The Death of a Family

It has finally happened. The day has come. A tiny bit of me feels uneasy because I just recently wrote about wondering when this day would occur and now, it has come to pass. Am I clairvoyant? No. But, if I were and could see where all of this was heading years ago don’t you think I would have hit the road sooner?

The man we once called “Dad” is dead. And now, the dilemma over how to react, or not, starts. Do we fake grieve or do we expel a long overdue sigh of relief? Do we cry and if so, how hard and for how long? But, if we do cry is it for the one who has left this earth or is it for what we never got in the first place? It’s impossible to know for sure but the one thing I do know is that I’m not sad he’s gone. I am sad, however, that we never had decent, loving parents. That, I have mourned for the past 30+ years.

There I said it, and while it may sound harsh to those on the outside looking in, the fictionalized version of this long dead family my mother so desperately wanted everyone to believe in never existed. You were duped, or maybe you always knew but just never said anything. Anyway, the instigator of great pain and personal torment is gone. And, here we are, still standing tall despite decades of bluster and boasting from the man who regularly berated, belittled and abused his children and grandchildren. He is gone and I feel no sorrow. How could anyone even ask me to?

The man who used me as a punching bag.

Gone.

The man who enjoyed grabbing a fistful of my hair so he could pull me across the kitchen floor to show me that I put something in the refrigerator WRONG.

Gone.

The man who dutifully went to church on Sunday morning, Sunday night and Wednesday night in order to cement his superior status as the righteous man.

Gone.

How should we remember him? As the smug, sneering know-it-all with a disturbing sadistic side or, as the dream of a kind and loving father we held in our heads? He wasn’t the latter, not even a little bit. Oh, he tried to be jovial at times but what started out in a joking vein usually disintegrated into a cruel strike to the jugular. When asked to come closer to him the first question that always popped into my suspicious mind was, “Why?” Near or far away, it didn’t matter which, he still had the ability to inflict pain. Even in his frail last few years the ever present shame, guilt and anger that he created in each one of us signaled his legacy was still very much in control.

I stopped talking to both of my parents in 2016, for a variety of valid reasons and, it wasn’t until a year or so later that I knew I made the right decision. At first I wasn’t sure and would go back and forth but became very certain upon learning that this man, this self-proclaimed Christian man, who my mother said so deserved his heavenly reward, was revealed to not only be a child abuser but also a child molester. There would be no turning back and I held firm because for so many years I always “overlooked” their past behavior and tried to live by the let bygones be bygones principle. I now understand that this was exactly what they were hoping for, a “just get over it” proclamation with no recourse for any of their victims and certainly no apology. Again, they controlled the narrative, standing together in twisted unity, and we were just whiny children who deserved everything that happened to us. No love from a mother and certainly no love from a father.

Speaking of mothers, mine obviously took great care in writing my father’s obituary. She was his greatest enabler and protector so it’s no surprise that “liberties” would be taken and the truth would be fabulously stretched. I found exactly what I expected when reading the glowing heavenly recommendation for this deeply damaged and morally bankrupt man. The manner in which he was now being eulogized/fictionalized could lead one to think the Earth’s trees should all bow in sorrow to honor the passing of such a great man! Such a godly man!

Great, he was not. Good at manipulating and posturing? Yes indeed! Sure, he held the various positions listed among the multiple conflated exaggerations but did he excel at any of them? No, he did not. This I know because I was there when he held most of these “prestigious” posts but I must have missed the day he was proclaimed “well liked” and “respected in the community.” Was he really? Be honest now. He can’t hurt us anymore so speak freely! We moved around a lot not because he was in such high demand but because he was either running from one bill or another or, possibly, trying to get out of being held accountable for any number of wrongs he may have committed. Who really knows for sure? The expert “Editor” made sure all tracks were covered well. Bravo mom! Good job.

Now, here is where things start to get a little bizarre, but not totally unexpected. When airing grievances about ones own children and grandchildren it is best to keep track of what lies you told to which people. Did you remember to exhibit just the right amount of confusion and innocent wonder over why some of your children did not rush to your side or “at least call” for heaven’s sake? It might have something to do with you vehemently striking out in absolute defense of an abuser and child molester but, it could also be due to you calling me and other siblings liars and embarrassments while expressing that you now know why certain animals chose to kill their young. Good stuff there mother! Good stuff.

Oh, and the person you lamented to? They knew you were lying. Just thought I should point that out. Use a flow chart dammit! It makes tracking lies so much easier. Gosh! Stop being so lazy with your hate tactics.

So, where were we? Oh, yes, documenting the long, slow, painful death of a family. We were a “family” after all. Born of the same parents, sharing DNA, physical resemblances and all that jazz. We started dying the day each one of us became caught up in whatever torment the two of you drug into your too young, too dumb and highly ill-conceived marriage. Each child was placed on the alter of your respective mental fuck-ups and each one of us was sacrificed as an offering to your egos. We had no say. You brought us here and you both worked together to try and destroy us. When it became evident that this was working too slowly another plan was hatched. Why not get us to feed off of one another? Why not plant the seeds of your own angry dysfunction in each one of us and then poke and prod until the fighting begins? Brilliant plan really. Just so deviously exquisite!

For the past 60 years this game has proven quite successful because, fast forward to today, it’s pretty crystal clear when you tally up the hurtful words, personal slights, abusive behavior and our blatant trampling of the feelings of one another. In that regard, dad has won spectacularly. Few of us talk to one another now and even fewer have anything to do with you, dear old mom. Did you see that coming? Dad really fucked you over with that one! Such precision. So much so that you didn’t even realize that the man you deferred you whole life to would see to it that, in the end, you were left with nothing but crumbs.

Game, set, match…

© 2020 L.A. Askew

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