Monday, December 13, 2010

Ghosts of my past

When I was growing up I was taught that the man my mother married shortly after I was born was my father. He turned out to be a child molesting asshole. Fortunately I do not remember the time I spent with him and I can barely remember what he looked like. What I do remember of him were the countless psychologists with their dolls where they asked me to tell them what my father did to me. I remember he went to jail and that is the last I saw of him until I was 18, and that was by chance that he happened to come into a store I worked at. And by chance, I was able to hide in the back of the store until he left.

My mom had another friend when I was growing up. He was her best friend and the closest thing I had to a father. I won’t use his real name here, in part because saying his name over and over would not allow me to finish this story without breaking down. It is a name that has been banned from my lips and banned form my thoughts. Today, we will call him “Mike”. Mike was an older man, 10 yrs older than my mother. At the time that my mother had me, Mike was going through a divorce from a marriage that resulted in two children and one very psychotically challenged wife. What is strange about this is that I grew up around Mike, and his ex-wife who spent a lot of time at his house.

Mike had his own vices. He drank everyday, he hung out with drug addicts, he snorted coke, and in the end, he decided he liked girls much younger than him, but only if they were his children. Mike wasn’t the great knight in shining armor that he made himself out to be but it took a long time for others to see it. Mike’s daughter ran away and got married right after she turned 18. She got as far away as she could and built a life for herself that didn’t involve Mike. Mike’s son… well, let’s just say the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. He got caught up in drugs and has spent his adult life in and out of jail for one reason or another.

I was 9 yrs old when Mike told me he was my real father. I went to my mom and asked her about it and that was when she told me that there was a possibility that he could be my biological father. She never told me this because she didn’t want to hurt me and she didn’t want to confuse me. To me, this was great news because I always loved Mike like a father and he was always there for me.

Mike was a fun guy. There was laughter and music. He would start tickle fights. Sometimes his tickles would go in places they shouldn’t but it wasn’t so strange as for it to be a big deal. Mike used to play practical jokes. He used to come up to the window that was above the bathtub and yell “boo” while you were in the shower. This began to happen almost every time I would take a bath or shower. And he never yelled “boo” until you looked up and saw him in the window, staring down on you as you were naked and helpless.

There were only 2 bedrooms at Mike’s house. One belonged to my sister. She and my mother could not get along so my sister moved in with Mike, even though he was not her father. Since there were only 2 rooms and “my brother” (Mike’s son) always slept on the sofa in the living room, I somehow got stuck sharing a bed with Mike when I would come over. There were times that I did not remember taking my clothes off in my sleep but I must have because I know I had one a t shirt and undies when I went to bed and I would wake up naked. It was kind of weird, I never did that at home. I believe I was 11 or so when this started happening. Mike used to comment on my body changes all of the time, pointing out that I was getting taller, my hips were getting fuller and I was developing “buds” for breasts. He always paid particular attention to my body.

Mike had a house on a lake that we would vacation at every summer. There were times when mom could not get off of work to go with us and we would go with Mike. It was a pretty cool place and I actually had my own room there. One summer, when I was 14, Mike invited my best friend to come with us, and somewhere during the course of this trip he tried to convince us to go skinny dipping with him. We refused of course, being shy teenagers and all. He had no problem stripping naked and getting in the water with us. I remember waking up the next day with Mike on top of me, naked. He had pulled my shirt up and had one hand on my breast and was holding himself up with the other. I drew my knee up into his nuts as hard as I could. I then pushed him off of my bed and left the room. I went out to the dock and sat there, unable to feel any kind of emotion about what just happened.
When I went back inside, Mike was making breakfast for everyone and pretending like nothing had ever happened. I spent the rest of the weekend avoiding him like the plague. I barely slept at night for fear he would come back and I was jumpy. I was scared of him, scared of the idea of him. Scared to tell anyone what had happened, and a part of me was scared to lose the only father I had ever really known.
We went home. I was too shocked and embarrassed to tell my mother what had happened that week. My best friend spoke up to her mom and told her about the skinny dipping idea and her mom told my mom… you know how the grapevine works. So she sat me down and asked me about it. I cried. I told her about the skinny dipping idea, and I never let her know about the rest. She was livid. She was angry, hurt, betrayed, and she was so concerned about me. She kept asking if anything else had happened, and I kept telling her no. I didn’t want to hurt her anymore than she had already been hurt and I knew if I told her what really happened she would most likely kill Mike. I mean she does have a gun and would literally have killed him. So I didn’t tell her.
Mom stopped talking to Mike after that. My sister on the other hand, well she still talked to Mike. She still talks to him. She allows him to be alone with her children, she has all faith and trust that he is a wonderful man and not the monster that I know him to be. When I was 18, I was at my sister’s house babysitting when Mike showed up looking for her. I slammed the door in his face and burst into tears. I was terrified. A few weeks later, I wrote my sister a letter, telling her everything that happened and begging her to please stop taking her children, my niece especially, around that man. She responded by telling me she didn’t believe one word I said, told me that my mother had brainwashed me into thinking Mike was a monster and that she was not going to stop talking to him, no matter that it killed me inside.

