I’m not sure if that’s what I should call you. It isn’t deserved. There’s a man in my life who fits that role, who understands that role a lot better than you ever did and he has earned his right to be called ‘Dad’ by me. But calling you ‘Shaun’ doesn’t feel right neither.
When today draws to a close, I will have lived more of my life without you than with you and that is something I feel quite overwhelmed by. It marks 15 years of independent thought, 15 years of being able to be me, live life without the constant fear of a hand coming near my face or being verbally abused for simply sitting in silence in my room. It marks 15 years of freedom and I have never looked back.
I write this open letter because I know you stalk my online presence. I make it open so the world can see who you were and how I assume you still are. It’s a letter to ask you questions I never had the chance to ask as a kid, to show you how much I have grown and lived in the years since we left and to demonstrate that children from broken, abused homes do not always turn out like their parents.
It dawned on me a few nights ago that I don’t remember your voice. I couldn’t say what accent you have, the tone or pitch. The only reason I can remember your face is because unfortunately for me, I have some of your features and standing in the right light, I see a ghost from my childhood staring back at me who will haunt me until the day I die. The only different is that my eyes are kinder. They aren’t filled with the hatred and utter distrain for living beings you seem to possess. I often wonder if I would recognise you if I were walking down the street and I don’t think I would. Your defining features 15 years ago were a balding head, rotund, fair body supported by a 5ft 4in frame. Pretty unremarkable. A tattoo of a panther on one forearm and a unicorn on the other while your back was littered with the many football teams you alternated between supporting, all depending on how they were doing that season and/or how cheap match tickets were. You had at least 3 football badge tattoos yet nothing inked on your skin to represent my sister or I. One might call it ‘tacky’ to have a symbolic tattoo of your children. I would argue that looking like a football league table is in equally as poor taste.
I want to know what made you so insecure. What really happened to you to make you isolate your entire family from the outside world. To deny your children their grandparents or any acknowledgement that they even existed. Why did you change your name (something I leant after we left)? What even is your real name? Are you aware that in that one action and your subsequent denial of your birth name that you have stunted any attempt I could make at tracing my paternal side of the family? Or perhaps that was the idea? Did they hurt you? Or did you simply have an argument and your reaction was to boycott anything to do with them. That isn’t an unreasonable assessment, after all, you were incredibly impulsive.
As I’ve grown and gained more exposure to the real world, I can confidently say you are display many, many characteristics of someone with Bipolar disorder. I wonder if you’d received medication for this that I might have seen a different side to you, perhaps one with a little remorse.
Are you aware that you only ever apologised to me once in all those years of abuse I suffered. Once. And that was about a month before we left, under Mums instruction. Have you ever reflected on what you did? Ever? Did you ever sat down after hitting me and thought to yourself ‘I shouldn’t have done that?’. As I’d sit there whimpering because crying would make you hit me again, as I sat there with tears pouring down my face contemplating suicide because this was my life, did you ever regret it? Have you ever thought how your actions have affected another human being? Probably not. It was always someone else’s fault. They were ‘playing the victim’. Those are the words you said to me when you discovered that your 13 year old daughter was self harming. You shouted at me that I didn’t understand what I was doing. You didn’t hug me or try to understand why this was happening. You didn’t try to protect me or help come up with a solution, suggest going to the doctors or even talking to my school. Instead, you decided to make me feel worse, even more ignored, even more of a burden because my mental health made you get up off the sofa. You were just giving me more reasons to do it, with every word you said.
But Dad, you know what? I was the victim. You took my childhood away from me. You have no idea how much of my youth I spent scared. Scared I’d do the wrong thing and I questioned every action I ever made in fear your fist would meet my head. I was scared that if I didn’t end my life, you would.
And you have no idea that you were setting examples, teaching my sister and I how men are, how ‘Dads’ are.
Do you remember early 2005? I had been spent the night in hospital a few months before and needed to take medication every now and then. On this particular occasion, for some reason, I refused to take it and this resulted in you screaming at me as Mum looked on. I ran and hid under my bed, a moment of defiance on my part, and you stormed in, grabbed me by my collar and dragged me from back into the kitchen as the collar of my top strangled me. I can still feel that pain. You then threw me on the floor as if I were nothing more than a piece of scrap meat being fed to the dogs.
I took the medication after that.
A few weeks later it was my 12th birthday and you decided that because I had acted disappointed when a lack of money fell out of a birthday card that my birthday should be completely cancelled. So my instinctive, normal reaction for a 12 year old resulted in me spending the rest of the night banished to the bedroom with no birthday cake and nothing more than a sandwich for tea. It sounds trivial writing that as a 30 year old woman but that sort of thing was really damaging. It demonstrated to me that you would do anything to anyone for the illusion of control and in a heartbeat you could go from being in a good mood to instant destruction. This sort of behaviour became more common as we grew up and you began conditioning my sister by favouriting her. You showed to her that she would benefit from my misfortune by gifting her my pocket money whenever I lost it over something trivial. You’d punish me and praise her and I could never understand it when I was small. What was so wrong with me? Why was I singled out so often when I tried so hard to be loved? Did you ever really want kids? Because it’s evident you have no idea how to be a parent.
Why wasn’t I enough? What was it about me that meant you would rather punch me, threaten me and scream at me then protect me from such abuse? Because I tried. God, did I try to get my own father to like me. Understand the wording there; I just wanted you to like me.
Now I know you and I very much doubt that you’ve changed so let me make this clear; this letter isn’t written by a weak, lonely, isolated girl. It is written by a respected, strong, independant, VALUED woman and I do not write this because you are missed. I write this to expose you, to expose myself and to ask the questions I feel I have a right to know. You are not missed. No-one misses a parasite. What amazes me is that 15 years on, I still find myself being incredibly grateful that I can do whatever I want. 15 years on and I’m still so thankful I can pack a shopping bag whichever way I want.
You lost any right to know what happens in my life and what I managed to turn my life into. I feel sorry for you, it must be hard living alone without a single member of your family left on your side, no-one to support you or even greet you when you come home. It must be awful to know that no-one on this planet loves you. In a sense I was lucky, only you hated me. But everyone I know hates you.
This letter marks the rest of my life without you and I’ve never felt happier. You took 15 years of my life, You will not get any more, I promise.
A strong, independent, free thinking, valued and loved woman.
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