Here is the story of my relationship with my father, Scott.
My dad is goofy. He is. It’s where I get it from. He’s intelligent, hard working, and stubborn. When I was a kid, he was the kind of dad that made all my friends laugh. We played catch out in the yard, took silly family videos, and he let me play on his drum set whenever I wanted so long as he was there to supervise me.
I always thought up until a few months ago that we moved to Iowa just so we could be closer to his side of the family. While that was true, it wasn’t the whole truth.
We came to Iowa in 1999 so my dad could attend grad school at the University of Iowa. He was in the PhD program for psychology.
A lot changed when my mother got sick.
He had to drop down to a masters in social studies education. I remember the year or two in between jobs when he was just a substitute teacher. He was always up a little bit later than my mom, but early in the morning nevertheless. He would sit in bed, news on, and drink his coffee.
Things only got more complicated.
The further my mom’s cancer progressed, the harder it was on everyone naturally. Olivia and I were expected to do more than be kids. I began doing his laundry alongside mine. Olivia took care of our mom’s. We were in and out of the hospital.
When mom died, everything just… died with her almost.
My dad was constantly angry. Constantly. There were the raging nights of things breaking, yelling and shouting followed by intense sobbing. I still did his laundry. I slept in his bed every night just because I missed her so much and I thought that having the extra body with him would help him miss her a little less. It wasn’t until a year later when he bought me a new bed that I stopped doing that. He swore more than he used to. Little things upset him. My sister and him argued a lot. I argued with him a lot. He became much more distant.
I remember him driving us to school one morning and telling my sister and I if we weren’t alive, he would kill himself.
That was a lot of pressure for a 10-year-old who had just lost one parent.
I used to cry at night thinking about that. Thinking what it would be like to not have my dad in my life. I was already robbed of a mother, why not a father too? It made sense. It still makes sense to me.
Things became more tense when he started to see Pam.
At first I was naive and didn’t really understand their relationship. I was excited then… then I got angry.
It was too soon for me. I always thought it was for Olivia too, but she was never one to initiate confrontation. I am.
My dad and I were at odds a lot when I was growing up. I still loved him though, more than anyone in the world.
Pam and my dad became much more serious. He asked Olivia and I if they could get married. We said yes.
I said yes with the impression she would move in with us.
He asked her with the plan for us to move.
Olivia and I were enraged.
To move from the house our mother died in, the house we had stayed in the longest, the home that was our mom’s dying wish that we stay in… it was a crime.
He became enraged with us.
Communication has never been our strong point and thus has been our downfall.
They married. People were always asking me how I was dealing with it. I chose to answer vaguely. I still do when people ask how I like my stepmom. I love her, yes, it’s just that I’ve already had a mom. That’s that.
I never considered our last home in West Liberty home. It was weird living there. Often times, I would offend Pam unknowingly only to get screamed at by my dad lately. It put lots of walls between us. I never really understood what I was doing, but I was a teenager. Teenagers are idiots.
So I moved out before I graduated. My dad said he’d help me pay for it. He never did. I never asked him nor expected him to. It just was what it was. My life was in Iowa City – boyfriend, job, friends – it made more sense.
I never really thought he was bothered by it, but he wasn’t too welcoming to me either. So I never went home my freshman year of college. Thanksgiving and Spring break, I stayed in the dorms when I could. I stayed with my sister for the parts of winter break that I was in Iowa City. The rest of it, I was gone either for marching band or Newman Singers.
It was a good year. We almost never saw each other, but it was easy. My dad called me every morning, save for a few times, because that was when I was first diagnosed with an anxiety disorder.
After that year, I wanted to move back home. I was short on money, all my new friends were going back home, and the idea of going home sounded marvelous. I was crushed when he said no.
He never told me why until much later. Even then, it sounded more like an excuse than a reason. Each time I asked him, he would avoid it and say he just thought it was best. Of course, he’d help me pay for it.
It wasn’t until later that I found out he had used my college fund money to pay for it. That was disappointing.
