Loving Our Abusers to Death
Copyrighted by Lorna Tedder. Originally published in Third Degree of Truth.
I am holding my breath.
It could be tonight or it could be next week or it could be next year. But I know it will come. It comes for all of us, but it feels especially close for him. For Daddy.
He’s 80 now, and his illness is terminal. Mama was upset that his doctor didn’t explain that it was terminal. She had to find out on that heathen Internet I introduced her to, the demon that’s become a lifeline in her isolation as full-time caregiver. But at 80, giving a person another couple of years to live could be longer than their natural lifespan anyhow, so why burden them with a death sentence on top of what already waits?
I’ve made my peace with it. No thanks to him. He’s
still guilt-tripping his kids and arranging “falls” that demand we drop everything and race to his side, even if it means we go without pay to be there. He loves us, I know, but in that controlling way that says “You must earn every last drop of my love and if you ever screw up the least little bit, I’ll withdraw all my love and give it to someone else because anyone else is more deserving that you are.”
It’s raw and no longer bitter or angry. It just is.
He’s a manipulative son of a bitch who poured all of his fears and darknesses into his wife and children. Who used to break doubled leather belts over the backs of the little boys who were my brothers and tell me how much he’d love me when everyone else would fail me and rest assured, everyone else would fail me.
He’s bipolar, I believe, though his doc didn’t say the word aloud. I know for certain that he is physically, verbally, and emotionally abusive. Some wounds never heal and other leave scars that heal but are a little numb around the edges.
It has taken me a long time to purge his venom and his doubts—to the extent I have—and I cannot confront him—ever—to tell him how badly he hurt me. If I did, then I’d have the rightful guilt of giving an old man a heart attack or either he’d blame me for whatever medical condition pops up next. That, too, is the way it is…using his health issues to manipulate and keep his family close. It is what it is.
It’s been 6 1/2 years since I helped him sit up in the ICU bed and listened to his funeral instructions and the joy he seemed to take in giving them and in Mama’s crying. For Gods-make-it-stop sorrow, very few experiences in my life surpass that moment. Then again, he died and came back. He got a second chance, something most people don’t get. A chance to make amends. A chance to turn over a proverbial new leaf.
Like most people, he was happy to get that chance.
Like most, he let it dissipate as he slipped back into making life hell for those who loved him most.
When I decided to start over a couple of years ago, I vowed not to waste my chance. That’s a lesson I learned from Daddy. Maybe the best one he ever taught me, and there was no pear tree switch or small pecan limb applied to my legs—until they bled—to punctuate the learning experience.
But for now, all I can do is wait, try to make arrangements to see him as soon as I can take off from work. I don’t know if he’ll be there next time I go back home, or if I’ll have waited too late. Or if there’s much use in my being there at all. As am empath, I find that he is in so many ways oh-so-painful for me to be around. I want this to pass and be done with. There’s no getting better, just getting through.
Meanwhile, I am holding my breath.