it came out of nowhere, this gut reaction, this deep anger and identification of shame. i only realized it because of the reflection i saw in how he tried to treat my daughter. i would have been blind to it, and have been for the near 40 years he's done it to me.
we were cleaning the garage out yesterday, and after the kids got home from school my father remembered the wiggly fish bait he had gathered for the upcoming trout season. i heard him ask 'have ya ever seen a helgermite?' these are some demon spawn crawly bug that he pulls out of dead leaves near the banks of the streams and rivers. i said 'yes dad, i've seen them.'
then i realized he wasn't talking to me, he was talking to my daughter. i spun around and he had a handful and was heading her way.
i said "NO", and repeated it about 4 times. finally "NO DAD". it finally got through when i stepped between them. i told him she is inordinately afraid of spiders, i know she wouldn't like the bug. it was like he was a 10 year old boy trying to scare her. not the scientist trying to inform her world. and it recalled to me the many times in my near 40 years where he invaded my space, didn't hear me and demanded that i like the things that he likes, instead of the other way around.
he had his usual subtle, inordinate anger response, muttering and shaming. it touched off a place in me that i had no idea existed. in no time i was reacting like i have never reacted before.
he muttered 'well she's gonna have problems' - 'what problem? because she wouldn't look at your bug she's gonna have problems?'
'well she's gonna have to take biology one day', me - 'yah dad, when she's a sophomore in high school, not when she's 9!' my ire is starting to rise as i remember each time he shamed me into fishing, cutting worms, taking fish off hooks, having to look at his dead trapped or hunted animals all the while dying inside.
i couldn't let it go, 'she doesn't need to do boy things to be accepted around here dad, she's a girl, and she doesn't like that kind of stuff. maybe it's you that needs to grow up....'
damn, that last line. i was speaking truth up to that point, now i have to make an amend, damn. the anger still makes my hands shake as i realize how much i hate and resent those activities i was forced into to gain any of his approval or attention. or to escape the shaming that was heaped upon me for wanting to honor life, not kill, not watch, not gloat in the dead.
i have a running chronology of pictures of me as a child. my sister and i standing next to dead animals my father has killed. me in my dorky 70's clothes, usually freezing because it's winter. outside next to 8 dead racoon, fox or other rodents. or a deer suspended by it's ankles with it's lovely tongue hanging out looking like it's begging for a drink of water.
i'm realizing now that something died in me each time. he never heard my 'no', he never stopped shoving those horrible specimins in my face just to have some sick, twisted glee at making me squirm. and i am angry, so very angry. how many meals have i had ruined because he insisted on speaking of things not fit for conversation, let alone the dinner table? as my stomach squirms and he just keeps right on going. if i say anything he makes me feel like a baby. shame again. oh this is deep, right down to the soles of my feet.
you see, my little sister seemed to enjoy every minute of it - so she was part of his strategy. if you don't want to join in, we'll just go and do it without you. nothing of the feminine was honored or tended to, or got any of his attention. and there she was happy as a clam to push the hook in to cut the night crawler and put it on the hook.
she's 8 weeks pregnant and couldn't wait to stumble down the mountain with her husband to get to the lake now that the ice is off so they could spend their one day together that week fishing. she married someone just like my dad. maybe deep down she hated it as much as i did, but the attention was just too alluring? maybe she hates it still and can't admit that she knows she'll be home alone while he's out in that boat without her? all i know was as soon as i found other male attention i wasn't fishing any more. yuck.
protecting pink yesterday was very empowering, but not very satisfying. i know it was lost on him. i know most of the conversation i will have with him today will be lost on him too. thank god liam, even though he enjoys fishing, doesn't require pink (or me) to restructure our souls to please him, or to earn time and attention from him. but in writing this i have unlocked something else. he now uses my husband like he used my sister. i'll take him fishing, hunting, etc. and he'll get time with me, not you. and i resent it doubley now because he's not interested in spending time with me, and he's taking my time with my husband away from me too... yuck.
father, my father doesn't get it. he doesn't even have a smidgen of understanding of how destructive things like this were in my past. even explained i am skeptical that he will be able to own or acknowledge any of the emotion that will come from this conversation we need to have today. help me god, to speak the truth in love. to honor my soul in expressing the wounds and to set the boundaries necessary to explain how my daughter is to be honored in her own home. this is a faithless prayer father. i fear it will be frustrating for both of us, that it won't build the bridge i'm praying for, but just leave a pile of bricks from the wall i'm trying to kick down. help me to be okay if he takes those bricks and starts to rebuild the wall instead of meeting me on that bridge. give me word pictures that he will understand, help me to speak the truth slant father, so i am not shaming of him either. amen.