My dad, the abuser

The nightmare of seeing abuse as a child can haunt you into adulthood.

I’m about 7 years old. I wake up in the middle of the night to my mother screaming, “No, Richard*! NO!” while the sounds of his fists hitting her back reverberate through the house and into my room.

I think it’s all a dream. Our domestic worker, Mary*, who I shared a room with, tells me to turn around and go back to sleep. I wake up the next morning and wonder why mommy and daddy aren’t talking to each other. I don’t remember what happened during the night.

I don’t remember any of it - until I wake up from a nightmare one morning almost 15 years later.

I remember the screaming and how scared I was. I remember trying to call out for my mother, and Mary trying to get me to fall back asleep in case my father came in and began to hit me instead.

I remember seeing the look of sheer madness on my father’s face through my half-opened bedroom door. I remember my mother pleading and crying.

But I didn’t remember any of this until I was nearly 22-years-old.

Maybe it’s because I was still a little girl. Maybe it’s because I was half-asleep. Or, my subconscious blocked out that memory only to remind me of it all these years later because I needed to remember my father wasn’t always wonderful.

I once told my mother after he passed away when I was 16: “He was a good father, but a terrible husband.”

I have great memories of my dad; gardening on a Sunday before lunch, just the two of us driving along the beach road, talking about silly things.

Going to flea markets, fun fairs, and the circus, but I also remember his horrible temper and the mean things he would say to my mother, or my siblings and I.

My dad has been gone for almost 6 years, and, although I love him, I know he wasn’t perfect.

I asked my mom if she knew that he would be abusive before they got married.

“I think, somehow, I did know. I knew deep down inside. He had hit me a few months before we got married, but I thought it was a one-time thing. I was also newly pregnant with , and I was head-over-heels in love. The day after it happened, he brought me this big beautiful bunch of flowers to say he was sorry. What I didn’t know then was that the pattern for our relationship was already forming,” she said.

While my childhood wasn’t always a train wreck, I have questioned my mother as to why she never divorced my father, even though she ran away countless times.

“I loved him too much. It hurt more to be without him. I wanted my marriage to work, and I wanted my children to have a father,” she says.

I’ve read many articles, seen many movies and documentaries, and spoken to many women who were abused or in an abusive home, and their biggest concern is always their children.

Now, I’m not a mother, but I am someone’s child, and I can say, that if I had a choice, I would have told my mother to leave.

Not because I hated my father, or had some strange ulterior motive, but because it would have been easier. I would have been spared the heartache of having to watch my mother being abused.

*Names have been changed.

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