We got into a huge fight over it. Olivia got involved and didn’t talk to me for over a month. We were screaming at each other in the car.
My dad and I made up a few days later. He apologized for not being clear on his reasons for wanting me to stay in Iowa City. I went home more often that summer than I had my entire freshman year. I would bring pies home from work, do my laundry, escape the messiness of my roommate, go running in their lovely new neighborhood in Muscatine, and sit up watching TV with my dad or talking out on the deck.
It was nice.
My sophomore year came with more hardships. I started to fall apart mentally and went to see a psychiatrist for the first time. I was diagnosed with depression.
My dad could never accept that. He denied it vehemently. I think he took it personally, like it was his fault. He blamed it on the anxiety, which I do believe is a huge factor in it. I still went home frequently. It was my escape from the life that I couldn’t face in Iowa City.
Things got worse. I started cutting in January. My dad continued to deny my depression. I started going on heavier-hitting medication. It messed with me. The first one gave me horrible nightmares of people dying. The next one wasn’t working after a couple of months. After increasing it, my depression became worse and I wanted to kill myself more. I had a plan. My arms were covered in bloody cuts. Many times, I debated showing my dad my shoulders when I went home to try to show him how much I was suffering. I would chicken out every time.
In July, I went to the hospital the first time for it. I wasn’t there long, but they put me under house arrest with him for a few days. It was the first wake-up call for him, and he started to acknowledge it. Then he pretended like it never happened.
I had already switched doctors and found a therapist. It was a wise decision. This doctor wasn’t afraid to prescribe me what I needed. She was conservative on how much she gave though. Because of that, I switched again.
The first visit with my new one, I was in a rough spot. Back to cutting daily, sometimes more, buying box cutters so I could get deeper. It was bad. I was bad. She put me in the hospital because of it.
My dad came a few times to visit me.
In there, he violated my boundaries.
Of course, he wanted to know why my doctor thought was the need to put me in the hospital. I told him. He wanted to know where I cut. I told him. He didn’t ask any more questions.
Then, before he left, when we were in the lobby area, he pushed his hands up my sleeves and onto my shoulders. He felt the cuts. He was feeling for them. He wanted to see for himself how bad they were without asking me.
In my lowest moment, my own father violated me.
I have never looked at him the same since then.
I went and cried in my room for hours after that. The nurses couldn’t coax an answer out of me. My therapist says now that I should have told them.
About a week ago, I was back home, doing laundry, getting some down time before my trip to Florida. I had lost my wallet about a month prior and my dad was just in a cranky mood. After a while, I just didn’t want to be around it anymore, so I opted to tell him that since he wasn’t in a good mood, I was just going to grab my stuff and go.
Then shit hit the fan and went everywhere.
He went off on a rant about how thoughtless I had been lately. How I wasn’t doing enough. How my “depression” and anxiety could be easily fixed if I just did what I was supposed to and thought of others more. That I was blaming too much on my so-called “depression”.
I snapped and hard.
How dare he?
I have an illness. One that I tend to blame everything on myself. I don’t really need reminders of that. Trust me, I’m pretty good at remembering all my shortcomings.
I know I’m not at my prime abilities. But my doctors say this is because I am sick. One of my professors told me, “You would expect someone going through chemo and cancer to have the same standards. You’re no different from that. You’re sick. It’s okay to be sick.”
Olivia begged me to call him.
I sent him an email per Calvin’s suggestion.
I talked about how I couldn’t have multiple people giving me advice when they didn’t have the context behind everything. I talked about how much he hurt me. I talked about how I am sick and that’s a fact that he needs to learn to accept if he wants to help me like he says he does. I talked about how I do need his help, but if he can’t commit, he needs to leave me be.
All I got back was a text message apologizing for “playing therapist. won’t happen again… love… pops.”
He sent me an email again a few days later. It said the same thing, just with more words.
He texted me again yesterday. Hoping I had a fun trip, he’s still there.
I haven’t talked to him.
I don’t plan on talking to him any time soon.