Thursday, February 23, 2012

Oh, the Irony

I am 36 years old.  My stepfather is dead.  He had been a heavy smoker for most of his life, a heavy drinker for 20 years and he ate poorly. I am sure that there was some added stress surrounding his decisions as a child molester too. He was less than 65 years old when he dropped dead from a massive heart attack.  He was found crumpled on his front porch with car keys in hand.   The professionals say he didn't suffer but for maybe 30 seconds before he was on his way to gone- forever. 

I have wondered what this moment would feel like for me- hearing the news of his death.  Often I have wondered if he would fall ill and be laid up and who would care for him.  I have wondered if I would cry for him.  Would I cry if I knew he had suffered?  Would I cry because he didn't suffer enough?  would I be so relieved that the tears would be unrelenting?

My mother delivers the news over the phone.  She has maintained as little contact as possible with him over the last five years and conveys the news with detachment.  After a shocked pause, I come undone and cry.  There is no way to respond in words so I lay the phone down in its cradle and sit very still.  If I move how much more real will this be?  Why do I care?  How can I possibly care about this at all?

There is very little doubt about whether I will attend his funeral or not.  My mother is going and I don't want her to have to do this alone after being so haughtily snubbed by her former family.  I need this last closure, though I do not know how wide it will open old wounds.  I know that no matter what happens, I can handle it.  

My mother and I arrive at the funeral home's gathering place in time to find a seat toward the back of the room.  Acquaintances and family see us and consider us peripherally.  My presence is obviously disconcerting.  They must be worried that I could become a loose cannon.  I could ruin the whole show.  I am a little worried too. I hate these people for their silence. I despise them for allowing his legacy to live, even after his death.

His brothers and their wives and grown kids sit in the front of the room.  Many speeches are given- none of which concludes anything specific about my stepfather.  People mention that they saw him at functions, thought he never brought anything to contribute.  They all laugh at that.  It was just his way. They wonder out loud about what he did and who he was- he was ever so illusive.  He was a nice man. He did a lot for his community.  The last person has spoken and there is a lull the size and shape of the elephant that is in the room. They all know who he really was.  With every second that goes by, I wonder if I will always regret not saying something.  The funeral director rises from his chair.  Reflexively, my body moves to stand.

The whole room shifts as one.  Each body turns, chairs scuffling beneath them and clothes sending startled whispers through the air like birds from a wire.  My face reddens and heats as though there really is a spotlight on me.  My mother gasps audibly and gropes at my arm, silently begging me to sit back down.  But I stand straight an tall without a single idea as to what I want to say.

I do know that there has not been one mention about the fact that my stepfather spent 30 years with my mother and for 17 of those years he was my captor and my tormentor.  I guess that this crowd at least needs to remember that he was a family man, for better or for worse and so I speak of this.  He was my father and he was a husband and that should never be forgotten.  I walk a fine but socially acceptable line in my speech.  I know that these people should be ashamed to have even tried to skirt around all of these years and all of the things he was.  Perhaps that registers now. 

I finish my short speech.  I do not say that I will miss him.  I do not have an acceptable anecdote to share.  I look around the room and make eye contact with as many of his family members as possible.  They know what is happening.  They know that my being there is only fair and that the things I have said have been generous by way and of what I have omitted.  I sit when I am ready to sit and when I do, I am avenged.  The world is rid of one more person who has  posed a grave threat.  To this end I am truly emancipated.

Child Abuse, Sexual Abuse, PTSD, Anxiety, Self-harm, Depression, Survivor, Survivor of childhood abuse, Post-partum depression and psychosis, OCD, Recovered memories, Repressed memories, Spousification, Stockholm Syndrome, Suicide, Teen Suicide, bullying


  1. A-Maz-ing. Thats all I can say. You are amazing.
    Love you. seriously.

    1. The situation was pretty wild. i can't take credit- I was guided to do it this way, i think. :)

  2. God bless you, Cairn...I would have done the same. I completely get it. I've become good at that. Walking that line of omission makes others realize you ARE the stronger one, YOU took the reins and handled it all with grace.