As my upcoming trip to Oklahoma approaches, I've been thinking about my father more and more. It's not something I like, but it's there because Oklahoma is where my family lives and thus, my father. And I know it's something that people don't talk about, estrangement from family members. Airing dirty laundry and all that, but I feel like more people should talk about it. That way those of us that do shut out a parent don't feel quite alone in doing so.
I've been estranged from my father since my wedding in 2011. I decided to cut him out of my life not because I want to cause him harm but to prevent more harm caused to me. When I first learned that my father was cheating on my mother (though I didn't really know how to process or recognize what it was then), I was in the 8th grade. I had to do a paper on the computer for a class and I found screenshots of naked women from Yahoo! Messenger. I remember it very clearly because the woman has a flower (possibly a rose?) on her front shoulder. I remember closing the computer after deleting everything I found and tried to just forget about it because I didn't really comprehend what I was seeing. I convinced myself that it was a mistake that it was there and just deleted it. But, every time I would go on the computer I would find more.
That's when a password was put on the computer by my father.
I remember when I was quite little, my dad took my brother and I to Eastland Mall to get my brother a video game but it wasn't his birthday or anything. I got really upset that my brother was getting something and I wasn't and asked for a Tweety bird stuffed animal. I couldn't have been more than 5 or 6 and I threw a tantrum and ended up getting it anyway but my dad made me feel horrible about it. Later, I found out that when my mom found my dad's porn stash, he'd bribe my brother to take the fall by buying him video games.
When we got a DVR for the television, I would find porn recorded. Since I was brought up very very strictly, I deleted it every time I saw it... which happened to be very frequently. Then, my dad got a separate external hard drive for his porn so I wouldn't find it on the DVR.
Since before I can remember, my father always said horrible things about my mom to me. He'd say she was such a bitch and a vain horrible person and my brother was just like her. But, I was just like him and he was so happy that he had me to talk to. And of course I was happy to be spending time with my dad and maybe I was angry at my mom for something inconsequential like having to clean my room or do the dishes or do housework. So, at first I liked the attention my dad was giving me and felt great that he talked to me like an adult. However, as I grew older the things he was saying didn't match up to the things I was seeing. Sure, my mom accused him of cheating, but it ended up being true. He was cheating. He did look at other women while we were out. He did say insensitive things to her. Of course she'll have something to say about that.
As I went away to college, I started to distance myself from my dad because all he would talk about was how horrible my mom was and how he wishes he could just divorce her. But, he wanted to wait until my Mema and Deda (my mom's parents) were dead so he could get the inheritance money and then leave her. So, I would stay in my room every time I visited home if my mom wasn't there. I just didn't want to hear it.
Then, when my mom announced she wanted to divorce my father because he was cheating on her, my father sat me down on the bed and said, "You don't believe I would cheat on your mother, right?" And made me feel like the horrible person for thinking such a thing of him. He sat me down on my bed and looked me straight in the eyes and asked me if I thought he would cheat on my mom.
I did believe he was cheating on my mother. I found web profiles with his name and information with a photograph of his penis on it looking for hook ups with women in the Tulsa area. I found those screenshots when I was in the 8th grade on the family computer. And later, I found out he was seeing a woman at the time named Melissa (whom he married VERY shortly after getting divorced) and she was coming over to the house while my mom worked her second job at night. I learned this not only from my mom but from the neighbors. They had seen her. He wouldn't let my mom see his activity on the cell phone bill, as well. That is when I started to really believe he was a cheating arsehole. I was in complete denial before that. But the fact that he wouldn't let my mom have access to his phone activity on his cell phone confirmed that he was hiding something (I know, I know... but I was in denial.. I wanted to think the best of my dad). He would also tell me he had to go "out" and wouldn't tell me where he was going and not return for hours.
All the while my dad kept saying, "I never cheated on your mom! I'm the victim! She abused me not the other way around!" He still keeps up with these lies to this day.
And that is why I am estranged from my father. I have forgiven him for what he's done, but I won't let that kind of manipulation into my life. And I'm positive he tells everyone who will listen that I don't talk to him anymore because my mom tells me "lies"... but that is simply not true. I don't speak to my father because of the things I witnessed myself. Sadly, my brother believes everything my dad says and thus is not a part of my life either.
Emotional abuse is still abuse and that is exactly what my father put our family through.