My Father's Daughter

Annie D'Amico

 

We all yearn for that special someone at some point in our lives. The idea of a relationship may sometimes feel intimidating, but we all want one nonetheless. Whether it is a boyfriend or girlfriend, best friend, spouse, or companion, we want the company of a person we care about. At 21, I still don’t completely understand this idea. I have friends, great friends, who have always been there for me. And I have two best friends, for which I wouldn’t trade for anything in this world. I’ve had boyfriends, both currently and in the past, and I have no complaints thus far. However, when it comes to a marriage lasting forever, it is hard for me to believe such a thing exists.

 

Some relationships just don’t last forever.

 

At 12, I took everything for granted, as most children of this age do. I had no conception of the world and what was outside the bubble I lived in. All I knew was 6 th grade recess and going out to play with my friends down the block. School was never that important to me until I was much older. I thought money grew on a tree in my back yard, and that my grandparents would live forever. I thought love was what my parents felt for each other and that their life was a fairy tale.

 

I knew nothing.

 

I still have nightmares about it. They used to be recurring, lessening over time, causing me to wake up in a vicious sweat. I would get up for a drink of water, then lie back down and close my eyes. I would be able to feel myself drifting back to sleep, only to find myself in the same exact moment before I woke up. I would toss and turn, but horrifying images would not escape my head. My dreams didn’t want me to forget. I still haven’t forgotten…

 

That dreadful night, we went downtown Chicago. We waited outside the Chicago Theatre for three hours in the middle of December. All of a sudden, there they were. Walking arm in arm, they were oblivious to the rest of the world. We walked a block behind them to the same parking garage we had parked in. They kissed. The next few moments remain blurry to me. I remember the look on her face. She was ghost white, mouth hanging open. She pointed over my father’s shoulder. My dad turned around to find his two children standing behind him. Silence. Before I knew it, my brother had pushed my father into a corner, screaming at him at the top of his lungs.

 

We beat my father home, and told our mother we needed to have a family discussion. The secret was out. I have never looked at my father the same way since that night.

 

Senior year of high school was one of the best years of my life. I hung out with my friends all the time and partied, I got my own car, I could buy my cigarettes and smoke them legally, and I knew it was almost time to leave home and go to college. Senior year of high school was also the worst year of my life.

 

My dad has always known I was the more social of his two children. He knows I still am. I am the younger of his two children, labeling me “the rebellious one”. My brother was always a little more quiet, got away with everything, and had everything handed to him. I had to work for everything. If I did something wrong, such as not cleaning my room, I wasn’t allowed to go out. My brother could have cared less if this was his punishment. My brother was always thought of as the smarter of the two of us, a real observant problem solver. My parents thought all I cared about was being a socialite and nothing else around me mattered.

 

My parents have arrived at this perception of my brother and I throughout the process of us growing up due to the fact that my brother and I were raised very differently. My mother has admitted this was a mistake. Obvious differences in childrearing could be the simple fact that he is male and I am female. On the surface, it once looked this way to me as well. Only later I found out the real reason. My brother was adopted when he was born. My mother and father tried for several years to conceive, but it never worked out, so they considered their options. My mom had several surgeries on her ovaries to try and fix the problems due to early onset of endometriosis. Nothing seemed to help, so they applied to adopt. I was informed from the moment I could comprehend that my brother and I were not biologically from the same parents. I never considered him to be anything but my blood brother. Oddly enough, for many years we looked like twins. It was only when we hit our teens that my parents began to treat us differently.

 

My mom once told me that one day my brother just changed. In an instant, she could tell by the look in his eyes, something within him was different and he wasn’t the little boy she knew. He began to behave quite abnormal by losing his composure in an instant, due to the most trivial occurrences. His grades began to drop drastically, and he began to sleep for very long, extended periods of time. At some point, at what point exactly escapes me, my parents had enough and took him to see a doctor. Several tests were conducted and he was diagnosed with severe Attention Deficit Disorder. He was put on different prescriptions, which seemed to change weekly because no improvement was detected. In fact, his symptoms worsened. When he made the transition into high school, I was still in 8 th grade. I didn’t seem him much, but when I did, I could tell he was a mess. At 13, I didn’t know what was going on; I just knew that my brother wasn’t my brother. I can’t even express in words the strange behavior he exhibited. He had hit rock bottom. And with all the stress this was putting on my parents, they were on their way too.

