My siblings and I scattered to the far corners of this country as soon as we turned 18 and could legally escape from my parents, particularly my father. I was the second oldest of five. I left second. Matt enlisted and went to Vietnam to escape. My father hated Matt. More because my mother loved him above all others than because his birth caused their marriage and the early end of his education and dreams. He used to say whenever he threatened to leave, my mother got pregnant, as ifhe had nothing to do with it. The truth was, he loved my mother until the day he died. He said all sorts of mean things when he was feeling mean or sorry for himself.
When I could no longer manage the abuses, I called my grandmother and she came to get me in minutes. My grandparents weren’t on good terms with my father. Who was? Nobody was, at least not for long.
He was charming and intelligent and did attract people to him, but eventually he always hurt them. Or offended them with his crude and vulgar preoccupation with ugly sex. I can remember a time when his specialty was S&M. He bragged that he would give the woman a real beating.
He used to edit 8mm pornographic movies on the dining room wall. That it might offend his children never crossed his mind. To this day, at 61, I still have a repulsion to pornography. Back when I was a parole officer in Toppenish I once opened the door of the state car and on the ground was a torn out page from a porno magazine. I looked away as quickly as I could, but the upset lasted for hours.
He became a porn distributor when VCRs came into general use. For a time, he had customers all over the country. I’ve never gotten the whole story, but from what I did learn a woman stole all his money. He ended up broke.
Barbara went to her high school graduation with her bags packed and in her boyfriend’s car. She handed the revised cap and gown to my mother and said goodbye. They never saw it coming. Pretty soon Barbara came to live with me in my little apartment near Brooklyn College where I was in my second year.
Vince enlisted, which was probably the worst thing for him. He was never a good follower. He’s quite gifted as a rebel, however, which made his time in the service difficult.
Steve was still at home when my mother finally split from my father. The bond between them is still very strong.
My older brother molested me when we were growing up, and we have never made any progress mending our relationship, mainly because he has turned out to be a lot like our father: vulgar, crude, devient and selfish. When I learned he molested at least one of his own daughters, I withdrew my previous previous overtures of forgiveness and siblinghood, blasted him with a diatribe that essentially called him to get on his knees and beg forgiveness from his daughters. He responded with invective.
So now our father is dead. The man who abused us is gone. The ashes are in an urn at Steve’s and the discussion is what comes next?
I had a brief fantasy about the five of us going into the mountains with the urn and a good supply of whiskey or some other potent disinhibitor. We would all get drunk and unload our personal versions of growing up with Dad. We would laugh together and cry together. Catharsis. Shared catharsis. Just the five of us and possibly Mom. We all lived through that nightmare together. We would bring our father’s history to a close and together dispose of his ashes. Put it to rest. Find final closure together.
Silly me. We are as fractured, as splintered as ever. That bond that existed between us when we were children trying to survive together is apparently gone, that ship has sailed, and we can’t get it together even for a memorial service. We can’t cooperate enough to find a date when all of us can attend.
Roseanne Lasater is” stillwalkn”