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Two Parents

A reflection of my father's love

By Laura LannPublished about a month ago Updated 19 days ago 10 min read
Top Story - March 2024
27
Two Parents
Photo by Brittani Burns on Unsplash

My father was two people stitched tightly together into the same body.

Allen was every hallmark of a great father. A parent that took time to notice the small things his children adored. He invested energy into every hobby I picked up. Promptly, he bought me the books and tools to make it flourish. We would problem solve together how to construct my next idea. I would bring him elaborate plans that I had drawn out and done the math on. He would double check it then off to the porch we would go to build it. I was an artist, a crafter, a writer, sculpture, builder, and reader. I was anything and everything my creative mind yearned to be.

We went to trade fairs on weekends and spent hours walking the booths and talking to his friends. Tents and tables of rock beads called to me, and he would pause so I could admire them. He would help me pick out a couple to buy and turn to jewelry later. There was a snow cone truck we would stop at to dampen the summer heat. On the long drive home he would share stories of his childhood and young adult years with me. The time before he met my mother. Sometimes we took the long way so he could show me places with meaning and memory. He would point out the locations from his tales.

As a youth, he had wanted to be a writer, but never pursued it. He admitted he never did figure out what he wanted to do with his life. More than anything, he believed in my writing. He told me since I knew what I wanted, I should chase after it. He gave me book after book to read. Bought me my own lap top for writing. "If you want to be a writer, then that's what you should be," he said. It was the only "lazy" indoor activity he would let me waste the weekend away on.

He retired before I started school so we spent a lot of time together. He woke up at 5am on school days to make me my favorite breakfast. My plate was always fixed, waiting in my seat, when I bounced into the kitchen. Afternoons were spent making wine, beer, root bear, or ginger ale after homework. My favorite of the treats I could have was the ginger ale. Truthfully, most of the process has faded from memory but the bite of ginger on my tongue and the fizz against my nose still rings sharply.

We grew gardens and planted orchids. We would pick berries and snap peas or gather pecans to crack on the porch. Hours were spent wrapping pears in newspaper and packing them into boxes. We trimmed, staked, and control burned the trees and bushes. He taught me how to fell old growth in our woods. We went on regular walks along the property. A manchette just for me hung in the tool room, ready to accompany on the next adventure.

He loved to fish and always took me with him. We would catch catfish, bigger than me at the time, and pack them into a cooler. If I got bored, I would run along the bank, clasping frogs in my hands or digging for worms. He could sit patiently for hours with a rod and beer while I played in the mud and grass. He never minded me getting dirty; to him it was a right of passage for children. He would hang me upside down and tickle me as he teased about tying me to the car roof for the drive home.

I took college classes in the afternoon during high school. He was always there early to pick me up so I would never have to wait. Sometimes he had ice cream for me. We would talk about how my afternoon had been. He listened well and would give me thoughtful advise. We talked about boys, friends, dating, and careers. We talked through my perspective on people and life. We talked about what I wanted to do with mine. He would stress I was young and had time to make mistakes and learn. He told me I was smart so it would all work out.

My father was two people stitched tightly together into the same body.

Allen was a monster wrapped in an unassuming frame and cloaked from strangers behind polite charm. He met my mother when she was a minor, groomed her to marriage, then slowly seized control of her life. He isolated her and his children through rigid rules. Rules that were laid out as permanent and unyielding as stone.

I was only allowed to see family. He never let me have friends outside of school. Instead, he filled my social sphere with animals and pets. My best friend aside from my cousin I saw maybe three times a year, was my dog and cat. Then he used those pets to threaten me if I wanted to go see family on the weekends, go to holiday gatherings, or attend the annual family camping trip. He would say, "Maybe your dog will be here when you get back, maybe it won't."

I had to decide what gamble to take. Sometimes I went, sometimes I didn't. Sometimes my mom decided for me. Sometimes he killed the animals or let them loose. Sometimes he didn't. It was hard to guess what he would do once he was drunk. It was not a choice for a child to make. And, if it was not the pets, he assigned heaps of yard work with a stringent deadline. Rake up all the leaves on the shaded four acres. Or perhaps we would have to fill the hole in the driveway with crawfish mounds gathered from the back and hauled to the front in buckets.

I got in trouble a lot for being too emotional. He would say it was not my fault that I was a woman but yell at me for it anyway. Women were stupid. Weak. Fussy. He insisted I needed to learn to control my emotions. Outbursts of anger were swiftly punished. My tears were berated. If my happiness was too loud, I was quieted.

"Women are meant to be seen, not heard," he would tell me. Sometimes, when I was too talkative after dark, he would kick me outside to "sleep with the dogs". Mother would usually sneak me back in later, but one winter night I curled up with the dogs on their dirty blankets and slept till the deep cloak of the night had settled over the world. The smell of wet dog and dirt still stains the inside of my nostrils. He shot one of the dogs in a fit of anger later.

Allen loved using the outdoors as punishment. Something he picked up from the military, I think. One time, after a long day of work outside, I missed my scheduled bath time. There was no harm in letting me go after everyone else was finished, but Allen refused. Each of his children were allotted their scheduled 20 minutes in the bathroom, and I had missed mine. He told me if I wanted a bath, I could bathe outside with the water hose. I asked if I could shower in the morning because I had school. He said no. So in the middle of winter, I bathed outside with the hose and a flashlight.