 

It wasn’t until the next morning that I was told my brother needed serious help. The previous night, he had told my parents he needed to drop a letter in his friend’s mailbox, five or six blocks away. My parents knew his friend and family were out of town for the week. My parents became suspicious, and in the middle of the night, went to retrieve the letter. I have never read the actual contents of the letter, but I was told it was a suicide note. I don’t know if any reasons were given. I just know that he went to therapy and the doctor said he was suffering from not only severe ADD, but depression as well, resulting from some kind of imbalance. My brother was put on close watch after that.

 

During the period after my brother’s suicide note, parenting for me and my bother changed. Actually, it was only the way they treated my brother that was really different. I still had to do my chores or get grounded, watch my mouth or get grounded, and generally behave myself or get GROUNDED. The word has become permanently engraved in my mind. It wasn’t even that I didn’t deserve getting grounded when I did; it was the fact that my brother broke all the rules and still did whatever he wanted. I would always complain that it wasn’t fair, but I was just given the simple retaliation that life isn't fair. Even today, if someone says that to me I get irritated. I am well aware that life isn't fair, but honestly, to a 14 year old, it is the end of the world. My brother was babied terribly right in front of my face and it continues to the present day. But it is what happened during the beginning of this “babying” that began my parents feuding. Both my mother and father babied him, most likely because it is what he really needed. Over time, my mom began treating him his own age. My father did no such thing. He continued his babying and my mom would get very frustrated at him for doing so. After all, they were trying to raise a young man, not a mama’s boy. The fighting increased, and became more intense. My mom wanted to stop babying him so much so he could start becoming independent, but my father often overruled her and let him do what he wanted and waited on him hand and foot. One day my mother told me that she looked forward to the years when my brother and I went to college, in hopes that she and my father could rekindle their relationship and realize the things that made them fall in love with each other in the first place.

 

The day my brother left for college, everything changed. I was happy to be the only one in the house because for once my parents might pay more attention to me than to my brother. There was no such change, my parents both looked at me in the same manner they had before. I did, however, pay more attention to my father. In between my “busy” schedule, I began to notice suspicious behavior from my dad. He started staying out much later than usual for “work”, and all of a sudden had a million retirement parties to attend. Now, he is the chief of police, and does work some late nights, but all the retirement parties? Something wasn’t right. I also became aware of his talking on the phone in the basement. One day, I just couldn’t handle my curiosity. I picked up the phone and pushed mute so the other line couldn’t hear me. I listened. It was a woman. Not just any woman, but a voice that was very familiar to me. I couldn’t put my finger on it. More talking about books and all teachers I knew from my high school. Who is she and why is my dad talking to her? The conversation was coming to an end. My jaw dropped.

It is very hard for anyone to say those three little words. These words signify commitment, feeling, trust, and so many other emotions. One only says these words when they really mean it. If this is the case, why was my father telling another woman that he loved her? I was beyond shocked. There are no words to express how I felt in those following moments. I hung up the phone in complete astonishment.

 

My dad never caught on to my “investigation”. I went on every day, as I normally would, so he didn’t think I was doing anything out of the ordinary. Not that I thought he would notice anyway, he obviously had his hands full with somebody else.

 

Sometimes I believe that my father’s actions have severely impacted my identity. I can remember the days when my father and I used to sit in his big king sized bed on Sunday nights watching The Three Stooges before I went to bed. Everything was so simple. My father was my hero, the ideal man that I wanted to marry someday. He loved me unconditionally, wanted to give me everything I wanted, and cared for me every minute of everyday. I assumed he treated his marriage in the same manner. I guess I missed that part.

 

More phone calls followed in the weeks to come. I still had not solved the puzzle of the mystery woman. Every time I would listen in, I felt that I knew this woman very well. Then it dawned on me. It was someone I was very close to, a woman I told many of my personal problems to, and a woman I trusted. She was my English teacher.

