Heere’s Daddy, part 2

Where were we?  Oh right… the parental reunion…
As I watched in disgust, my mother putting on her little show for her ex-husband twice removed, I sensed he was just as phony as she.  I felt nothing for this man who just showed up pretending to be my father after 10 years of being a ghost in my life.
As bedtime came around she announced they’d be sleeping together on the Murphy bed in the living room, (for those who’ve never heard of a Murphy bed, it’s a bed that folds up into the wall).  I was told this was all perfectly normal because they had been married.
They were actually making fun of me and my objection to this sleeping arrangement.  Nothing says great parenting like humiliating your ten year old!  At that moment I felt they should have to live the rest of their miserable narcissistic lives together… preferably without me.
My father was an iron worker.  He’s ½ Cherokee Indian and has that agility and lacks any fear of heights which allows him to walk on girders many floors up on a construction site without a net.  I didn’t get that gene. He was between jobs when he showed up at our apartment.  
His stay ruined my routine.  When I got home from school I had this stranger to deal with and we had nothing in common.  Fortunately it didn’t go on very long.
About two weeks after his unannounced arrival we had his abrupt departure.  I came home from school to find my mother bawling her eyes out.  She was so distraught she couldn’t go to work, but what really kept her home that day was the opportunity to take all her frustration and anger out on me.
It seems his wife, (yes he was quite married during his little romp with the ex), had called with news that his other daughter was sick with the flu, had a high fever, had to go to the emergency room… etc., etc.  She was begging him to come ‘home’ and he decided to do just that.
“This is all your fault!” was how it started when I walked in completely unaware. 
“If you had been nicer to him… treated him like he belonged here… blah, blah, blah… he would have stayed with ME.”  Not US mind you… ME.  
“I hope you’re happy now!  How does it feel to know he loves his other daughter more than he loves you?!”  She was on a roll now… pacing in front of me like a caged tiger.
She didn’t hit me physically but was doing pretty well with the emotional beating.  Looking back I think this was when the physical abuse stopped.  She clearly preferred this type of warfare.
It was almost ten years before dad surfaced again.  Mom insisted on informing him he was a grandfather.  She wasn’t thrilled to be a grandmother at 36 years of age and wanted to share that news with him.
Several months later, on a crisp autumn Sunday morning, I was awake but enjoying the quiet you have to savor when there’s a baby in the house.  No rush to get out of bed this lovely day.  Then the phone rang and snapped that little reverie. 
I thought it was probably my mother-in-law calling to firm up Thanksgiving plans and I wasn’t in the mood.  We didn’t have voice mail in those days so the phone couldn’t be ignored.  If it was her she would think something was wrong if no one answered.  
I said, “Hello”, and stopped myself from adding “mom”.  Good thing.  There was a man on the other end of the line.  He said, “Barb?”  I said, “Yes.”  
 “This is your dad.”
I’m not sure how long the silence hung in the air after that but it seemed like days.  I had so many things running through my head at the same time I couldn’t form words.
Should I ask, “How’d you get my number?”  “Why are you calling me now after 10 years of silence?”  “How’s your daughter doing?”
Luckily he went first.  “I hear I’m a grandfather!”  He said, and sounded happy about it.
I said, “Yep, you have a grandson.  Where are you living now?”  Just wanted to make sure he wasn’t near by and there could be a family get together.  I was relieved to learn he was about 1200 miles away. 
 
I don’t recall how long we talked.  It seemed like eons but I’m sure it was mere moments.  He got my address so they could send something for the baby.  I got his address… so I would appear to care.
It was two years before we spoke again.  I called to tell him he had another grandson.  It was a short conversation.
Fourteen months later I got a very long letter from my sister. 
I’ll wrap this up in the next post where you’ll meet my sister and step-mother.
Thanks for your interest and support of these family stories.  I learn a bit about myself and how I came through all this craziness with my head on (almost) straight as they unfold.  I think I really was born the parent in the family.  Albeit with no control over the children!

