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.
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”