 

Don’t ask me how I went to school in the following days. They were more of a blur. I carried on as usual, talked to her as I normally would, but deep inside I felt betrayed on so many levels. I didn’t want to raise suspicion. I called my brother a couple of days later and told him what I had discovered. He had an inkling that something was going on, but he was still taken aback. He had planned on coming home in a week, so we would talk then. During a phone call I listened in on that following week, there was discussion about going to some concert. My father was telling my teacher how great she would look in anything….so on and so forth. A light bulb clicked on. I went to my computer and looked on Ticketmaster. My dad loves jazz music, and not so very much to my surprise there was a big jazz concert occurring at the Chicago Theatre on the weekend my brother was coming home! This was it…..it was time to see what I didn’t want to call the truth. I knew I had to see it for my own eyes. And I did.

 

Most people who don’t know me very well would tell me I have to move on. They have no idea the turmoil that I have suffered.

 

For four years now I have dealt with this mess. Are they going to get divorced? Stay together? Separate? It has been a Mexican standstill. How do you live with someone like that? My poor mother.

 

I guess I have always assumed that when I get married, it will last forever. I never imagine falling out of love with my husband, or vice versa. But I can’t help but wonder whether the same card hand will be dealt to me. Am I destined for disaster? I am hanging on to the cliché that history repeats itself. It happened to my grandmother, now my mother, and I am the next in line. I suppose deep down I know that I am thinking crazy, but I have centered my thoughts and actions in my own relationship around this idea. I work so hard to not end up like my parents, that I am wearing down what I’ve spent years building with my boyfriend Derek. It is like a disease, slowly taking over my mind, forcing me to think that someday he will cheat on me and I will be left alone.

 

Maybe my father was like that all along. Maybe urges just got the best of him, maybe he just was going through some personal struggles and took the wrong road in trying to solve them. It is unfortunate that I may never know the answer. It is the process of trying to come to this solution that has shaped my identity. Trying to understand the reasoning behind such behavior has in fact, changed my behavior. The girl that was never afraid of boy’s cooties and the like is now terrified to take the next step forward in her relationship with her boyfriend. I feel that I have revolved the last five years around trying not to be put in the position of getting hurt, that I’ve actually hurt myself in the long run, thinking that someday, I too, will be at the mercy of a mid life crisis, just as my mother has been.

 

A commitment is a very serious promise. My mother has taken this promise to heart, always standing at my father’s side. She has supported him in everything, whether she has wanted to or not. When they were engaged, my dad planned on becoming a lawyer, which my mom was very content with, but not long after they were married, he changed his mind. He decided to become a police officer. I assume he wanted to help people. My mother became very nervous with this switch in careers because she knew how dangerous it is, being that her father was a Chicago police officer. My father also never wanted to have children because he thought he would be a terrible father. My mother still married him because she wanted to spend the rest of her life with him. She hoped someday he would change his mind. She has loved him unconditionally, always. I have always thought that a commitment must go both ways. Maybe I’m wrong in this case.

 

Putting myself in my mother’s shoes is a very difficult position to be in. My mother has said it all so many times… “How can I say goodbye to a man I have been married to for 35 years, a man who I used to know so well, a man I have two children with? I don’t want it to end, but I don’t see how we can go on” …My mom has worked very hard to try and get past the situation. She has tried to convince my dad to see a marriage counselor, or they should take a trip. No such luck. How does she carry on everyday? I have seen her break down many times, but somehow she brings herself back up. As her child, I can’t deal with the situation even now. I have broken down and cannot pick myself up anymore. I cannot let it go.

 

Mom says I don’t understand… “When you are married, you will understand the sacrifices made to keep a family going. I will not let my family fall apart. I have had everything with your father, so many firsts. I am not ready to be on my own yet. That will be something I will deal with the day he passes away. This is why I hope I go first. I cannot just give up on us, but I don’t know where it all went wrong?”

