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Jaganshi (profile) wrote,
on 6-19-2005 at 2:32pm
Subject: Because Dave told me to...
Fathers Day post about... my fathers, I suppose.

Father number one: the biological real-live-donor-of-genetic-material

This guy is probably not the best role model for anyone. He's the kind of guy who thinks his wife is his, so he can do whatever he wants to her and the people she knows by extension. Highly abusive steroid addict bodybuilder accountant with an odd religious streak. And my father. Kind of a weird inheritance for me when I think about it... which I try not to do. But today seems like an appropriate time to revisit it.

On the one hand, he always wanted me in his life without having to actually be in mine. He lied and he manipulated us all, but unlike my mother there was never any doubt that in his way he really did love me. I was often a trophy to him. He'd take me to church so that everyone would see that he had a little girl, and afterward at the food-and-drink part in the basement, he'd tell all the old church folk how smart I was and how charming and what an independent child I was. While I know he used me as an ornamental piece to make himself look good, he was the only person who ever talked to me like I was an adult.

We'd have discussions about the nature of God, we watched movies like The Prophecy and talked about them for hours afterward. He was always interested in what I thought about things like that. Sometimes he worried that I didn't have any friends up at his house, that I never spent any time with other children. I told him I tried, but that I just couldn't talk to them. The closest thing I had to a friend was the next-door neighbors' daughter: a girl named Raphaela (yes, you read that correctly) who never wanted to do anything but play with her Disney toys, of which she had many. This was fine for a while, but any time I wanted to talk about anything she always disappointed me. It was like someone told her what a child is supposed to act like and that was enough for her. I can't spend that much time with people I can't talk to seriously. He nodded like he understood, which was so surprising to me then that it's the reason I remember this conversation. He never pressured me to hang out with other children again. If I wanted to be alone to think or watch Prancer or read, I was allowed to do so without being called antisocial like I am now. He also knew me better in some ways than my mother ever will. When I was very young, under ten or so, he bought me the entire Lord of the Rings book series, telling me that I may not be interested now, but when I'm older I'll enjoy it. (See also Ashley's three-year obsession with LotR in which she learned a good bit of Elvish.) He gave me a leather-bound copy of The Iliad and The Odyssey with one of those little ribbons to keep your place. Told me that I'd enjoy that, too. He wanted me to have a nice copy of it.

If I maintained any ability to think for myself after long years of isolation with my mother, it was oddly enough due to the most manipulative person I've probably ever met. He taught me much of what I know, after all. He also gave me my loyalty. Out of some deluded Italian Godfather complex, he told me, "Never take sides against your family." Rather hypocritical for him to say, but I took it to heart. Those very few people I regard as family are completely sacrosanct. I will neither harm them nor allow anyone else to do so. This Italian honor also drove me to resolve that I would never break a promise if there was any alternative. A promise made in good faith is something that no person should set aside lightly. He encouraged me to read, he encouraged me to think, and when I decided that I didn't want to go to church sometimes he never forced me. My spirituality was my own, and I was allowed to have my own views on God provided I could support them logically. To a little girl there is nothing in the world like being trusted with your own mind. To me there's no greater love than the freedom to feel as you wish, think what you wish. He gave me a lot, and maybe my mother's right when she accuses me of being like my father. It isn't all bad.

Some of it is bad, however.

The friends he had me around were drug-dealers and sex offenders. While he'd never consciously endanger me, having your apparently charming eight-year-old daughter around your sex offender buddies is probably more than a little irresponsible. My father is quite the white-collar criminal himself. He cheats on his taxes, has been on steroids since he was seventeen, has so many illegitimate children I don't even know how many siblings I have, never paid child support unless he was planning on suing my mother again, and was highly emotionally abusive. He is physically violent with nearly anyone who upsets him, possibly due to long-term steroid use. This includes his wives. He once tipped over the dining room table in a rage, and I didn't find out about it until I found a small glass candle-holder under the radiator. My stepmother told me quietly that it was from the rage he was in a few nights before. They must have missed it when cleaning everything up. He also used to ask me if I wanted to stay at his house for another day or so, and then call my mother and make her believe he was kidnapping me. Probably just to scare her, because he always sent me home when I wanted.

Except one time. He and his wife were yelling at me because I didn't want to stay with him for a whole summer. The truth was, he often made me nervous. I was manifesting a couple of psychosomatic disorders because I was just that on edge at his house. They were yelling at me, and when I cried and asked to call my mother, he refused. He refused to take me home, and refused to let me call anybody. Later when he sued my mother again for custody of me, I had to testify against him in court. It didn't really bother me, because lawyers aren't allowed to be cruel to eleven-yr-olds. It reflects badly on their case. Just the same. Other people seem to think it's horrendous, so I'll record it here for the sake of thoroughness.

He was a man, taken all in all. Even if I did occasionally find his porn or his wife's drawer full of assorted rather terrifying sex toys, even if he often scared me and even if I wasn't totally safe around him... even if I truly never want to see him again... He's my father. He gave me my mind. And I think I still love him.

Father number two: the outdoorsy hippie seven-year-old in a man's body

This was Jeff. He was great. I think I liked him so much because he and I thought alike. This is a good thing for a child, but probably not the best reflection on a grown man.

