Letter to My Father (the Perp)?

You never know. The item that just crossed my virtual desk is a call for submissions to Letters to our Fathers from Daughters: A Pathway to Healing and Hope. Phew! I feel like a large hand has just met the small of my back and given me a push forward. Whether this is an invitation to take a giant step or to fall and scrape my face is not yet clear.

Nonetheless I started roughing out such a letter. In it I tell my father that disturbing memories came to me after he died twelve years ago. Some of the memories carried clear details, while others were unclear yet vivid body-memories. I remember the hushed night-time conversations between him and my mother, stuff like “She’s too young to remember,” “It’s not like she was raped,” and “She’ll be OK, just let it go.” I need to tell him it’s not like that: I wasn’t OK. I did remember.

I need him to know that his incest did affect me big-time and long-term. Sometimes I wish he were still alive, if we could have that ideal conversation survivors long for—the one where he abjectly apologizes and wonders how he can ever make it up to me. Where he acknowledges my pain and the damage he did.

Lacking that conversation, am I ready to proceed in this letter, and in the memoir I’m writing? Am I ready to go to the next chapter where my love for him comes back through? I don’t know yet.

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The Inner Child and Christmas

I don’t need to tell you about holiday stress—everybody knows it. And people who are in touch with their inner kids know that the holidays, especially Christmas, bring up lots of feelings for these little ones. There is so much mythology about happy families that those whose families were unhappy get their noses rubbed in expectations that will never be fulfilled.

And when families are mixed—partly happy and partly unhappy—as so many are, the Christmas is a confusing time for little ones. My dad was like a child inside (for better and for worse). He loved to give things. But he hated to shop and he put it off till the last moment, then got furious with himself and took it out in anger and grumpiness with everyone around him. I had no idea as a child what was going on—I could just feel the anticipation, both mine and his, and then the waves of anger. What was happening? Had I done something wrong?

It’s supposed to be a time of togetherness and giving. But for some of us who were abused as kids, closeness was danger, so how can we rejoice? It’s supposed to be a time of parents giving tenderly to their kids, but if the parents are warped, how can they give in a simple heartfelt way? Parents may give with an edge of anger, or set up highly unreasonable expectations that the kids will be completely happy and good. They may give many presents but withhold that most important ingredient—love.

This most generous of holidays reminds us all the more of our deprivation. It’s an important time to make space for the inner child and to nurture him or her with love and attention, not so much with material things.

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