Memoir

Hey Dad, It’s Wendy

I don’t remember the last time I saw you, but I remember feeling happy when mom picked me up early from school and told me we were leaving you. Up until that point all I remember are sleepless nights in a cold house filled with your anger. I remember your screams and shattered objects and the point press of a knife on the skin covering my starving belly. I remember the gun. I remember the way you would drive into oncoming traffic and punch the roof of your red classic car as you told us how easy it would be to end this family.

I remember the sickening acid slime of your touch and how it ate away my innocence.

I remember your rage and my fear. I remember your threat that if I ever told anyone you would kill my sisters and mom in front of me, and then you’d kill me too. Then I remember not sleeping for a long time, feeling like I had to stay awake to protect them.

I remember feeling like nothing. Like less than nothing.

And then we got on a train. Frantic in the dark, looking over my shoulder for you, I shook like a leaf as the tracks rumbled beneath us, taking our battered minds and bodies far away.

And then I remember staying in a home with other broken children, broken women, broken families. It was from within this cathedral of victims that I told what you did. Your evil secret left my lips, then shut them for a long time when I stopped speaking. I watched the truth poison mom and blamed myself. I never wanted to speak again. Like a wounded animal, I just wanted to hide. In the dark. In the quiet.

With your private investigators, hiding from you was an ever-changing game, but we stayed one step ahead of you. When a bomb threat was called in to the court house on the day mom went to fight for custody of us, we knew it was you. When you showed up at our school with photos of us to intimidate the principal into giving you information, they kept us safe, even after you waited outside and ran them off the road in your car that evening for refusing you.

I got used to feeling unsafe. It was normal to go through each day filled with adrenaline and hypervigilance. I was constantly exhausted and underweight. Someone would tip us off when you found out our address and we would move under the cover of darkness to a safe location which never stayed safe for long.

I grew up angry with bouts of rage that reminded me of yours, and I hated myself for it. I would cut myself to spill you out of my blood, to feel the distraction of pain and momentary relief of the psychological anguish that lived in my head. I wrote goodbye letters to my family several times, but a tiny glowing ember at my core provided just enough light to keep me here. I felt lonely surrounded by other people, alone in a crowd, locked up in my tower of memory.

I was an adult when I heard the news that you died. Rare blood cancer poisoned your body and it felt poetic, like karmic retribution for the way you poisoned mine. The weight of your world was lifted from my shoulders and I felt like I could take a full breath for the first time in my life. I didn’t have to peer through the blinds or consider my safety from you. I could sleep without worrying you’d find us and keep your promise. You were my monster, but now you were just a dead old man. I think the day you died was the day I started healing.

I fought hard for my life, never hiding from the truth but drinking it in gulps, digesting it and examining it, desperate to find the other side. I took everything you did and filed it away. I started drawing the lines between what you did and and what I became because of it. Cause and effect. If I recognized you as the cause, I could work to minimize the effect. I took all my rage that I recognized as being from you and I turned it into love. I overcame my fear of speaking and can now give public speeches that inspire others. I took all the suffering you left me with and I transformed it into something beautiful. I replaced my hate with compassion. I replaced my fear with curiosity. I replaced self harm with self love. I’m still afraid, but I do it anyway.

To this day, my first thought in most situations is that I’m as worthless as you made me feel. But now there’s a second voice, a louder voice that is screaming for my life:

I’m enough. I’m enough. I’m enough.

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