 

What could possibly drive a man to make such a terrible decision? This is the question that has haunted me these past five years. A man who seemed to have everything: a well-paying job, a beautiful home, a loving wife, and two wonderful children. Most would think this is enough. Many would love to be in this situation. Then why was my father so unhappy? And what in his unhappiness would cause him to choose infidelity? I suppose there are several possibilities. Was my mother not making him happy? Were the long days and late nights at the police department becoming too much? Stress has a profound effect on police officers lives, especially their home lives. Studies have called police work a "high risk lifestyle". Not high risk in terms of the physical dangers of the job, but a high risk in terms of developing attitudinal problems, behavioral problems, and intimacy and relationship problems. Maybe he worked so much to avoid being home. Sometimes I wonder if he felt unloved by us all. Giving so much and getting so little in return. Finding someone who was appreciative of his actions and willing to listen to his problems and making him feel loved could have been his motive. There are still so many questions left unanswered.

 

I don’t know why he couldn’t find love and happiness within our family. I know that we loved him, but maybe that just wasn’t enough for him at that point in his life. A child is only capable of so much. Regret comes over my body now and again in my thinking that I could have done something, but to be honest, I never knew anything was wrong. It is only five years later that I can even attempt to think of possible reasons for his actions. I may never know.

 

My dad’s father died in 1996 of lung cancer. He was 80 years old. My father is beginning to look just like him. My grandfather was a very generous man as well, always reaching out to everyone he knew, much like my father. Their relationship had always been strong, and my father appreciated him very much. After his death, my dad changed, changed into someone I had never seen before. It was the first time I had ever seen my father cry. In the weeks and months that followed my grandfather’s death, my dad became colder. He was not as loving, even to his own children. The man that he looked up to was gone. Who would he go to now with his problems? When my grandparents lived in Chicago, in the house my father grew up in, I remember my dad and grandfather sitting in the garage forever, talking about cars I always assumed. I only later found out they also talked about life, and whatever manly things they didn’t talk about with the rest of the family. My grandfather was my dad’s role model, and when he passed away, my father buried inside him all the conversations he would have had with his father. The body only leaves so much room for confusion, pain, and life lessons looking for a solution. Losing a parent maybe one of the most painful experiences in life, and my dad felt he had no one to turn to.

 

In the time that has passed since the incident, I have found myself daydreaming about the past, my childhood. On Saturday mornings, when my mom was not yet home from working all night at the hospital, my dad would make breakfast for my brother and me. I would wake up to the smell of eggs and bacon coming from the kitchen. As I left my room in search of this wonderful smell, the sound of a familiar song would become louder. I could hear my dad whistling along with the tune. I remember the song exactly, “Giving You the Best That I Got” by Anita Baker. When I would enter the kitchen, he would give me a hug and kiss good morning and then take me by the hand, twirl me around, and we would dance and sing together. He always made me laugh when we were dancing because I had no idea what I was doing. He didn’t care. I never wanted the song to end, and some mornings it never did. He put the song on repeat and we just continued to dance and sing in the kitchen. It is only now that I understand the meaning of that song. Anita would always sing,

 

“My weary mind is rested

 

And I feel as if my home is in your arms

Fears are all gone, I like the sound of your song

And I think I want to sing it forever.”

 

I was his little girl, daddy’s little girl. Those days are long gone and I miss them very much.

 

I have been so wrapped up the last five years, concentrating on hating my father, that I had forgotten all the good times I have had with him, all the years I thought he was Superman. I have ignored everything that man has done for me, putting me through school, making sure I had everything I wanted, and loving me unconditionally. I have seen his many faces as father, Superman, police officer, husband, and villain, but currently I can only concentrate on the villain. How can Superman be the villain? And how did he become so? Did he do it to himself, or did someone on the outside create this monster? He did it to himself, but I believe I had my hand in it as well.

 

I couldn’t keep it to myself. How could I? This was the most shocking and heartbreaking moment of my life. I was 17. I didn’t know any better. Somehow I had to make my family business everyone else’s. Right after I found out that it was my English teacher, I told my best friend. She couldn’t believe I had hidden all this from her for so long. She wanted in on bringing my father down. We had been little trouble makers all throughout high school, and stuck by each other’s side through everything. I felt revenge was the appropriate plan of action. All the years he preached to me about family being the most important thing in the world was bullshit. If family was so important, why was he trying to destroy it? I cannot describe the pain I felt, the betrayal. I wanted sympathy from whoever would listen to my story. When I look back on it now, the sympathy that was given to me only temporarily relieved the pain. It was never a solution. I wanted people to feel bad for me, to be on my side. I wanted them to understand, but no one could understand.