Most of his cruelness happened when he was drinking, and he was almost always drinking. He liked to get drunk and just yell at me. He would have me sit down and listen to him say every hurtful thing he could find. He would insist I was going to do nothing with my life. I would not be successful. I would not be okay. I was worthless. I was stupid. "You're too emotional, Laura Kate," he would stress after calling me names for so long that I cried. But, if I did not cry or snap in anger, he kept going.

He refused to go camping or kayaking or hiking with me. He would not go to the zoo or museums. It was a rare occurrence if he showed up at family functions and he monitored my behavior so closely I was unable to relax. Being a kid around him was problematic. Kids were talkative and rude. And accident prone. They lacked manners. I was extra mindful of mine, least he berate me for not holding my fork properly or closing a door too swiftly. If my manners embarrassed him, I would not be allowed to leave the house for a while. I was clumsy and hyper; I embarrassed him often.

My mother was caged just as tightly as her children, and treated just as coldly. They fought all the time, mostly him yelling at her. Their shouting would fill the small house we lived in at night like the wails of ghosts haunting the halls.

I feared my father more than I loved him. Every interaction was timed around his mood and sobriety. I forecasted his response to things, and attempted to follow the rules. He had so many rules; too many to list here. He spanked us sometimes with switches and belts. For foolish things too, like crying or getting hurt. He threw away our favorite toys. Or kicked us outside in the dark. Or withheld dinner. Or found a creative form of farm labor. He never apologized for any of his behavior, even as I got older.

My father was two people stitched tightly together into the same body.

There was a version of him that I loved, but I rarely saw or knew that man. As a kid I reasoned there was a part of him that was good, and that good part just turned into a monster when he drank. As a child, I thought he would overcome it one day. I thought the monster side was not the real version of him. In my head it was like a villian in a book that needed to be defeated. I was so sure he would defeat the monster for my sake. I clung to that hope and poured energy into our friendship. If only I had realized he was just a bad person. And, even bad people are occasionally kind and pleasant. I was a child though and had no idea he chose to be a monster. That he chose to do all of those things.

For a while, I fancied the abuse would stop when I grew up, and we would just be friends. But, that's not how things usually work out, and it's certainly not how my tale resolved. I often mourn what could have been. It's easy to look back at the parts of him that I loved and wish they were the only memories I had. Better those few good memories than the overwhelming bad.

Love is a funny and fickle emotion. I loathe Allen more than I could ever say I loved part of him. Yet, still, he was my father. And, the good parts of our relationship defined so much of me as an adult. He watered my soul even as the other side of him stomped it down. And, I'm stuck with that division he faced. Stuck with feeling like I almost had a loving parent. Stuck with grieving over and over that he chose abuse. Stuck with knowing I will always love him as much as I wish I did not. Stuck with knowing he did not love me enough to not abuse me. Such is the tragic tale of abused children.

The curse of it all, is that Allen never once said to me, "I love you." And, I do not know that he ever really did.

FamilyChildhood
27

About the Creator

Laura Lann

I am an author from deep East Texas with a passion for horror and fantasy, often heavily mixed together. In my spare time, when I am not writing, I draw and paint landscape and fantasy pieces. I now reside in Alaska where adventures await.

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Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!

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  1. Compelling and original writing

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    The story invoked strong personal emotions

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    Well-structured & engaging content

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Comments (11)

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  • Shirley Belkabout a month ago

    Beautiful & sad.

  • Melissa Ingoldsbyabout a month ago

    What a very tragic and unfortunately relatable piece on parental trauma that is inflicted on us askidd through addiction and cruelty. My support and hugs goes out to you and your family

  • zulfi buxabout a month ago

    Absolutely loved reading your life's story but am really saddened that U have been through so much .

  • Anna about a month ago

    Congrats on Top Story!🥳🥳🥳

  • Phil Flanneryabout a month ago

    What a rollercoaster life you lived. Too many downs and not enough ups though. It was raw and real and difficult to read, I hope you have purged a little sorrow now.

  • Christy Munsonabout a month ago

    The double meaning of "reflection" starts us off and your use of split narrative (well, that's the name I'm giving it anyway) is profound. As you've published to Confessions and not to Fiction, I'm going to treat this piece as true, not as first-person narration. If I'm right about that, you have my awe -- awe for the strength you show, the ability you have to sift through unsafe and shifting sands, and for your heart in bravely putting a voice to the unspeakable bad behaviors of Allen. He owed you better. You deserve better. Congratulations on Top Story. And congratulations on finding your fierce!

  • Babs Iversonabout a month ago

    Horrific and heartbreaking!!! Left some love!!!❤️❤️💕

  • Abdul Qureshiabout a month ago

    Its hard to read the pain u have faced, so perfect story line

  • A. Lenaeabout a month ago

    Firstly, I hate that you experienced such a significant type of pain, and I'm so sorry you did. Also, this piece is written so extraordinarily. In the beginning, I read about your dad like I was a child - smitten and even having the thought "I want to be a parent like this. You conveyed the bright moments the way a young girl would embrace them. Then the duality really came into play, and you showed the monster inside of your dad with such heart wrenching clarity. I hope exploring this and writing about it brings you comfort and leads you toward peace and pride in your own strength. You are a remarkable writer. I think this story will always stay with me, and I thank you for sharing it.

  • A. J. Schoenfeldabout a month ago

    Wow! Wonderfully written. In the beginning, I liked your Dad with reservation. I remembered you said he was two people and I feared the other side you would show us. It reminds me of a neighbor we all once loved, until the day we finally saw his sins unravel. It's amazing how easily monsters can deceive others.

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