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  1. Jotter Girl

    This makes me cry. I felt like I was in that room with you while your mother berated you. Good writing Barbara but such a sad story. I know you say that you are who you are today because of your childhood – I say that about myself as well. Do you think we just say that as a coping mechanism to deal with our circumstances?

  2. Barbara Hammond

    I suppose there's some truth to that Catherine. I think in my circumstances I became rather hard hearted in some ways. I have a pretty low bullshit quotient, which isn't all bad.

    I couldn't have written any of this even 15 years ago, so I know it definitely hadn't been dealt with and processed in any true sense of the word. It started to turn around when I was able to forgive my mother. She did the best she could with what she had. Plus, learning even more recently that she is bi-polar explains sooo much!

  3. Lee Romano Sequeira

    Barb, I cannot even begin to imagine what this could have been like as a ten year old — wow. I know you don't want pity or sadness, so you just keep up the great work by sharing your story, and we'll keep reading! HUGS!!!

  4. Barbara Hammond

    Thanks Lee for 'getting it'.

  5. KCLAnderson (Karen)

    Again, thank you. You are a beautiful woman who is standing in her truth and so you are a wonderful role model to me. I love reading your story!

    I read a wonderful article about how, as an adult, to deal with having been emotionally abused as a child. I included a bit from it in a recent blog post. Powerful stuff.

  6. Barbara Hammond

    Are you talking about the narcissistic mother link? That was very helpful to me. Thanks for your kind words Karen.

  7. Hcdootsie

    How do you stay so happy?

  8. Barbara Hammond

    This is ancient history now. My parents will never change but because of who they are I made better choices in my life. You do not have to be defined by your past. My goal has always been to be the opposite of them. I don't always succeed in that quest, but I try every day to be happy and enjoy my life. My life is how I make it, not how they defined it.
    You can never change history but it doesn't mean you can't start fresh with a better outlook.
    Did that help?

  9. Barbara Hammond

    Wow Karen… thanks so much for leaving this link. Anyone who's been abused, especially emotionally, should read it! It is so true.

  10. Barbara Hammond

    I highly recommend Karen's link above! That's it in a nutshell!

  11. Adriennecarrick

    Wow….how amazing that you came out of all this so completely different from them. It has to be somewhat cathartic for you to put it out there in writing. Thanks for sharing….

  12. Joyce

    Ahhhh, Wicked step-mother and step-sister? hmmmmm, guess I will have to wait to find out

  13. Countingducks

    I have to say this is a really gripping story. It's only a shame that you ad to live it in order to tell it. Your survival is a credit to you

  14. Barbara Hammond

    It is cathartic Adrienne, but the most amazing part is that it seems to help other people who had similar childhoods.
    Thanks for reading and commenting!
    b

  15. Barbara Hammond

    Ironically Joyce… they are more victims than wicked. You'll see.

  16. Barbara Hammond

    Thanks Peter. I've never felt sorry for myself about any of this. It just made me more determined to rise above it all. Now I have the gift of blogging to share the story and help others rise above their unfortunate circumstances. It's all good.
    b

  17. Le Anne Lindsay

    In addition to all the wonderful comments about your sharing these stories from your early life, I also admire the totally engaging, yet matter of fact way you have of storytelling. It makes a good read.

  18. Barbara Hammond

    Thanks LeAnne! And congrats on your 100th like! I have to figure out how to boost my fb #'s.
    b

  19. Sonia Marsh

    Barbara,

    This is tough to read knowing how a mother can make her daughter feel responsible for the emotional, low self-esteem problems of a mother. I know you are now in your early 60's which makes us realize how our childhood upbringing can affect us for life.

  20. Barbara Hammond

    Sonia, I'm not sure I understand what you're saying. I don't think my mother's issues held me back or kept me from striving to live my best life. If anything it made me work harder to have a better life.

    Your childhood does not have to affect you for life, whether positive or negative. There are many people who had, what I would consider, perfect childhoods but they end up in rehab again and again.

    There comes a time when you have to take responsibility for your own life. On the other side of that, as a parent you have to say you've done the best you can and the adult child has to own their mistakes or successes.

    Does that make sense?