Yesterday was my 39th birthday (how is that even possible?!?!). It made me recollect one of my earlier birthdays…my 19th to be exact. That was probably one of the worst birthdays- no, actual days- of my life. Weeks prior, my father assaulted me and was arrested and the police issued a restraining order against him on my behalf to prevent him from coming near me or to the house. His court date was set afterwards and coincidentally landed on my 19th birthday. I was pressured by my mother and my father’s lawyer to drop the assault charges, which I did, and after going to court, my father was cleared and the restraining order was dropped. After staying in a hotel by his job for several weeks, my father was allowed to come home. I do not remember (or chose not to remember) the exact details of that day. I remember walking into the courthouse with just my mom. I can recollect speaking to my dad’s lawyer, but not having to actually speak to the judge. Most of my memories of that day are fuzzy. I can’t even really remember what happened when we arrived back home as a “family”. Did my mom make my favorite vanilla cake with chocolate frosting and M&Ms? Did my mom, sister and dad stand around the table singing “Happy Birthday” as I blew out the candles? Did my mom sign my birthday card, “Love, Mom and Dad”? I really don’t recall. I just remember it REALLY SUCKING. That is a juvenile way of describing it, but when I think about that day, that’s how I felt…it just sucked. It was awkward and forced and I was conflicted and confused. I loved my dad, but he physically attacked me and most of the time we all just acted like nothing happened.
It is weird to think about that day. Sometimes it feels like it never actually happened…like it was just a very realistic nightmare, yet it was one of the defining moments of my young adult life. It is hard to believe that it was twenty years ago. It is not something I dwell on often, but I do think about it every year on my birthday.
Your remembrance stirred up a similar experience with my father. I was fifteen. I mentioned it in my first book. Now that I’m finishing my second book, I have had to deal with it again and answer the question, Why didn’t my father take responsibility? Of course, nothing is really dealt with and discussed and ever resolved in the alcoholic family. That is probably why your memory is fuzzy.
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My father told the police that night that I attacked him. I was a skinny 18 year old girl and he is over 6 ft tall. To this day he has never acknowledged it or apologized. Even during his brief two years of sobriety he didn’t…I guess that is why we just learn that sometimes you have to try to forgive someone when they never say they are sorry!