My Father’s Birthday

My father’s birthday is tomorrow. If he were alive he would be 108 years old. I simply cannot imagine that. I don’t think that’s odd; I doubt if anybody can imagine a parent living to 108.

I had a consistently unhappy relationship with my father.

For the first few years of my life, I hardly knew what he looked like, even though we all lived in the same apartment. He had not wanted children, and when my brother or I entered a room he was in, he was, he would get up and walk out. He just couldn’t bear to see us.

Years later, I understood. He had been abused like I was, and by many of the same people. Although he wasn’t aware of this, unconsciously he didn’t want to pass on the abuse. And I give him a lot a credit for that. But my mother yearned for children, and so my brother and I were born despite his wishes.

When he returned after the war, he showed interest in me. He thought I was bright and talented and that it was his position to correct the mistakes my teachers were making. If he saw something I wrote, he covered the page with dense red annotations. I had to rewrite it including all his corrections.

He also did intrusive sexual things to me. Dancing with me (and dancing too close). He instituted a formal kiss when we said hello or goodbye to either parent and held me really close when kissing me. Kisses on the cheek turned into kisses on the mouth and then to French kisses. As I got older, he did things like ask me to go to “Deep Throat” with him. He had never before suggested we go to a movie together.

That was the day life. Night life was, to say the least, not as delicate.

A the end of his life, he called me to him and said I was the only one he could trust to follow his wishes. He did not want extraordinary measures taken to prolong his life. However, he felt I needed to know that if I did what he wanted, it would be considered murder in the State we lived in. So I was given the choice of murdering him or of torturing him on his death-bed. Thanks, Dad! I did nothing, and he died shortly afterwards.

For many years I was enraged and wished he would die. When he actually did, I panicked. It felt like the world was about to end. I was afraid to go to his funeral, but my cousin gave me some tracks and I managed to get through it. I was a wreck for about two years afterwards.

Later, I figured out that he had wanted me to take over his role in the cult and that I needed to kill him to do so. No wonder I was such a mess.

As the years passed and I got more and more information about the hidden part of my life, I came to a different understanding of his behavior. In my mind, he changed from my persecutor to just another person who had been horribly harmed from childhood by the cult. Just another victim. My hatred diminished as my understanding grew.

Today, I feel really sad that he did not have the chance to remember and change his life. He tried, I know he tried, but he could not break the amnesia. There was no knowledge of the effects of childhood trauma, even severe trauma, in his life time. Nobody talked about it, nobody was aware of it. Nobody was a “survivor” — e.g., aware of their abuse. Nobody could meet another survivor and realize that they weren’t the only one.

I am so very grateful that ritual abuse is talked about today, even though it is often mocked and denigrated. If it were not for the influence of twelve-step programs and the women’s movement, nobody would have permission to talk about taboo personal experiences. They fostered an openness, a willingness to speak about previously unspeakable things.

And so, when my first memories came crashing over me, others were already talking about ritual abuse and multiplicity. On television, even. That gave me permission to take my memories seriously and gave me, instantly, a welcoming community. If my parents had lived to experience a community of ritual abuse survivors, who knows, they might have been able to renounce the cult and become survivors themselves.

If my father’s spirit is in a better place, I only hope he now knows he is no longer alone, has forgiven himself, and knows that my feelings toward him have changed completely.

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16 thoughts on “My Father’s Birthday

  1. Hi Jean
    This blog gave me a spectrum lens to see how significant progress each day from the day of the occurrence of the abuse occurs that one can work toward a lesson the sleep in ones soul and spirit. I too am glad that there are movements that want to hear about such abuse..in order to give the voice to those who can not speak up when sa occurs. Thank you for your honesty and humbleness in your words…
    Leigh

  2. That is pretty much how I view my own parents. Not that I trusted mom when she was alive or trust my dad now, even though I do have “relationship” with him for the first time in many years. He lives far away, thankfully, but I have seen him on a visit he made up here at my invitation. Big steps. Cautious steps. I feel for him. He is in counseling, but I don’t know that he will ever break through the amnesia. He knows I remember things, but I won’t tell him what I remember. He needs to “know” it on his own. I don’t want to plant anything more in there than the minimal I already had to plant.

