Chapter Thirty-One – Found a Dad, Lost a Dad – In Mom’s Eyes
1989 – I am 40, Scott is 15, Julie is 12
I’m waiting for the kids at the airport. They’re coming back from Ed’s, Julie’s dad’s house in Philadelphia. They are upset, and hurt, and it’s all my fault. I can’t believe I actually thought he had changed. I don’t know why I was so stupid to think that the kids should meet him, get to know him. I should have listened to my Dad. He told me they didn’t need him, none of us needed a man like that in our lives. He was right. And I should have listened. I’m so sorry I brought him into their lives. And, God, poor Scott. Finally a chance to have a dad, albeit an adopted one, and this happens. And Julie, she wants a dad, her dad, so badly. I should have just told them he died. I should never have let him in their lives at all. God, I’m stupid. I just need to see their faces, see what damage has been done. I’m so sorry for what has happened to them. I can’t believe I made such a mistake. I can’t believe I allowed this.
The airport is busy, people everywhere. I’m waiting for them to come off the plane. I need to see their faces, see that they are okay. God, it seems like forever. Where are they? Please tell me nothing happened. Where are they?
I see Julie first, carrying her little purple suitcase. She loves it. Scott is walking beside her, his arm around her shoulders, protecting her from everyone. They don’t see me yet. Their faces are tired, scared, worried. Their faces are sad, angry. I get to them and their faces change in the bat-of-an-eye. Big smiles, bug hugs, relief. Julie starts crying. I start crying. Scott tries not to, but he starts crying. I can’t let go of them. I don’t ever want to let go of them again.
“Are you two okay?”
“We’re fine.” Scott is trying to be tough.
“Well, let’s get going. I missed you guys sooooo much! I don’t ever want you to leave again! Are you sure you’re okay? You had a tough time this time, huh?”
“We don’t EVER want to go back there, Mom. We don’t have to go back there, ever, do we?” Julie is scared and angry, and the look on her face is horrible. God, I’m sorry I did this to her. God, I’m sorry.
“No, honey, you don’t ever have to go back. It’s okay, you’re safe. We’re going home. You’re with me now, it’s going to be okay. I’m sorry, guys, I’m really sorry.”
“Well, it’s not YOUR fault, Mom! You didn’t know he was going to be like that! You didn’t do it. Don’t cry, Mom. It’s not your fault. He’s crazy, that’s all. But we don’t ever want to go back. We hate him.”
“You don’t ever have to go back, I promise. Let’s get to the car, you can tell me about it on the way home. We’ve got a long drive ahead of us.”
The three of us walk to the car, my baby blue T-bird. Scott doesn’t even argue, lets Julie ride in the front. This is a first. I’m worried about him, he hasn’t said two words, and his face hasn’t changed from its original state of sadness, anger, and worry. I want to take it away, turn back time, never have this trip happen. I want him to feel safe, loved. Julie is holding back, silent. I know the story is coming. She’ll tell me everything soon, but I’m afraid to hear it. And I feel like she’s afraid to tell it. There’s something about her that’s different. Something has changed in her that I don’t recognize. She’s nervous. And I don’t like it. What could he have done? How did he put this fear and trepidation into my children in just two week’s time? Why did I ever call him? God, I’m stupid.
“Okay, do you want to talk about it?” I’ve gotten us out of the airport traffic, and we are on the interstate, heading home. The kids have both been silent. Julie is picking at her fingernails. Scott is wringing the sleeves of his jacket. Silent. These are not my children. Not the children I took to the airport two weeks ago.
“Um, Mom, if I tell you some really bad stuff, are you gonna get mad at me?” Julie is so nervous. “No, honey, I won’t get mad. What happened?”
“But, Mom, there’s some bad words. And I have to tell you about it, because it’s important. But I don’t want you to get mad.” I have to hold back a laugh. She’s worried about saying bad words in front of me. That’s what’s got her nervous. Oh, silly child. I hope that’s the worst thing I have to hear.
“No, honey, I won’t get mad. I promise. It’s okay. I promise.” Somehow, I keep a straight face for her, because she is dead serious. And she’s still scared. She looks in my eyes, sees my approval, and explodes.
