For the first time in years, I mustered up enough courage to go with my brother Andy to make an attempt at visiting my dad.
I was nervous. The ghosts of my past surrounded me like a bedside vigil and kept my eyes open in fear for these past 48 hours. In the last 4 years, I had anger, rage, disappointment, concern, and empathy for the man that brought me here. My old friend and neighbor once told me, “When you see your father and you’ll see what he has become, I know you will feel sad for him.” Her quote has reverberated into my consciousness as I prepared to see him.
My brother and I drove together and reminisced a lot of our struggles with my parents’ court case. An hour later, I saw my family house. The backboard of the basketball hoop we had in our driveway was slowly decaying. I stepped out, and slowly walked along the sidewalk to observe what I remembered of my former home. The bonsai bushes along the sidewalk was dying. I was walking around the backyard and saw the garden my mom used to tend to. The tomatoes, the banana peppers, the lettuce plants are still there.
My brother and I took turns ringing the doorbell, knocked on the window. No answer. We waited, and waited some. Still no answer. We went to a grocery story nearby to pick up a notepad and pen. I wrote a short note asking him to call me.
We left, and decided to drive around Ty Warner Park, his favorite place to jog. As we were driving along the road, I saw him on my passenger side from a distance. He looked gaunt. His brown skin darkened. His face expressionless as he huffed and puffed. I motioned to Andy that I was convinced it was him. He didn’t believe me at first and we pulled over from a distant as we watched my dad jog closer towards his car. We decided not to surprise him. From my experiences in working with social workers and with someone as emotionally volatile as my dad, we decided not to take a risk at agitating him in public. We silently drove off.
I came home, and he did call.
He was emotional. He was lost. He was wondering why my brothers and I wouldn’t see him. I chose not to indulge him of every hurtful thing he caused. I needed to give him space. He had been trapped in isolation for the past few years, and he needed an outlet. He said his teeth are falling apart but he believed that the dentist is out to destroy his remaining teeth so he can profit off of him. I asked him why he had his phone deliberately turned off whenever his family tried to contact him, and he rambled something in the way of, “well T-Mobile is out to rip me off…..” and talked about how he refuses to trust anyone except us, and went into another long-winded incoherent rant before I had to cut him off and say, “I will try again next weekend. I promise.” He quickly told me that he wants to see me, and my brothers. He wished me well and said “I love you.” I turned away from my phone, feeling sadness that he is still imprisoned by his conscience that has been invaded by trauma all these years.
I anticipated worse, but today, the door was cracked opened even if he didn’t answer it.
To be continued……
Before seeing my dad, I was sitting next to my mom facing her lawyer in his other office in downtown Chicago. It was our first time to that office, but we were more than eager to make it our last time seeing him. It had already been nearly 2 years, and our last court date resulted in the judge threatening to have my dad come into court via police escort as he had already been ignoring court appearances. My mom did not want to see her former abuser, nor wants to see him get arrested and potentially cause disorder in the courtroom due to his own mental health issues. She decided that she had enough. She had long been going through sleepless nights over her divorce case. She feared seeing my dad. She feared being forced to memorize certain words she would have to say in court despite her mental and language limitations. She agonized over the court fees, and how she would get the money that is tied over to my dad’s account. She became stressed over my dad’s missing court appearances, and whether the case has any end in sight.
Our attorney, who still messes up the pronunciation of her name (which is one-syllable) had her sign the documents agreeing to conclude the case, and ensuring that my dad wouldn’t be faced under arrest.
To her, it was not worth all the troubles. She had already lost so much before the case. She lost her mobility and part of her cognitive skills due to her stroke. She had to leave the house that she lived in for so many years, only to now be taking up space between my brothers and I. She was married to a man whom she felt protected by for so many years, but to only become a threat to her safety. She was already defeated before the case, and as the case dragged on, the losses kept piling up.
As she started signing the documents, I hung my head down in resignation thinking about what this court case did to her. I felt responsible for helping to create the chaos that have swirled above us like a scavenger finding a fresh corpse. I refused to talk to my dad and take most of his phone calls. I was intent at times on trying to punish my dad for causing harm to our family. I tried to hold back the sadness that was building up as I see her sign the paperwork. She then looked up and told her lawyer, “Now I can move on. I don’t have to worry about this anymore.”
She was relieved. She didn’t care about getting a settlement from my dad. She talked about how her new peers in her ESL class and Adult Day Care are struggling even harder than her, and that she still has an amount of privilege that they don’t have. She sees that she is able to get taken care of by her children. She is able to experience new things without having to worry about my dad controlling every aspect of her life.
As we got out of the office, I pushed her around in her new wheelchair along State Street in the downtown Loop area past the Chicago Theatre, and visiting Nordstrom Rack and a few other stores along the way. She mentioned how she never got to see the downtown area so intimately because my dad never wanted to be around it. She was relaxed and curious about what was in front of her. She became a tourist in that moment. For the first time, it seems like she has finally achieved liberation, than she ever did when she was able-bodied.
Though my dad more financially privileged and somewhat able, is still searching to be free……
To be continued……….