Shadows of the Past Part II

When the divorce started Dad had tried to convince all us kids to hate Mom. His favorite saying was: “She abandoned us Keith.” My dad wasn’t the nicest guy. He looked like a maniac with his Charles Manson goatee and perpetual pissed off expression. For no reason or prompting he’d slip into fits of rage and when things don’t go his way he’d explode on everyone around him. In all honesty my dad was what any sane person would call abusive, but before the divorce the abuse was all I had ever known, and because I knew nothing else I never honestly labeled it in my head as abuse.

When I was a teenager I told my friends horror stories about my dad and labeled him as abusive, because as we all know, that’s just how teenagers are. The relationship between us had always been awful, we never saw eye to eye, and most days ended in an argument only comparable to something from Clash of the Titans. But back then I never actually understood in my mind that what was going on was really abuse. In my own pubescent little mind, I was just expressing my angsty little self.

I remember one time when we still lived in Vegas my parents got into an argument. I can’t remember what it was they were arguing about, but soon they were yelling at each other in the kitchen. My dad cornered my mom by the fridge and brought his fist up and started jabbing at her face, getting as close as he could to her without actually making contact. Then as my mom tried to free herself from his trap he hit her. Blood started to rush down her face as she clutched her nose. I watched my mom run into the bathroom crying.

Dad looked at me and told me to go to my room. Later that night when he drove me to my friend’s house to spend the night he said: “Keith, I don’t want you tellin’ anyone what happened tonight. You understand me? What goes on in our house stays in our house. Our family business, stays in our family.”

Things happened in our house that shouldn’t have stayed within our family, but did. Like the time Dad beat Jet’s head into the wall for taking his camera out of his room without permission. When he tried to abandon my older sister Gwen with Grandma so he had one less kid to take care of. All the times he’d get mad at Mom and bring his shotgun inside and cock it in front of her to remind her that he could end her life at any time. Or when he grabbed our English Springer Spaniel and threw him out into two feet of snow by the neck for pooping in the only shoveled path in the backyard from the house to the garage. All of us had seen darkness, but neither my brothers nor myself recognized it for what it truly was.

Needless to say I didn’t get kicked out because I was some terrible kid who only caused trouble. As the pattern with my father goes, it all started over something small. One day in March, just one month after I got home from Brazil, Dad and I went into town to run some errands and things didn’t go as he had hoped. He had gone to sell an old clunker car to the local junkyard in order to make some quick cash. What I didn’t know was that this was illegal at the time since all the assets to the house were frozen due to the divorce.

While we were at the junkyard, the car wouldn’t come off the trailer, and in his haste to be rid of the thing he tried to pull it off by tying a rope from the car to a large truck in the yard. The plan failed, and the tires dug themselves into the soft gravel ground stranding the truck where it was. This sent him over the top, and after we had gotten some help to get out he went silent.

As we drove through Spokane we sat in silence. I watched as the pine trees blurred past us and listened to the rev of our old burgundy Chevy. Dad pulled off into the parking lot of a Fred Myer and parked.

“I gotta piss. You comin’ in?” He growled as he opened his door and got out.

“Yeah sure. I’ll go check out the electronics. Just come get me when you’re done,” I explained.

“Sure.”

I went into the electronic section and figured I’d catch up on all the stuff I had missed out on over the last two years. Ten minutes passed and Dad still hadn’t come to get me. “That’s one heck of a piss,” I thought to myself.

I walked to the bathroom, but it was empty. My heart started to beat faster. “No he wouldn’t,” was all I could think as I rushed out into the parking lot. The old burgundy Chevy truck was gone. Dad had abandoned me at Fred Myer. What was I going to do? I didn’t have a cell phone, and we were a good twenty plus miles from home so I wasn’t like I could have just walked back.

Quickly I thought about everything he had told me concerning what he planned to do in town. I remembered he said he was going to stop by the bank. And his bank was in this shopping plaza! I ran around Fred Myer and there across the lot was the old truck. I ran over and hopped inside. I thought maybe he figured I knew his bank was right here so he’d just come back to get me when he was done, but when I got inside there was no, “There you are!” or “Where were you?” just silence.

Infuriated by the time we got home I went downstairs and packed everything I could into my suitcases. Just as I was about to leave Dad knocked on my door, opened it and saw that I was packed.

“What the hell is this?” I remember the cold betrayal in his voice.

“I’m leaving,” I said adamantly.

“Oh stop being so dramatic Keith,” he said as he rolled his eyes.

“You left me at Fred Myer’s, Dad.”

“Oh, so you’re gonna pull a Mom?”  His brown green eyes were locked with my eyes.

“Mom didn’t abandon anyone, she left you, because you treated her like a slave. You wouldn’t even let her eat at the dinner table with us Dad,” I stared to shake like I always did when he and I got into these verbal blowouts.

“What the HELL do you know you ungrateful little piece of shit?” He snapped.

“Ungrateful? I just helped you with all your errands and then you up and leave me in the Fred Myer parking lot and I’m the ungrateful one?”

“Mom ate at the dinner table plenty of times!” He yelled.

