There's so much to tell you, and yet I fear boring you or somehow trailing on and digressing beyond any point of interest. Yet, I feel I must get it down and share this in ink. I've already shared it in so many words bursting from my lips; and yet spoken words can easily be forgotten. Spoken sentiments dim with time and distraction. I want to remember this, even though I feel I wish I could forget.
I'm so tired of telling the story over and over again, searching somehow for something to ease the pain and anger. Hoping that sharing will somehow make the burden lighter, or guide me to some conclusion, a solution...something.
Perhaps writing it will be yet another outlet for me to find my way.
Early July 2015
For a belated birthday present, my dad and I had planned a local kayaking trip on Lake Michigan. I hadn't been kayaking in over a year and it was one of the few things I really wanted to do for my birthday.
At first, my dad reacted to the request with enthusiasm...over-enthusiasm, as he is often wont to do. He filled my head with grandiose ideas of taking a kayak and camping trip in Wisconsin, which sounded pleasant enough. We had spent some time researching, though, and realized that, not only was the cost rather daunting, but the task of actually planning such a trip was more than either of us was really looking to tackle. Since my dad is rather computer illiterate, the planning would have fallen on my shoulders, and the stress of planning mingled with his erratic and judgmental impatience wore thin on my nerves.
So we decided to take a simple 3-hour guided kayak tour on Lake Michigan just off Lake Shore Drive in Chicago.
August 8, 2015
After a little deliberation, we decided to take one car. We had argued over whether we should take public transportation, but I didn't think I would be up for catching a bus or train after kayaking for three hours. I also don't like to be at the mercy of someone else's schedule (in this case, the CTA).
My father is an openly critical "back seat driver" and has always put me on edge and pissed me off every time he's been a passenger in my car. But his vehicle is an uncomfortable pickup truck, so we decided he would drive my car to the lake.
We thought we had left with plenty of time to spare, but there's only two seasons in Chicago: Winter and Construction; thanks to construction and God-knows-what other events going on in Chicago that beautiful August day, we were running late and stuck in bumper to bumper traffic for well over an hour. My dad, being the self-proclaimed driving God he thinks he is, tried to get around a zig-zagging back route instead of listening to the GPS.
Tension and tempers rose, and though I tried not to react, things are never pretty when even one of us is in a bad mood, let alone both of us. And, soon, we were both grumbling and shouting, mostly at traffic. But, of course my dad always blames everyone and everything on his problems, except for himself, so it was only a matter of time until his anger was turned on me.
We were driving south on Stockton Drive, a parkway road that runs along the west side of Lincoln Park Zoo, parallel to Lake Shore Drive. We had missed our turn coming from the south and had to go at least a mile out of our way to come back south again. Traffic so bad, it was practically a parking lot. We had maybe thirty minutes until our kayak departure, and still 20 minutes to get there, not factoring in how long it would take to park and walk to our destination. It might have been possible to make it, had my father not chosen to physically attack me, instead.
"If you'd have just listened to the GPS, we would have been there by now," I mumbled under my breath with a disgusted sigh.
"Don't put this on me, I busted my ass to get around all that traffic to get us here," he screamed, not admitting to the fact that "here" was still stuck in traffic after an hour of crazy driving that was risking MY car. "This is all your fault. If we had just taken the CTA like I said, we would be there by now!"
"HAPPY FUCKING BIRTHDAY TO ME! Thanks for your attitude, as always!" I shouted in return.
Instead of more arguing, what I got was a hand to my throat. Thank God we were stopped in stop-and-go traffic.
My own father strangled me in my own car, pulled me toward him and began punching me in the head (smart enough to know that punching me in the face would leave evidence). I reached up and clawed at his face, drawing blood.
"LET ME GO, YOU MOTHER FUCKER!"
After a few moments, he let me go, both of our hearts racing.
I forced the car into park. "GET THE FUCK OUT OF MY CAR!" I screamed and stupidly tried to reach over him to open his door and shove him out. He then grabbed me by the wrist and pushed against my elbow in an attempt to break my arm.