I still have nightmares about Mike. These have changed over the years. The nightmares that used to haunt me were of what could have happened, what did happen, and a complete feeling of helplessness. My new nightmares involve bumping into Mike and himtalking to my daughter. My new nightmare is that my daughter will find out about Mike and she will know that I have lied to her since she was little. When my daughter asks about my father, I tell her he died when I was little. In a sense it is true. He is dead to me, a part of my life that died a long time ago. It is easier for me to think that he is dead than to know that he is alive and still able to hurt people.

It was after all of this took place that I realized why his daughter (my sister) ran away and got married when she turned 18. I found out years later that he had been raping her and she could not stop him. For many years I was angry with her for it. Not angry about what happened but angry that she did not tell anyone. She did not try to stop it, and she knew he was alone with me. She knew he would probably come after me next and she did nothing to stop it. Then I realized my anger was my own cowardice because I had not spoken up. I had done nothing to stop it.
My life began taking a nosedive at this point. By the time I was 16, I was getting in trouble at school, smoking weed with my friends, I became interested in body piercings, sex, drinking, all things I attempted to use to cover up my feelings. I tried to take my mind other places because I didn’t want to face the reality of what had really happened. I didn’t want to think about my first period and the fact that it didn’t hurt when I used a tampon. I didn’t want to think about my first gyno visit when the doctor accused me of having sex and calling me a liar when I told her I was a virgin. I didn’t want to think about the things that my mind had managed to block out for so long. I just didn’t want to see it. I didn’t want anything to do with my sister who called me a liar, and didn’t believe what I told her when she was the only one I ever told what really happened. I didn’t want to have that happen with anyone else, so I didn’t tell anyone else and it ate me up inside.
When I was 19, I started having a lot of depression, this is when I was diagnosed as being bipolar. I went into counselling to help me deal with all of this. I spoke of my concerns for my niece, I spoke of my heartbreak with my sister. I had heard through the grapevine that my father was asking for custody of his ex girlfriends little girl because she was going to jail for her cocaine habit. I decided it was time to step up and do what his daughter never did for me. I decided to stand up and try to stop it from happening to anyone else. So I met with a police officer who took a report. A week later her called to inform me that I did not have any evidence to support my claim and without evidence no charges could be filed. My father was granted custody of this child, she had an illness that killed her a few years later. For some reason I was relieved that this child died so young because I felt like it was the only way to save her. Every time I would go to counseling after that she would try to dwell on my feelings about all of this and try to make me face ghosts that I wanted to bury. I stopped going to counseling after that.

Like I said, my sister still talks to this man. Still relies on him for money, still calls him her dad and still thinks I made the whole thing up. This is the same sister who spent 3 month in jail because Mike caught her writing checks out of his bank account. And who take care of her 2 kids while she was in jail?? It wasn’t Mike. It was ME. Her sister. The devoted sister who stood by her side through all of it. The sister she later called a liar.

I know other people who still talk to Mike. They don’t know what happened between us because I never told them. I know that in Mike’s living room is a picture my sister gave him of my daughter and her children. I know that Mike asks about me every time he sees one of those friends and I know that he knows what is going on in my life.

Because of this, I cannot forgive my sister. I cannot be friends with her, and I cannot get over my hurt which has manifested itself to sheer rage over the last 11 years. Every time I see her, I am reminded that she picked him over me. Every time I talk to her I realize that I do not like her. If we were not sisters, I would not be friends with a person like this. And I somehow feel guilty that I want nothing to do with her. I do not send her pictures of my kid anymore. I do not chat with her and the only contact we have is when she comments on my facebook posts. I see her maybe twice a year at my mother’s house. She does not know where I live and I do not know where she lives and I am perfectly OK with that. We were never close growing up as she was almost 10 years older than me. Aside from genetics, we have absolutely nothing in common. I feel bad that our relationship effected my relationship with my niece and nephews. I feel bad that I am not there for them when their mom and dad have spent the last 14 years making each other miserable. They finally got divorced. She left him for a married man with 6 children and she has no shame in telling the world she loves this adulterous man. I have absolutely no respect for this woman but I would feel guilty deleting her from facebook because she is my sister.
I have never been able to tell her how I really feel about the whole situation. Maybe one day I will be able to, but I do not have the will to start that war and I know my mother will be dragged into it. I know my mother would choose me over my sister and my sister knows this. I think that is one reason she still clings to my father because she knows my mom would choose me. She knows my mom is there for me no matter what and she knows if it came down to saving a life and we both needed a kidney, my mom would give me hers and would let my sister die.

I decided to share this story after writing it because I know there are others out there, others like me who have been through this and I want them to know that they are not alone.