 

I began to drink three, four, five times a week. This was my way of forgetting. I felt that if I could get a few hours of peace, I could somehow make my pain disappear. I was only making it worse. By breaking the law, I thought I was going against everything my father stood for. The truth of the matter was, I just wanted to hurt him. To this day, he still does not know how much I drank during those months after I found out.

My parents began to sleep in different rooms. My dad started out sleeping on the couch, but then moved into our spare bedroom. My mother told me she did not think he deserved to sleep in the same bed as her. Sometimes he slept on the floor at the foot of her bed. What happened between them while I was away at college, I can only assume was more fighting according to what my mother told me. He would say nasty things to her and make her cry. They both started to see lawyers about getting a divorce. I thought it was the best idea. Our family was a disaster, and nothing was going to bring us back together while we all lived under the same roof.

 

I wondered what was taking so long. Neither one had filed for divorce yet, but they were both talking to lawyers. I kept pushing my mom to just do it. It is what I wanted. I didn’t want my parents to be together anymore. I didn’t care about the thirty five years they had already been married. I didn’t think their relationship was healthy, and it wasn’t, but I could not force them to do anything. I pushed, and pushed and pushed.

 

I left for college in August 2003. I finally escaped my personal prison. I was able to let myself go just for a while. About a month after being in college, I decided this woman my father had feelings for should know that I wasn’t about to walk away from the situation. One night, after a “stressful” day in class, I decided to go out for beers with some friends. Several drinks later, I was feeling pretty good. My drunkenness allowed me to feel a few sweet moments of bliss, a feeling I had not been accustomed to for quite some time. My best friend, Brittney, who attended college with me, took a seat on the couch with me. She wanted to know how my parents were doing. The twinkle in my eye must have turned to flames because she immediately said, “Forget what I said. We’ll talk about it later.” A few moments of silence passed between us. We both shared the same thought.

 

I was the first to say it. “God, what a bitch.”

 

She shook her head in agreement. A few more moments… “Well, let’s do something about it then.”

 

“Like what?” I asked. We sat some more. Any onlookers must have heard the wheels turning, we were thinking so hard.

 

“Let’s prank her…”

 

“It’s 1:30 in the morning, you know,” I said, knowing that it was the best idea she had ever concocted.

 

“Give me the number, Annie, I’ll take care of her.” I gave her the number. A rush of adrenaline raced through my veins. She deserved it. It was a school night. I knew she’d be furious, and this made me happy. Being that I am a future teacher myself, a 1:30 a.m. phone call can be a worst nightmare. Brittney switched her cell phone to speaker so I could hear. Ring. Ring. Ring. A sleepy, groggy voice answered. Before I could even open my mouth, profanity came flowing out of my best friends’ mouth. What was said, I don’t even want to repeat. She laughed and hung up the phone. We knew that my teacher would not be able to trace the call because we used *67. It was my turn. I, of course, had to put my two cents in. I dialed the number. It began to ring…This was my big chance to be an asshole. I hung up the phone suddenly, realizing I had not *67’d my call. Oh well. The night continued as normal, and I felt that I had at least made a puncture wound.

 

The next day, while suffering from a severe hangover, my cell phone rang. Head pounding, I quickly answered to hear my father’s voice on the other end. He asked me if I had called her last night. I said no. Assuring himself that I was telling the truth, he proceeded to ask me to explain why my phone number had shown up on her caller ID. Her phone number was in the phone book of my cell phone. I told him I would check my recent calls. Acting surprised, I said that my phone was in my pocket and must have called her on accident (My father did not realize that I have a flip phone, and this would be impossible). Apparently, she had called my father “concerned” when she saw my number on the caller ID. She was really mad, and demanded an apology. I thought the whole debacle was hilarious.

