***If you are visiting this page for the first time, please do look at the previous posts in this section. This is my story and it will all make more sense if you begin to read where I began to write***
This section has been so heartbreaking to write:
My first appointment with my counsellor was, as to be expected, a little awkward. I wasn’t sure what would happen. I was very nervous. I’d never in my life envisaged myself in this situation, sitting here in front of a stranger for some kind of therapy. She was gentle and did all she could to put me at ease. It hadn’t been an easy day. Dad was in hospital and he was being very difficult, arguing and threatening other patients.
As I sat there, I felt guilty on so many levels. I was also ashamed and embarrassed at the prospect of telling anyone what I’d done, what I’d allowed to happen to me. Because that is how I saw it.
She listened as I began the sketchy outline of what had happened to bring me to the position of sitting in front of her on this dark February night.
By the end of that first session, I felt that she had some idea of my story and also of the more recent circumstances, which had brought me to the point where I felt compelled to disclose my darkest secrets.
I can see now that those circumstances had been building since before Christmas 2019. Dad had always been a very self-centred man, I think it was just in his nature, possibly because he was the youngest, and by far the youngest of five. Recently, he was being increasingly demanding. He had got to the stage where he was unwilling to do very much for himself at all. He had refused to join in the Christmas festivities, which in itself was not unusual. For some reason, dad had always hated Christmas and made sure we all knew about it, even as children. He always said he found no joy in any of it. He’d never joined in the excitement when we were younger. He’d never played our games with us, or helped to put things together. That had always fallen to mum to do, for as long as any of us can remember. Dad has always done things with us that he chose to do, things he enjoyed. We were always welcome to dig worm and go fishing with him!
Not too long after mum died, Dad joined an Internet dating site and we would always know when there was a new lady on the scene. He would be straight on the phone and round to our houses immediately in order that we meet the new lady.
This meeting almost always included dad announcing that they were very serious about each other and were making long term plans. This fact was usually declared in front of whichever lady was current and much to their embarrassment. It was always clear that they were not of the same mind!
Dad was possessive, intense and insistent, and one by one the ladies he tried to strike up a relationship with made a hasty retreat.
So here we were, December 2019 and dad was miserable because of the absence of a ‘lady friend’. He didn’t currently have a lady in tow and he was miserable and making sure we all knew it.
However, in January 2020 we began to worry that there was something more amiss with dad though. His behaviour was becoming rather bizarre. He also seemed to be increasingly forgetful. He stopped taking care of himself. He stopped shaving and showering unless I made him do it. He told us that when he went out, he sometimes forgot where he had parked his car. There was also evidence that he wasn’t eating properly. He began telling us that we didn’t care about him and that we never went to see him, so much so, that we began to write on a calendar each time we visited and we put a WhatsApp group together as a family, just to update on dad. This was when my visits began to increase to three times each day, with my younger brother and sister visiting whenever they could.
I cleaned, I washed, I prepared all his meals, often taking him a portion of a meal I had made for my family at home. He reached a stage where he wouldn’t eat the meals though, unless I sat with him.
As the visits progressed there was another turn. He repeatedly began to tell me how wonderful my mum had been and how he could not have had a better wife. He even told me that there had never been a cross word between them. I worried. Was this dementia speaking? I’m really not sure that it was, as he wasn’t too bad at this time or at least it was in its early stages. I felt as if he were trying to convince me into believing something that both he and I knew to be untrue. So many times it was on the tip of my tongue to challenge him. If she was the light of his life, if she was so wonderful, then why the other women? Why the affairs? Why push her to the point of attempted suicide? But the words always remained unsaid. Dad had a weak heart and I didn’t want to upset him or make him ill. On the one occasion I did ask him about the woman he had an affair with when I was seven, he denied all knowledge of her, said he’d never heard of her.
The words I wanted to say, the questions I wanted to ask remained unsaid, but the anxiety they were causing me grew steadily, day by day, week by week, month by month as he took more and more control over my everyday life. Eventually I reached the point where I would get into my car and sob all the way home, so stressful were the visits.
And then came the day when he didn’t say, as he usually did
“You are so like your mum.”
Instead he said, “You’ve taken your mum’s place now. It’s a pity you can’t just stay here with me.”
“No!” the voice in my head screamed, “No!”
As I started up my car engine that day, my whole body was shaking. I knew I couldn’t continue like this. So much came flooding into my mind.
He was the dad who couldn’t recognize there was something terribly wrong with this seven year old daughter. He was the dad who was too wrapped up in an affair with my mum’s best friend to see what was happening in front of him. He was the dad who failed to see the trauma his sixteen year old daughter was suffering, because he was too busy causing her additional stress trying to persuade her to accept and befriend his mistress.
He was the dad who had always put himself and his needs first.
The fact I was facing was that he was always there in the midst of the abuse I had suffered, but he was never able to see it, because all his concerns were for his own happiness.
I recently spoke to a close friend who has a daughter the same age as our own and I asked him honestly, if she were going through something awful in her life, would he be able to tell?
“Always,’ was his reply.
Could he imagine not being able to recognize if there was something terribly wrong?
Here I was dealing with a situation that was tearing me apart and once again, my dad was a key player in my stress and unhappiness.
He had broken my mum and now I knew he was breaking me. Every horror, every nightmare and demon from my past was coming back to haunt me. I wasn’t sleeping, I was that seven year old girl being sexually assaulted by a stranger. I was the sixteen year old girl coping with his affair, his mistress and a mother driven to distraction. I was the sixteen year old girl trapped in an destructive and horribly abusive relationship…