My Dad died recently and I’ve been contemplating his life and my relationship with him. In particular thinking about what I learned from being his kid. Dads are important role models for kids and mine was no exception.  Like most kids, I started life looking up to him and memorizing his every word and deed.

But quickly I learned to be very careful around my Dad. He was a dangerous man, especially if you were a little person. He yelled and he hit and most of the time was in a foul mood. At two, I hid under my bed when I heard him arriving home from work. This is probably my earliest memory. My brother and sister and I were always in trouble. We didn’t have to do anything. We were in trouble because we were alive. Our being alive was my father’s biggest complaint in life. All his troubles were due to this central fact. It was his view that we should not be alive and sometimes he seemed determined to correct this problem.

There are many stories I could tell to illustrate, but that’s not the topic of this blog. I mention it so that it will make sense when I say that my Dad was my role model for how NOT to live, how NOT to treat others.

He was a master of selfishness. “Take with both hands,” he advised us and “always get even.” “Don’t give anybody anything.” And one of my favorites, “It’s as easy to love a rich man as a poor one.” He was a fount of wisdom, my Dad.

It is fortunate for me that I didn’t believe him. I always knew he was dead wrong. Apparently this showed on my face, which he interpreted as “You think you’re smarter than me.” Naturally these words were a prelude to blows.

At the time, I denied it. But in retrospect, the truth is I did come to think I was smarter than him, though that didn’t seem like much. He was an angry, self-centered sex addict who beat his children and wife and was given to frquent fits of rage.

My father hated me, a fact he made abundantly clear in both word and deed. He also loved me, an emotion he expressed indirectly through inappropriate discussion of his sex life and sexual overtures, up to and including showing me pornography and telling me he wanted to rape me. Well, you get the general idea.

He harmed me in myriad ways physically,  emotionally and spiritually. Somehow he didn’t break me, though it was his declared intention, but I spent many years recovering from the bruises from his relentless blows.

As a young emancipated adult, I once predicted he would die all alone. And that’s pretty much how it went. Although my stepmom lasted almost to the end. But a year before he died, even she had to leave, like the rest of us, in self-defense.

He’d been on house arrest for several years due to sexually offending his female neighbors, all of them. She had to stay home and make sure he didn’t go out or talk to anyone.

A few years ago, I called on his birthday and asked what special thing he had planned to celebrate.  He said my stepmom was going to give him a blow job.

First she left him with a caregiver and didn’t check on him for ten months. When she did, he was filthy and so was the house. She called all of us, but none of us wanted to take on the job of caring for him, so she put him in a nursing home. He lasted three days before he’d sexually offended, and assaulted several other residents and they called the police to have him removed. Back and forth from the psych ward to the nursing home a few times. Then he had a seizure and died.

Problem solved.

Looking back, one thing that always amazed me was his stubborn insistence right to the end that he was right. Women wanted to be touched; all people are preoccupied with sex; you can tell children are sexually aroused because their crotches are warm; all brown-skinned women are prostitutes,  etc. He insisted we were lying when we said no to that kind of attention. He, alone among the throng of humanity who complained about his behavior and treatment of them, was being honest.

He had no friends.

So what did I learn from my father? Something about the folly of being right.

Roseanne Lasater is” stillwalkn”

12 thoughts on “What I Learned From My Dad

  1. Never unfed…private schooled…never homeless…two parent household…I’d rather fight against inconceivable odds than tell him I ran away…he busted my nose twice…tried repeatedly to break my spirit…gashed my face with that damned star sapphire…left more welts on my ass and back and legs with his belt than other men he had use my mother so he could not be such a small and worthless man…used me to “entertain them”…hey kid…give us 5 minutes” and I would whip out a lil stand-up…like all my older siblings I ran at the moment I could…with only one child left to protect my mother left almost on my heels…I wanted so desperately to forgive him…his childhood…brain injury…dissatisfaction with his life…but I couldn’t…and didn’t…and then, at last I thought I could..and would..as I packed for the trip..he died…rotten bastard. Because of him, or dispite him? How is it that I became the man I am?

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  2. We are who we are both because of and despite him. Which is not the same as giving him” credit” for the kind of people we became. I love you, bro.

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  3. I’m sorry you all had to go through so much. I’m very poud you’re my family and I love you beyond words. And, despite all…I think you guys turned out to be creative, independent, strong and spectacular individuals who contribute much, broke the chain and made a difference; especially for your own spouses, children and grandchildren. You continue to inspire. Thank you! Love, little Rose

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  4. Roseanne, I don’t know how to describe my feelings as I read and meditate on what you have written here. The honesty is horrifying, yet the admiration I feel for you (and from the comments, apparently your sibling) is indescribable.

    Your message makes me look at the abused child in a completely different way and emphasizes my own blessed childhood.

    It also gives me a new prospective of an abuser –as a father and grandfather–I understand even less now how a human can be so selfishly inhumane.

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  5. Thank you for being so open and vulnerable about your horrific childhood. I truly cannot imagine going through that and becoming a competent, intelligent adult (which you obviously are). I’m sure that your honesty and openness about your past will be a true blessing to many people. Thanks for your example of courage. Press on!

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  6. It’s hard to comment on this post because it seems obnoxious to make remarks about your reaction to your abusive father’s death, but you asked for comments. What strikes me is that you are remarkably dispassionate and even-toned in how you write about this. Is this a result of choice as a skilled writer or do you really feel distance?

    Part, at least, of the distance is real, I know, because you have succeeded in having loving romantic and familial relationships when, really, he could have destroyed that capacity in you. You were too strong for him and ended up having something he never had.

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  7. Thanks Angie and Christine for your support and positive feedback. I post to make a difference for others who may need to know it is possible to surmount child abuse, even when it is severe. I post because we as a species must stop pretending and start being truthful. I am not dispassionate, but my emotions do not run amock, as I recall they sometimes did when I was newly on my own as a young adult. I post to force people to realize that children need protection. Well I could go on, but I won’t. Thank you.

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  8. Hi, I found your blog quite by accident. I too am a survivor of abuse. My father also hated women, and thought that they were only good for 2 things. One was a punching bag and the other, well I am sure you can guess what that was. It was ironic that my mom gave him 2 daughters since he hated the female population in general. My older sister was from her first marriage, and he sexually abused her, so my mom got her out to my grandmothers house, but she was too afraid to leave him with myself and my younger sister. He always threatened to kill her and throw her body in a well that was out on his mothers farm. She kept my younger sister and I with her constantly, even taking us to the bathroom with her to protect us from him. So I can understand completely where you come from. My mom did luck out a bit, if you can call it that, his aunt wanted him to leave my mom, so she told him she would give him her house if he left. He did, it was a huge relief to us all. Except he would sneak over to our house and beat and rape my mom constantly. Finally my mom remarried and he was scared of my step dad.That was the greatest moment of my life. I do have to admit when I saw him a few years later, I did threaten him if he ever came near any of my family ever again. I am not proud of that moment, as after I said it, I said to myself that I was no better than him. I now have 2 beautiful children of my own and I am teaching them how to love and respect, and I just keep praying daily that I have broken the cycle of violence that my father taught me. My mother passed away a year ago from cancer, and I couldnt help for just a brief moment wonder what kind of justice it was that she suffered more pain before she died, and that my father is still walking around in good health….but am always sure that God has other plans. God bless you Roseanne and thank you for sharing your story with us.

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