"LET ME GO! I'M GOING TO CALL THE FUCKING COPS ON YOU! GET OUT OF MY CAR" At least I think I screamed something along those lines.
He let me go.
He popped the trunk and got out of the car, looking at me with an expression of such hatred it made me want to cry, even more than the physical attack had. Before I could get out of my seat belt, he slammed the driver's side door and kicked it in, rushing to grab his stuff out of the back seat and trunk. Meanwhile, traffic had moved forward in front of us and stalled behind us, so I had a bunch of angry, ignorant people who had no idea what was going on, honking at me.
I hurried out of the passenger side as my dad took off across the boulevard, toward the city and away from the lake, away from the scene of the crime.
I meant it when I threatened to call the police. Tears streaming down my face, I got behind the wheel, trembling so hard I could barely remember how to drive. I pulled the car over and dialed 911.
Two girls passing by stayed with me until the cops came. It took them forever to get to me -- I had no address, no street signs to get my bearings and I was frantic, I could only tell them I was practically in front of the Lincoln Park Zoo. By the time the cops got to me, I had called my mom (who lives a few blocks from me) and my landlord to tell them what had happened, and to warn them that my dad was probably on his way to get his stuff and his truck from my apartment.
I later discovered that my dad found my mom waiting on my porch with an ax and my 6'6 350 lb. landlord standing by menacingly. That's a sight I wish I could have seen.
Somehow, even without a wallet, my dad found his way back to my apartment to get his stuff and was gone before I even finished filling out the police report.
I have not talked to my father since.
At first, I was so angry and traumatized that I could barely function at work without blowing up. I couldn't sleep, thanks to violent visions of the same scene playing over and over in my head. I kept imagining [wishing] that I had had something sharp at hand, so I could stab him, or hurt him worse.
My neck was sore for about a week after the incident, there were no marks or visible evidence of the attack. I tried to keep things under wraps at work, but it was hard when every little frustration sent me into a fit of rage or tears.
This was more than physical pain.
My father has always had a history of verbal violence. He and I are both very loud people who express their negative feelings publicly and vehemently. For the most part, I always looked at my dad's blustering as annoying and mood-altering, but otherwise harmless. There was only one other time, when I was a teenager, that he was ever physically violent with me. I won't go into the details of that, right now, but I don't know why I never did anything about it back then. Anyway, I digress.
The real pain in this, comes from the betrayal. I have done more for my father than any child should be expected to, at my age at least. I'm thirty one years old.
Last year, when my dad was going through a horrendously ugly divorce with his second wife, everyone in our family turned their back against my dad. His brothers, his sister, everyone else but me. He didn't even deserve one person to accept him for the atrocities he committed, but I did. I tried to get him help. I helped him find a place to live. I was parenting my own parent. I talked to him every day for months, doing my best to be supportive, talking him off emotional ledges and loving him unconditionally, when no one else would. He's my dad, right? That's what you do.
But how can I love him unconditionally, now? How could he possibly do what he did to me, after all I've done for him? And how can I ever feel safe around him, or trust him, or have a relationship with him at all?
The worst feeling in all of this...is the fear of dying alone.
My dad is alone. He may have a handful of acquaintances he might call friends. But he has alienated himself from everyone. I was the last bridge to burn.
But I will be alone, one day, too.
I am an only child. When my parents die, I will be the one to shoulder all the burdens. Financial burdens. The burden of grief. The burden of being all alone. It has always been my deepest fear. To die alone.
I have no intentions of ever having children. As it stands, right now, I have no plans for marriage. I am a self-proclaimed spinster. And even though I joke about it, I'm honestly terrified by the thought of being alone forever. What will I do when my parents die?
What will I do now, that my father is dead to me before he's even dead?
I suppose I'll just have to continue shouldering these burdens -- burdens that only get heavier with time, the more I live, the more I take on.
But sometimes writing helps to ease the burden. If only for a bit.