Father of Mine
He was always the hero and the villain.
He was the one who would come to check up on me with a Kit Kat bar if I was crying over a fight I’d had with my mother. He would stock up on Kit Kats just because he knew they were my favorite. He was the one who would help my little sister and I with homework and let us skip school if we sweet talked him enough. He was the one who would let us stay up late to watch movies with him even though my mother didn’t approve. He was the one who would take us to our favorite “fancy” Burgerville, with the leather seats and the big windows, to watch the cars go by after school for hot fudge sundaes and strawberry shortcakes.
But he was also the one who would make me sleep outside without a tent or sleeping bag some nights, as though I were a dog, for talking back to him. Even though I was only 11, he found that the punishment fit the crime. He was the one who would throw dishes at my mother’s head for making a mistake. He was the one who would drive drunk with his kids in the car, making them fearful for their lives. He was the one who got so drunk for his wedding anniversary that he dragged my mother out of the car by her hair and started beating her as my sister and I begged him to stop. The one who kicked me out of the car just because of a fight we had and made me walk the 4 miles home at 3 am. The one who would smoke meth in the house without opening any windows so that the whole house reeked and I would have to do anything I could to avoid going home.
My father could turn things around on us so well that we really believed it was our fault for making him behave that way. That if only we hadn’t made that mistake, all of this could have been avoided, that we deserved to be treated this way. It didn’t help that my mother always protected him and acted as if nothing had happened afterwards. Even when the cops were called, she stayed silent and refused to betray him. I’m not sure if this was out of love or fear, but it only further led my sister and I to believe that this was normal since there was never any retribution for his crimes. We always hoped that the good times would last even though they wouldn’t. If you were to ask me back then how I would describe my father, I would never have said abusive.
As I got older though, I could start to see the cracks in the concrete. Their marriage was one sided with my mother being the only one in love. They never hugged or kissed. They never went on dates together. He never complimented her or tried to help her with housework. He would make fun of her weight and her poor English in front of their friends. They didn’t even sleep in the same bed. For as long as I could remember, my father slept on a twin mattress on the floor of our living room.
Yet my father was the one I could talk to about my day and my problems. The one I could go to for help. He didn’t gossip and tried to understand my feelings. Unlike my mother who had to tell everyone everything and would change the entire story, proving that she wasn’t even listening in the first place. He would actually listen when I spoke, something my mother struggles to do.
He was great at keeping secrets. So great that he was able to cover up cheating on my mother for 8 years in our own home. He had been seeing multiple other women on the side, most of them were coworkers who were also married. One of them was my mother’s best friend, someone I had known since I was in 1st grade, who we would see all the time, visiting for breakfast on the weekends or movie marathons. Someone who my mother planned a surprise birthday party for and would get Starbucks coffee mugs for when we would go on trips because she was collecting one from every state.
When my sister and I found out about his infidelity, it was through my mother’s friend, Su. She had sent an email to me that was addressed to my mother, telling her to keep Andy, my father, away from her after they had ended things since he had been caught. I must have reread that email hundreds of times. Scanning it for some sort of mistake. It didn’t explicitly say they were cheating, but I could tell something was wrong.
The next day, I went to the Clark County Fair with my best friends, Maria and Sydney,
who I had known since Kindergarten. I was 15 at the time and it was the first time I had ever
gone. I had been looking forward to it all week, but now, the email overshadowed everything.
After a few hours of riding rides, waiting in lines and playing rigged games, I broke. I had to tell someone about the email. We were taking a break from the festivities and eating an array of sweet treats, from elephant ears to caramel apples, in the food court when I showed Maria the email, asking her if she thought it was as suspicious as I believed it to be. Maria nodded in agreement and I turned to Sydney, expecting the same response.
“What the fuck! Why wouldn’t you say anything?” I attempted to stay calm, but all of the lies coming to light all at once were too much to comprehend.
“I don’t know,” she shrugged as if it was no big deal. “My mom said not to tell you.” She redirected her attention to her elephant ear as if this news meant nothing. My suspicions were confirmed, but it was worse than I could have expected. Everyone around us had known he was cheating except for my sister and I.
My mother’s friends had known he was cheating for a whole year before my mother found out, but chose not to tell her because they “thought she already knew.” Sydney was the daughter of one of my mother’s friends and thus had simply found out from being in the same room as her gossiping mother. Everything made sense now, all the pity hugs and people going up to us asking how we were. Even my mother had known for the past 8 months and just never said anything to us, but she had time to tell all her friends.
Thus began the darkest period of my life. I can’t remember a time when I was so angry and filled with hate. I was furious with my mother for not saying anything to my sister and I while managing to tell everyone else. I loathed my father for breaking our trust and ruining my friendship with Sydney. But most of all, I was mad at myself for not figuring it out sooner as I had always considered it my job to protect my mother and sister from his cruel nature. If only I had skipped school and come home early, maybe I could have caught him instead of letting it go on for so long, or if I had noticed the underlying reason for my mother’s massive weight loss the past few months.