We went camping and he taught me how I read when I eat. It still drives my mother up the wall that I do that, but for Jeff and me it was a bizarre kind of bonding experience. My father once beat the hell out of him for being involved with my mother before she and Jeff got married. Jeff also taught me how to tie my shoes. He tried to do the whole "The fox chases the whatever around the thing and then they do a square-dance followed by several mathematical algorithms and build a giant robot to fly to the moon" or whatever little mnemonic device they tell children. It didn't work. I told him to just show me how to do it. He did, and I remember him when I tie my shoes.

He spent at least as much time hanging out with his brothers as he did with his wife and stepdaughter, but he was a good man, whatever his priorities were. Apparently my mother divorced him because he smoked pot, and if my father found out she could lose custody.

After their divorce, they were still friends. He occasionally stopped by with a stuffed animal for me or something. I liked him, but he was a friend, not a father. And children don't get very attached to their friends when it comes right down to it. This means that he and I eventually forgot each other. He stopped visiting, and I stopped wondering where he was, what he was doing. Our lives separated amicably, and that was that.

Father number three: The dad.

Mitch was a friend of my mother's before they dated. Apparently, the first time she saw him in uniform she thought he was an arrogant jerk, a ladies man. Then she pulled up next to him at a toll booth. He was in a truck whose name should tell you something: the piece of shit was lovingly named Rolling Thunder. After that she deigned to talk to him, because maybe he wasn't such a slick bastard after all.
They began dating after my mother's divorce from Jeff. He told her on their first date that she would be his wife. She thought he was full of shit. She'd just been married twice, and was not interested in doing it one more time. He was patient.

I guess the first time he met me was when Jeff was still around. I don't happen to remember. The way he describes it, I made fun of him for having really short hair, which he found intensely amusing. He described me later as "a little firecracker" and liked me. He was also worried about me. When my mother called me down to introduce me to him again later, I stood silent with military-style posture until I was directly addressed. He wondered what was going on with this very small automaton. She obviously was capable of thought... but was she doing it? What kind of contrast was it between a free-spirited little girl and this paragon of physical and emotional control he saw now?

He was taken in by my mother, and I didn't blame him for it. He also had a son and a daughter from a previous marriage. The boy and I had minor fights back when Mitch was still my babysitter's father (her name was Elisha and she was quickly out of the picture... gone to live with her schizophrenic mother), but once the two bought a house and we had to live together, that stopped. Each of us needed an ally against my mother, who was by that time slowly losing control. He pulled some passive-aggressive crap, and I knew he was doing it. I resented him too. We were kids. What are we good for if not finding ways to be jealous of each other?

But, as the years passed and things got worse, Mike and I began to realize that we were the only people in the house who knew what was going on. Mitch was still not around enough to understand, and of course my mother didn't know what she was doing half the time. The other half she didn't remember it anyway. For lack of other allies, Mike and I became friends. We never fought after it became clear that neither of us needed one more enemy to keep an eye on.

When Mike left for college, I was glad to see him go. I missed him terribly for a while, but I couldn't begrudge him his chance to get out. To get away from her. He had been trying for years to break up our parents' marriage, and I never faulted him for it. I faulted him for his methods. He thought that creating chaos would solve the problem, so he tried to manipulate them both, tried to get extended family involved. Not only did I not believe this was his place to do, but I knew it wouldn't do any good. I felt the same way he did, but why couldn't he just repress and ignore his feelings like everyone else? Nonetheless... Mike is my brother. He was my friend when no one else understood, and I'm not going to forget that. One of the best things Mitch did was bring me a brother, and finally-- a friend. Mike and I moved in totally different social circles, and I'm sure had we not lived in the same house, he would never have deigned to talk to me. I understood. We each had our roles to play. I think that maybe he hung out with superficial people who would never question him to find out what he was hiding from them. How could I fault him for it? I did the same. We both hid behind an exuberant, eccentric mask so that people wouldn't need to look any deeper to entertain themselves. It was all right there on the surface.

Mitch and my mother fight a lot. They always have, and they always will. It's not the healthiest marriage in the world. Her constantly threatening divorce... him constantly daring her to do it but knowing that the house and the cars have been paid for with his money and she'll walk away with nothing.

Mitch and I have had a good relationship, though. He's the first person since my father who wanted to know what I thought. We can watch the news or the history channel together. We can go see movies like Passion of the Christ and have involved conversations about the nature of God. It was like having all the best parts of my biological father back again without any of the anxiety. My mother won't tolerate philosophical discussions, but Mitch and I sneak them anyway. They bitch to me about each other, but for different reasons. She wants me to feel the way she does... bitter, betrayed, and hateful. All at him. I think he does it because he's lonely. He's spent years with her, being broken down and hated and sometimes all he needs is someone who knows what the fuck he's talking about. He makes it clear to me that if they ever get divorced, I am always welcome in his home, that no matter what my mother says, we're still family. I'm still his daughter. That means a lot to me, even if I'll never tell him. And I won't. Because this is me we're talking about. Most of the people I care about would never know it until I took a bullet for them or something. For some people I would.

Mitch is like everything I liked about the fathers in my life. He has my biological father's intellectualism, daddy number two's love of the outdoors and capacity to enjoy his life.
But more than the previous two, more than anyone else...
He's my father.

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