the pain that you and your family has caused me. Your great legacy dies with me. I will raise my sons to be good men and loving fathers. My hopes are that one of them will grow up to be a man that puts people like you, your wife, and your mother behind bars where you belong. I hope that you realize that prison is where you belong, and that you should be thankful everyday for your freedom. Know this, "Dad" true freedom will only come to you when you close your eyes for that last time.
For several years now, I have tried to rationalize what happened to me. I have tried to define who I am and what will heal me. I know that I have to forgive you for what you have done in order for me to begin a new day. Today is not that day. Today is the day where I give you back everything that you gave to me. You live with this pain. You live with this weight and burden in your heart. Today, I give it all to you. I may forgive you tomorrow, I may not.
Today I am standing up to you. I am standing up for my father, my mother, and my brothers and sister. I will never again allow you or your family to affect one more moment in my life. I will survive it every time I look into my son's eyes and I know that they will never know that pain. I will survive when I see my father in their eyes, and in their smiles. I hope that for your sake, you can accept responsibility for your actions, or lack thereof, and your choices. I challenge you, can you be as big a man as my father was?
This was the story of my life. This was not a random story with no substance and just a moral at the end. I never mailed this letter, but have held it close to my heart like steady pressure on an open wound. I have asked myself many times if this was a form of revenge or one of healing. I have found it to be both. I also have come to the realization that the only way to truly heal is to share this letter not only with who it was intended but with anyone else who feels that healing is revenge. I am not wielding a weapon or clenching a fist. I am sharing my life and the process that I have been through in the hopes that more can feel peace. When we carry pain and take inside of ourselves the torment of others, we die inside. I refuse to die, and if this is revenge, then revenge can heal. You decide. I find that revenge is a dish best served heaping and warm. Welcome to dinner.
next: The Impact of Parental Child Abduction
~ all abuse library articles
Staff, H. (2009, April 1). Dear 'Dad' Letter, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2023, March 29 from https://www.healthyplace.com/abuse/articles/dear-dad-letter