I recounted my childhood and everything was different now. Everywhere I looked were reminders of his affairs and it drove my sister and I insane. A few years earlier, my mother, sister and I had come home from a family trip that he had refused to come along on to find him fixing a massive hole in the tiled shower wall. When we had asked him what happened, he said he had put his arm against the wall and it had caved in. It wasn’t so hard to believe considering we had mold covering the ceilings and carpenter ants everywhere you looked. But as it was revealed to my sister and I from my mother, that he had moved one of his mistresses into the house while we were away and they had fallen in the shower.
This loathing constantly ate away at me because he didn’t know I knew. I imagined how I would confront him and scream obscenities at him. How I would let him have a piece of my mind, and everytime I would see him only infuriated me more. He acted so nonchalant as if nothing was wrong, as if he didn’t have a care in the world.
I spent a month crafting my speech, but nothing ever felt right or enough. Nothing I could ever say would ever undo it all. We had put up with his rules and temper for so long, but this was the final nail in the coffin. The abuse had been ignored for so long that it felt normal, so when his infidelity came out, it felt like we had put up with everything for nothing. At least he was ours before.
So I said nothing. Something I had never done before. I had always been the one to talk back and fight with him on everything, but this was something I couldn’t fight my way out of. I stopped talking to him completely, disregarding his presence and ignoring him when he talked to me. My mother ended up finding out my sister and I knew and was the one to tell him. Upon him finding out we knew, he said nothing as well. He never talked to my sister and I about it and swept it under the rug as if we were just going to continue on as we always had.
My sister confronted him about it all, practically begging him to talk to her.
“It has nothing to do with you.” He shut my sister’s questioning down and walked away from us.
I realize now that he was ashamed of what he had done and was too embarrassed to talk to anyone about it, least of all his children. Back then, I had chalked it up to him just not caring.
Once everyone in the family knew what he had done, his meth addiction became a necessity and took a toll on all aspects of his life. His relationship with his mother and brothers became strained as it was revealed to them what he had done. He was fired from his job as a nurse at the elderly care facility for getting into a disagreement with a patient and shouting at them, where just a few months ago, he had been the recipient of the quarterly employee recognition program. My mother still stood by his side, except there was a distance now as she no longer trusted him and would cry constantly. I refused to talk to him and my sister no longer hung out with him. He had isolated himself with nowhere else to turn and found comfort in sedating himself.
As he lost control over everything in his life we saw less of him. Even though we lived in the same house, I could go weeks without seeing him as he locked himself in my parents’ room. Not even allowing my mother in and forcing her to share a room with my sister.
When I did see him, I never knew what to expect as his mood swings were constantly changing. Some days he would chase me out of the house, telling me he never wanted to see me again or would say he wasn’t a bad guy since he “didn’t kill my best friend.” Other times he would start crying and tell stories of his childhood all the while begging me to speak to him. One time, he even wrote me a letter, but I didn’t bother to read it. I threw it away once I saw it, as there was nothing I wanted to hear from him. When words failed, he would throw stuff at me or block the door with his body in an attempt to trap me into a room if I tried to leave, all in an attempt to get me to speak to him.
After ten months of begging my mother to leave him, she finally agreed. I think it was seeing my sister and I so miserable that finally made her realize that things needed to change. At the end of my sophomore year of high school, my mother, sister and I finally moved out.
The last time I saw him was June 2018 while I was packing. I was the last one to leave the house, as I wanted to bring all of my stuff with me. I was determined to leave no trace that I was ever there. Whereas my mother and sister abandoned most of their belongings. My sister had been too lazy to pack and my mother was becoming too emotional as she went through her memories of their life together. My mother and sister had already left for the new house, leaving me alone to finish gathering my things. I was working on my last box when my father came to my room for the last time. I continued to pack up my final box, determined to ignore him and deprive him of the attention he so desired.
“You can stay with me if you want. You don’t have to move out.” He looked down at the ground, formulating what he could possibly say to convince me to stay with him.
“I promise I’ll leave you alone and you can have the entire upstairs to yourself, except for when I have to go to the kitchen.” He smiled in an attempt to lighten the mood. My father took a step forward, trying to see my face and determine my reaction to his offer.
I shifted away from him. He was a stranger to me now. I stayed silent, trying to block out his words.
“I’m sorry, Angie, I know I fucked everything up. I love you so much you know. You’re my little girl, I’ll always love you.”
Tears began to prick at my eyes, imagining how different life could be if he could have been the person we all wanted him to be. I picked up my final box and walked away, leaving him alone in my room. This time, he didn’t try to block the exit to stop me. I hurried down the steps and ran outside. I quickly packed the final box into the trunk of my car and jumped into the driver’s seat. As I drove away from all I had ever known, the tears overflowed and I began to cry.
Angela Mashinski wants to graduate with her AA, transfer to a 4-year university, and get a degree in English. She hopes to be a screenwriter and write movies for a career.