    1. I think you got a lot more from your father than most pple do. Maybe he went through a stage in the past when he denied everything and said you were crazy or lying and the years have given him time to come to terms with the idea that he might have done things that he isn’t aware of. I think you are very very wise to be cautious and take things slowly.

      1. I have definitely gotten more, including some old family photos and such. He definitely attacked me years ago. Our communications for many years were limited to a few terse emails, many of which (from his side) sounded a bit bizarre and did not relate to what I wrote him. Little emails.

        My mother died. He remarried…way too quickly…at my mother’s prompting. Oy vey! Such dysfunction. He was caught between trying to grieve his 1st wife of over 50 years while being a “happy” newlywed. Less than 4 years later, she divorced him and won’t even speak to him. It appears that his stuffing was finally coming out and causing him to have episodes he says he does not remember. So, he is in counseling.

        He says it is hard…and I empathize. Our contact is still limited. He has been clearing things out, preparing for the fact that he is elderly. So, he was sending me all kinds of photos. I had to tell him to stop as it got overwhelming for me. But it was nice to see them. Frustrating in not knowing who a lot of the people were. I hate to throw them out, but if I don’t know who they are…who will? Mom is gone. I have no idea to whom I should pass them on. Know what I mean?

        And, it is like going through someone’s estate before they die. That is not a bad thing, but it does feel like an “ugh” thing. Does that make any sense at all? LOL

        1. It does make sense. Seems sort of creepy, though.

          But being nearer your father’s age than yours, I can tell you it is pretty normal on his part. It seems like there is something wired in to accumulate things when young and divest of them when you are old. Like making a nest and then dismantling it. Of course normal always has a little twist if somebody has been part of a cult. I have lots of things I don’t want any more but luckily (and thanks to a lot of hard work) I have good relationships with my kids. So I always ask them if they want something before I send it to them or give it away or recycle it. Well, not everything, like clothes with holes in them. LOL

          Is your relationship with your father strong enough to ask him if he would write the names of people on the back of photos if you sent them to him? Maybe it would be better to jusy not know.

          1. He did write some, but he does not know a lot of them. My mother would have known. He was sending stuff to me to decide what I want to do with it instead of me dealing with it all at once. I think he figured the photos were a for sure thing…and they actually are. But I am just overwhelmed enough with “life” to take on more.

            It’s funny. I never really thought of having to go through any stuff. They were far away and without my contact info. I just sort of figured out I “might” find out some day they were gone and that would be that. Know what I mean? The idea of dealing with an estate never occurred to me.

  3. Thanks for keeping the conversation alive and giving voice to other survivors. Just learning about the details of my past. The validation means so much. Thank you!

  4. Beautifully, painfully, brutally, elegantly full circle. Thanks Karen

    On Sat, Jan 30, 2016 at 11:46 AM, Ritual Abuse wrote:

    Jean posted: “My father’s birthday is tomorrow. If he were alive he would be 108 years old. I simply cannot imagine that. I don’t think that’s odd; I & doubt if anybody can imagine a parent living to 108.”

  5. I can relate to the death thing. My dad asked me to come take care of him which was 3.5 years until his death. It appeared that he may have been murdered even by a nurse. Hard to say for sure. But I came unglued and also due to losing the control he held over my psyche. It seemed like I began to expand out and come unglued without that fear and control. Learned alot about herbs and aromatherapy during the past two years.

    1. Oh, wow three and a half years is a very long time. I don’t know I could have done it. And I lived far enough away that I only came on weekends. I think it’s great that you responded to the unglue-edness by turning to herbs.

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