 

My father never believed me, which doesn’t surprise me because it was so obvious that my story did not make sense. My mother told him that he needed to start taking his family’s side, instead of worrying about protecting her. My mom might have saved me by saying that.

 

Eight months later, about four strong margaritas deep with my mom, aunt, and Brittney, Brittney and I decided to start telling secrets of all the dumb stuff we got away with in high school and our first year of college. We told the stories about smoking on the roof of my house late at night in the dead of winter, and how my mom had busted in my room right after we had finished smoking cigarettes in it and never noticed that the room reeked of perfume. My favorite was when I had friends over my senior year of high school for a bonfire and we decided to drink without her knowing. After the party had been going on for about two and a half hours, I have to admit, I was not too sober. I have this tendency to start talking a lot when I drink, so I decided to go have a friendly chat with my mother. After talking for about thirty seconds she asked me if I had been drinking. I said no, and that she probably smelled this new lip balm I was wearing. She bought it. At least I still think so. Anyways, we told her that story and she laughed at herself. I decided that I was close enough with my mom at this point that I could tell her about the call. So I did. And I couldn’t even get the rest of the story out before my mom and aunt started roaring in laughter. She thought it was funny. She actually told me and Brittney that she was proud of us for doing it. My mom understood my antics, and I felt we were on the same page. In the time that followed, I felt that my mom had become one of my closest friends.

 

I am a junior in college now. This past New Years Day, we had a party at my house. In the middle of the celebration, my mother asked to talk to me in the basement. I could tell she was nervous. “Your father and I have decided to stay together.” I stared at her in silence.

 

A tear came to my eye some moments later. She gave me a kiss on the forehead and left me alone. There were no words. I began to cry not because I was happy, but because I was now more confused than ever. How was this possible? They weren’t any different, at least not that I could see. My mom told me that my father approached her one day and said he missed her. I don’t know any more than that. My father has never said a word to me about it. I don’t understand how this is the best course of action. My father still won’t go for marriage counseling, sleep in the same bed as my mother, or take her out. My mother said they were going to start over again by going on dates and trying to get to know each other again. I think she has high hopes. She always has. I just don’t know if my father really has it in him to follow through. I think he is getting back together with my mother for the wrong reasons, the main reason being that he is afraid he will lose his children if he divorces my mother. He doesn’t realize he lost me a long time ago.

Don’t think that I want to sabotage my family. I would love more than anything to see my family work its problems out. But when the pieces of the puzzle just don’t fit together, then how is that possible? I am 21, and I don’t know that much about the world yet, and I don’t know what it is like to be married and have children. I am 21, and I do know that I don’t want to hurt anymore over this. I don’t want my family to hurt anymore over this.

 

I have gone through several changes in identity since all this. I have gone through the stages of anger, depression, loss in faith, and loneliness. They all still remain to a certain extent, but have dissipated over time. I was once very sure of what I wanted for myself in life, and now I am not so sure. I have begun to question everything, every move I make. I have become paranoid, obsessive, and at times, overbearing. The realization that I am turning into a version of my father makes me feel ill. The character traits I despise about my father are now becoming my own. The fear of turning into my father is horrifying. I tell myself often that I refuse to be like him, that I am better than that. If anything, I can use all of this as a lesson learned. I try with every fiber of my being to never think about any of this, but I know I can never escape it. A part of me will always feel pain and betrayal, but I think it is the ups and downs that constantly always lead me back. I wish I could settle things with my father. Maybe someday. Not today, not tomorrow, and probably no time in the near future. I am not ready to hear what my father has to say. In a way, I don’t think I am ready for forgive him for the pain that he caused me. He is not my husband, but I am a part of my family, and I was hurt by all the repercussions of his actions.

 

Some relationships just don’t last forever…and then there are some relationships that I will never fully understand.

 

Maybe I will never get over it. Even now, I don’t know how I feel. A part of me has been missing for quite some time. All of my emotions have come out at one point or another. I don’t know my parents anymore. Sometimes I feel like I don’t know myself anymore.

 

I wonder if I even want to know them again, or if I even care.

I will never be that little girl who danced with her daddy in the kitchen ever again.

 

 

Euphemism Campus Box 5555 Illinois State University Normal, IL 61790