On the one hand, I could say I never knew my father well. On the other hand, I can say I knew him too well. He’s been a bit of an enigma in my life – someone whose motives have always been a mystery to me, even as I look back from an adult perspective. He was an angry man, at least in my experience. Extremely discontent with his lot in life, though I’m not sure what specifically had him so angry – possibly my Mom, who was already exhibiting signs of mental illness, and definitely me. As I think I said in an earlier post, he hated me – almost from the first. It was almost as if I was a bastard – I had wondered periodically if I was somehow not his kid. Unfortunately, the resemblance is all to apparent. I don’t want to dwell on this person, or navel gaze about my “daddy issues” – I have better and more interesting things to write about. But where I think this becomes salient to the overall theme of the blog is how he shaped who I was as a kid and who I am today.

As I have said before, he was a bit of a drunk – I have very few memories of him without a beer in his hand or and empty six pack (or two, or three) by his feet. He had several jobs, which he quit as soon as he became successful at. He had a lucrative lawn mowing business, for instance. One day, he abruptly sold all his equipment and quit. He never explained why – the business had been going well, and he was getting clients hand over fist. He worked for a newspaper, but as soon as he began to climb the ladder he resigned. Finally, my Grandmother stepped in and got him a job as a probation officer – this happened to be the only thing he ever stuck with, as far as I know. But it’s something that someone like him – given his psychological makeup – should have never been involved in.

My Mom, for all her faults and all the things she did (and yes, she did some very nasty things which will probably piss you off, Reader. They certainly pissed me off) was, at her core, a good person. Horribly confused and selfish, perhaps, mentally ill definitely, but she was basically a good person. My father had a very nice veneer – a happy and outgoing guy, well liked by everyone – but underneath that veneer was, in my opinion, a violent psychopath. I genuinely believe with all my heart that he would kill another human being without a second thought – sometimes an icy voice tells me he already has, and they’re buried in his back yard.

He was very “manly” – tried very hard to do macho stuff. He worked out and lifted weights constantly, talked about cars and sports. He was disappointed – disproportionately so – when I wasn’t that interested in those subjects. He tried, once, to take an interest in my music. He sat down with me at the piano and tried to teach me to play a song. Even his teaching method was violent and reeked of machismo.

Dad: You gotta attack the note! Attack the song! Clobber it!

I’m not sure what he was trying to accomplish with this pep talk, but it left me confused and him frustrated. He had guns everywhere, and would pull loaded weapons on the rest of his family at the drop of a hat. He constantly patrolled the house – inside and out – at night. He paced and peered through the blinds, waiting for some invisible intruder to come in and “try” him.

Dad: I will kill whoever gets into this house.

It wasn’t mere bravado, I’m sure. Dad really, really, wanted someone to break in so he could kill them. It extended beyond home protection and into personal protection. He went around armed to the teeth – he had concealed handguns, a machete, knives, and a nightstick – for whatever reason, he had carved ICE into it. He really wanted to someone to “come at him in the streets” so he could “kill him”.

Above all else, the man despised squirrels. I don’t recall him being terribly fond of most animals, actually, but squirrels were a particular issue for him. He would go out of his way to hit them on the road, or squash the ones already dead. Sometimes he would shovel them up off the road only to bring them home. He would hunt them – God only knows why – for hours on end in the woods. He’d bring home piles of squirrel carcases and stick them in the freezer. Ostensibly, he used them to make his “famous” squirrel pot pie – nobody ate it, though. It was foul. He’d keep the frozen squirrels for months until Mom or Grandma would get upset and force him to throw them out. He would do so reluctantly and with great regret. Aside from freezing them, he played with them. I mean, he cut them open and dissected them – played with their organs, even. Once or twice, he even called me into the garage and forced me to hold a squirrel kidney or otherwise watch him poke around in the innards. I was revolted – at 6 or 7, I probably had no idea what to make of that. My reaction made him very angry.

He also beat me severely, usually with no warning and for no reason. He would kick or punch me to the ground and then drag me around by my hair (usually to my room or his) where he would continue to beat me. Sometimes with hangars, sometimes with belts (particularly the buckle end) sometimes with other things. I often had bruises and welts. I was always walking on eggshells around him – scared out of my mind that he would suddenly come after me. He was almost never angry when he did it – if he yelled, he didn’t yell much. He was very, very calm. In fact, one evening I had gone to bed (much too early for my taste) and decided I wanted some water. I opened my bedroom door and yelled down to him – I asked if he could bring me up some water. There was a long silence.

Dad: Well. Come down and get it yourself.

He sounded absolutely placid – perhaps even a little good-natured. I was concerned.

Me: It’s okay?

Dad: Sure. Come on down.

I went gingerly down the stairs to the kitchen, where he was sitting at the table. He wasn’t doing anything – not eating, not reading, just sitting there staring at the wall. I knew something was off, but couldn’t process exactly what. I grabbed a Tom and Jerry glass (my favorite) and started filling it with water. I felt the air change instantly and I knew something – I wasn’t sure what, exactly – had gone horribly wrong. I turned to find him staring at me – it wasn’t a father’s eyes, this was predatory. I panicked and dropped my glass. He was out of his chair like a lightning bolt, looming above me. I ran for the stairs – hoping to get to the safety of my room. In my fear, I thought perhaps putting a door between the two of us would stop his pursuit. I didn’t make it far up the stairs before I was kicked up to the landing.

Dad: Get up.

I wailed. I couldn’t get up.

Dad: GET. UP.

I cowered, and he grabbed my hair and dragged me the rest of the way down the hall. Perhaps somewhat mercifully, I only remember snippets of what happened – I was hanging on to the bed post for dear life as he wailed on me with his belt buckle. Grandma tried to intervene and was thrown off. I have no idea how long this went on for, but it was bad – very bad. So bad that Grandma took pictures. I had welts the size of walnuts. I had cuts and scrapes and huge bruises that were screaming purple and already beginning to turn yellow. I couldn’t walk or sit for 2 days. He stopped just as suddenly as he started – receded to his basement room to continue drinking and watching war movies (basically, he watched war movies and documentaries about war). I never knew why – I didn’t have the balls to ask, not as a kid. I certainly never posed the question to him. None of the other adults in my life seemed to know why either – what had set off this particular beating or why, in general, he did these things.

He drug me by my hair through the parking lot at Disney World when I was 4. I don’t remember this – memory can be vindictive but it can also be merciful – but have been told this by several family members. Our neighbors knew all about it. They heard it, they saw it – watched him chase me through the house or the yard. And you know what? Nobody said a goddamn word. Not a peep. No authorities were called – not child services or the police. That still makes me angry. My life would likely have been drastically different, but at least I would have known that someone had been looking out for me instead of just watching and doing nothing.

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