What can I say about what happened that night? Am I surprised? Am I hurt? Do I have anyone to blame but myself? It felt as though I’d fallen into the same stupid trap I have done my entire life. I drove away in my car very upset with myself and thought when will I ever learn? The funny thing was there were no tears left to cry, and I wasn’t broken and crushed. I braced myself for the familiar searing pain but it never came. At first I thought it was because I was in shock and my head was spinning. I tried to force myself to feel it but it just wasn’t there.
The words you spewed at me were ugly and familiar. You had daggers in your eyes and told me it was my fault. I was to blame for the pain and scars that my childhood abuse left behind. You said I chose to suffer due to my lack of faith. More exactly that I was stuck because I refused to receive God’s love. I wasn’t prepared for you to say those words to me – again. One minute you admitted your insensitivity towards my sister and I – and the next it was our fault. So which is it? Your sucker punch knocked me back 33 years when you first said those very words to me. Back then I was naïve and I believed you. Those lies sent me spiraling down the wrong road for a long time but somehow I was able to find my way out.
I didn’t understand until later that evening I had been given a gift. The moment when you repeated those false and vile words I had come full circle. I had been given the gift of a do-over. It took me a few seconds to process the sting of your words and I immediately responded. I looked you square in the eyes and said It has been through the love and grace of God that I am where I am today. He has rescued me from my deep hurt and pain. My problem isn’t with God – it’s with you. You told me a long time ago that it was my fault but that is a lie. I accepted your words as truth back then because I didn’t know any better, but I do now. In fact I give those words back to you in the name of Jesus because it just isn’t true.
My words ignited such rage in you that you jumped to your feet and continued to spew your anger and lies. Is it because my abuse is too much for you? As I listened to your tone and words and watched you react in fury – I recognized the truth. Nothing has changed. You are incapable of feeling anything but enmity and bitterness towards me – it’s where you made our relationship reside. The last five minutes of our conversation felt as if I stepped outside my body and watched from the sidelines. Once I stood up for myself and didn’t swallow your untruths you were finished with me. You attempted to force your phony affection towards us and made it an ugly scene. There wasn’t a respect for space as I literally had to hold you back with my arm. What you think is love I find to be hypocrisy. In a strange way that night you helped set me free.
My whole life I watched you help other people. Relatives, friends and even strangers. All because you belive that’s what your faith requires you to do. You gave money, opened your home, gave things, your time and your prayers. All I have ever desired is your emotional support and to be loved. Yet those are the things you withhold from me. The things you choose to give me prick my wounds and deepen my pain. It has always been perfectly clear how you feel. The problem is I just couldn’t accept it. You did tell me never to ask you for anything and we would be okay – except that wasn’t true. We are far from okay.
You’ve belittled my husband and judged my children.
Criticized my parenting and my faith.
Spoken negatively about me to others.
When I was ill and bedridden you lied and told others I had HIV.
Took in my abuser and supported him.
Laughed at me when I was hurt.
Ignored me when I was broken and shunned me.
When I finally had the courage to face my abuser in your home you remained quiet.
As a child you allowed people to sleep in my bed and never made sure I was safe.
Refused to give me the address of my abusers so I could write them a letter as a step in my healing.
Told me to my face that you wish you could feel love for me.
Lied to me.
Like a dog I’ve returned to the vomit of our relationship over and over again. Willing and ready to accept whatever scraps you’d give me. I picked up the pain, ache and disappointment you left and made myself believe it was affection. I refused to acknowledge the truth because I loved you and needed you to love me. I was so caught up in that I didn’t see that each time I grasped what you gave it lacerated me. Cut after cut into my heart and soul caused me to profusely bleed and eventually no amount of pressure would stop it. I was in distress.
It’s been a winding and difficult journey and now in a place where I’ve begun to heal. As much as I yearn for a connection between us – I can no longer accept what you offer. I honestly believed the last time we met things would change. Why else would I agree to meet? Restoring our relationship was important to me, but it quickly became clear it wasn’t possible. My heart dropped to my stomach and the little girl inside me was shattered. All these years she never gave up hope. Something stirred inside me though that I never experienced before and things just clicked into place. I no longer operated out of a place of brokenness and desperation. As it continued to play out I felt deep sorrow because I knew in my heart it was over.
That night I finally had the strength and courage to do something that was long overdue. I stopped dysfunction and cruelty in its tracks – set boundaries and chose to walk away. I ended it. Sometimes it feels like it is impossible to recover from my abuse. I learned through this unfortunate exchange that I am healing. I had such resolve speaking to my dad that night and the words just flowed out of me. It was hard to keep up as if they took on a life of their own. Each word cleansed my infected wound created by lies and pain allowing it now to properly heal.
How many times have you ever wished for a do-over? A chance to change what you said or did in a moment that you can never get back? I unexpectedly had the opportunity that night to do just that -and I’m so grateful. I learned that I am recovering and healing from the past, and although the truth can hurt it will also set you free.
The healing process can feel very much like drowning. You hold your breath as you desperately claw and kick trying to make it back to the surface. Living in a constant state of panic hanging onto hope of filling your lungs with air again. Determined to survive. If you can fight past the fear and push on it will take you to a place of redemption and retrieve what has been lost.
Although I didn’t get the ending that I wanted – I didn’t walk away empty-handed. In closing the door to my painfully dysfunctional relationship with my father – I opened the window to healing and peace. I no longer wait for kindness, care, authenticity and love because I now give it to myself. Walking away was the first step. It took over three decades and I can honestly tell you it was utterly and completely possible and worth it!