“Only when it was convenient and only after you kicked Jet out! So stop acting like you’re the victim in this divorce! You drove everyone away with your stupidity-”

“Are you saying I’m and idiot?” This was the point of no return.

My dad never graduated from high school, it was forever a sore spot with him, and any time anyone had remotely said anything to question his intelligence it was like watching an atomic bomb go off. His lips pressed together as a savage expression flushed over his face.

“Yeah, I am. You try to turn your own kids against their Mom and then up and leave one of them without a cell phone in a parking lot some twenty miles away from home, and then you want to be known as the world’s best dad? You’re nothing more than a pathetic excuse of a father!”

“You only know what pathetic is because you have to look at it in the mirror every day,” his words dripped with venom.

“I know I hate having to think I kinda look like you.”

“GET THE FUCK OUT OF THIS HOUSE! NOW!” He bellowed.

“Then get out of the doorway and let me!” I moved forward but he shoved me back.

“You think you’re so smart? You think you can do better than me? You don’t know what you’re in for you little brat,” he was standing right in front of me, looking down at me, trying to intimidate me. “But the world is gonna eat you up and spit your high and mighty ass back out so fast your head’s gonna spin. And when that happens,” he jabbed me in the chest with his finger. “Don’t come cryin’ home to me.”

“I thought you wanted me gone.”

He scoffed as I tried to push my way past him.

“That’s right! Run away you little pussy! You always did take after your mother. Some good all her runnin’ did her, she still couldn’t lose any weight!” He shouted after me as I walked out the door.

I threw the same two duffle bags I had with me now into my car and opened the door.

“And don’t ever come back! You hear me you ungrateful little piece of shit?” He shouted.

I haven’t slept in my own bed since that day. Now to cast my father in an honest light he did apologize, and did invite me back, but after twenty-two years of living with him and seeing this same scenario play out time and time again I wasn’t going to make the same mistake. That place was no longer my home. And to call it home in any context would have been generous. That was the place where my dad had abused us all day after day, not a home.

This apartment was home though. An actual real home. I wouldn’t have to lock myself away in my room everyday to avoid being the object of my father’s sick mind games. Here there was no fear, at least not that kind. No, here there was a different fear, but not one so overshadowing as that of my father’s tirades. It was the fear of being found out. Here I was a lonely gay college kid amongst marriage hungry adolescents afraid of my sexuality destroying every important relationship I had made in my life. Here I was on a timer, and the longer I went without tying the knot, the sooner everyone would know and the sooner they would all hate me for what I was.

You see, at least for me, the fear of being gay and found out stems from another experience I had with my old man. One night I came up the stairs to find him watching some sort of documentary on the History Channel, (his favorite station,) about homosexuality in the ancient world. I remember he looked up at me, and said: “How sick can someone be? It’s an abomination you know? Makes me wanna puke. These people should all be burned, every last one of them.”

My perception of the world from that moment forward was set. The entire world thought people like me were an abomination only worthy of death by fire. Now realize my dad is Catholic, and even so only in name, he doesn’t go to Mass, doesn’t read the Bible, and doesn’t pray. He’s just “Catholic,” and in no means does he represent the Catholic faith, but he does represent something else entirely. He represents that fraction of people in the world that take religion to a whole new level between zealotry and ignorance.

Now I found myself in Rexburg, the town with the largest concentration of Mormons per capita, expected to marry like any other straight student, with only so much time before the truth would be exposed. But for time being life was good, it was warm outside, spring was here, and I had escaped the fallout of my parents on going divorce, and more importantly my father’s abuse.

While this may sound strange after having heard some of the terrible things my dad would do to us, I still tried even now to keep contact with him. Because you see, even though I knew he abused me, and even though I knew what kind of man my father was. Somewhere deep inside myself I still had hope that one day he could change. That he’d see what he had done and try to atone. And I hoped that during one of those Sunday phone calls he’d announce his wrongs. But back then I didn’t know everything, and my hope was blind…

Later that day I walked around the campus and the town trying to figure out where everything was. As I walked people would wave to me and say hi, others would smile as they passed and I remember that I felt good. The one thing that stood out immediately at BYU-I was the friendliness of the students and faculty. It was as if everyone was happy you were there like some sort of 1950’s TV show.

All of Rexburg in fact was like a show from the 50’s. Girls didn’t show their shoulders and their skirts came down to their knees. Boys dressed conservatively, their pants not hanging off their butts, or their shirts down to their kneecaps. It was the closest thing to Pleasantville on earth today. Though as I walked around I wondered, “If they knew about me, would they still be so friendly? Or would they want me burned?”

I dismissed the question, but it never left me, it floated around in the back of my thoughts. It would manifest itself over and over again as I met more and more people, and finally it lead me to ask myself, “Am I worthy of God’s love? Am I worthy of love at all?” And that question would be the abyss my soul would have to face in the coming days.

Continue to Eden Part I

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Comments
One Response to “Shadows of the Past Part II”
  1. Sarah B says:

    “Though as I walked around I wondered, “If they knew about me, would they still be so friendly? Or would they want me burned?”

    I think about this, every day, when I walk around campus. I “pass” well because I’m so femme, but it’s still hard to know if the friends I’m making would still like me if they knew who I really am.

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