Double Life

While most kids were getting ice cream with their friends on the weekend, I was sitting in a dark makeshift bedroom in a basement. It’s about 9 am and I haven’t dared to go upstairs to eat breakfast because my dad always gets mad about that. Luckily, I brought a book to read which is probably not considered acceptable by my dad’s standards. He is very against anything that he deems “secular” and I simply don’t tell him the kinds of books I enjoy anymore, as there is no sense in starting a fight over something so petty.

In addition to a book, I have my little sister to talk to but she often sleeps away the morning to help ignore her stomach growling. Once we are both up, we cautiously walk upstairs leading directly to the kitchen. We are hesitant to touch anything for breakfast, lest our father punish us because today happens to be a day that he wants to make everyone pancakes. However now it is almost noon and no one else appears to be awake.

About half way through our peanut butter and “yucky” sandwiches, Dad comes down and starts his rant about how we should wait until everyone is up and this is not our house so we need to ask if it is okay to drink the orange juice. The OJ…seriously? Lets not forget that he doesn’t feel it is fair for my sister to use such a large glass for any drink other than water. Besides being stunned at the news we are not capable of making our own breakfast, I am still hungry. Oh and I almost forgot, this is not our house….why doesn’t he just say we aren’t a part of the family? I believe he told us we should behave like guests, therefore, with this in mind he tells us we need to wash all the dishes and clean the bathroom. What!!?? I don’t think I’ve ever asked one of my guests to do that. It’s not that I think I shouldn’t have to help around the house. How can someone say it’s not your house and then expect you perform chores?

This is a mild example of my father’s neurotic tendencies. He didn’t seem to understand that by taking us away all the time, we were missing out on our normal day to day life. I never felt at home in any of the places he stayed in. I didn’t want to invite my friends over because when we were taken away every-other weekend and sometimes just for a few hours in the middle of the week it was all about him. There was always more driving than doing anything. The car was always dirty and smelled like sweat. He seemed to think spending three hours in Lowe’s was an exciting adventure. He never had any money because he wasted all of it on lawyers, first in an attempt to prevent his divorce with my mother, then to make everyone’s(my sisters and mom, eventually my stepdad) life hell. I don’t think he cared what he was in court for he just wanted to prove something. In the end it proves he is controlling. If things did not go his way he fought it.

As the second to youngest sister I was faced with a difficult decision. At the age of 12 the law no longer required that we have visitation. However, knowing that Hannah would be left by herself with him was unbearable. I knew that if I were in her position it would be hard to go all alone. So even after my 12th birthday I continued to go, not all the time just when I could tell Hannah really needed me. And so began the things that will always haunt me, though they are over and I do my best to forget.

In a nutshell, he continued to show up unannounced, call the house when we asked him not to and again bury our savings in lawyers we needed just to keep him out of our life. He wasn’t always like this, there were some times I had fun. Those were before he let his anger consume him. There was rarely a time he failed to criticize my mother and step-dad. He told us she was brainwashing us and he was convinced she was unhappy without him. In fact the only times I saw my mom upset was as a direct result of things he did. I can still see the sadness in her eyes every time she watched us get into his car. It was the fear that we might not return. This was not an irrational fear either, at times I was also convinced that Mike ( I can’t say dad again) would take us away somewhere and refuse to let us go home.

As time continued, the double life became more pronounced. I realized I didn’t even know him. He would show up at school and try to tell us we should go home with him. Once around my birthday he came to where I was working and gave me a card. I cried right in front of everyone after he left and one of the assistant managers gave me a hug and told me I could take a few minutes to collect myself in the bathroom. I didn’t dare read the letter alone so I waited until Jenna arrived (we worked together). She read it out loud to me then asked me what I wanted to do with it. We both agreed it should be destroyed. It was the last time I bothered to read anything he said. Now when these letters arrive I immediately tear them up. He must think this is a possibility because he no longer puts actual money in them, just checks. I imagine this also serves his purpose because he can see if we take the money or not. His behavior is nothing short of bribery. This may be cliche but “money can’t buy you love.”

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