“Mom, he’s a slave-driver. All we did was work in his shop, painting it, waiting on customers, cleaning everything. We had to call Robyn, “mom”, but we didn’t mean it. I’m sorry about that. We didn’t mean it, really. She’s not our mom, but he MADE US do it. He’s so scary, Mom. He’s creepy. He’s crazy. All we did was work. At his shop, at the house. He wouldn’t take us hardly anywhere. All we did was work the WHOLE time, mom. And he’s creepy. He gives you a hug and it doesn’t feel right. There’s something wrong with it. He’s weird, Mom. I don’t know what’s wrong with him, but he’s MEAN and CRAZY. When we called you the other day, we had a big fight with him the night before that. This is where the bad words come in. I’m sorry in advance, but I have to say them. Scott was doing the dishes, and I was supposed to clear the table, and wash it off. So I did, TWICE, Mom. I thought I did a good job, and I was tired, so I went upstairs to rest. He came up after me a few minutes later, made me come back downstairs. He had found a little tiny smudge on the table and written “clean me” in it with a toothpick. CLEAN ME, Mom, with a TOOTHPICK! I’d had it, Mom, I just couldn’t take it anymore, and he was scary, and I just wanted to come home. I told him no, threw the dishrag at him, and ran upstairs. Scott came up there too. I was really upset, Mom, crying and stuff, I couldn’t even catch my breath. He’s just so psycho, I thought he was going to kill me. He came in our room, Mom, he came in and he was REALLY mad at me. Scott told him to leave, and he pushed him into the wall. He PUSHED HIM DOWN, Mom, and came for me. He grabbed me by my wrist and started dragging me out of the room. I was so scared Mom, I didn’t know what to do. I thought he was going to kill me. I bit him and scratched him and kicked him, and he let me go. There was blood in my mouth, Mom, BLOOD. I screamed at him, and said bad words, lots of bad words.” Julie takes a breath, finally, looks over at me, and says, “I told him to leave me the FUCK alone. I said the F-word a few times, Mom. I’m sorry.”
“It’s okay, honey. Really, it’s okay. What happened after that?”
“He left our room. Scott and I stayed in our room. Scott was hurt, his shoulder and his head are bruised. He pushed him HARD, Mom, and I thought he was gonna KILL us. Why is he so mean? What did we ever do to him? Why doesn’t he love us like a real dad? Mom? I’m sorry I messed it all up. I’m sorry we don’t have a dad anymore because of me. I’m sorry I messed it all up. Scott says he isn’t his real dad anyway, so he doesn’t care, but I don’t believe him. Sorry, Scott, I don’t really believe you. I’m sorry I messed it up for you. I know you wanted a dad too. I’m so sorry.” And then Julie dissolves into a puddle of tears, shaking and gasping, and sobbing. She thinks this is her fault. Oh God, what have I done to my children?
“Julie, this is not your fault. It’s my fault. I should have never called him. I should have never brought him into your lives. And as God is my witness, I swear I’ll kill him if I ever see his face again. I’m so sorry, to both of you, for putting you through all this. I’m so, so sorry. I’m proud of you both for doing what you had to do. I will never let you get hurt by him again. I promise.”
“Mom, he said really bad stuff about you and Grandma and Grandpa, and all our family. He said you were all major alcoholics. Said Gramps started it all, that he was the worst, besides you. He said we’ll grow up all messed up because of you, because you drink too much. I hate him! He doesn’t know a THING about you! He doesn’t know how you tuck us in every night. He doesn’t know how much we laugh, and how much fun we have. And he doesn’t know how much we LOVE each other! And, we’ll NEVER love him like that! He’s just jealous, he’s an asshole. I hate him, we BOTH hate him. I’m sorry he said those things, Mom, but we don’t believe him. We didn’t listen to ANY of it I don’t know what his problem is, but he’s got a lot of problems, actually. He’s creepy, Mom, and the way he hugs you, is, well, there’s something wrong with it, Mom, it’s just not right. It’s creepy.” Julie reaches in her bag to get some gum, which makes me glad because I’m ready for her to stop telling me the story. I don’t know if I can handle much more, and still be able to drive. I’m so angry, so upset, so sorry for their pain. I’m sick to my stomach over it. I just can’t believe that I let this all happen. Julie pulls something else out of her bag, she is rigid, irate, in a state of shock and disbelief. “Ohmygod, Scott, he PUT THEM IN MY BAG! I can’t believe he PUT THEM IN MY BAG! WHO. DOES. HE. THINK. HE. IS? I’m sorry, Mom, he gave us these…these books and stuff on being the child of an alcoholic. I threw them away. But he must have got them back out of the trash, and he PUT THEM IN MY BAG. Wow. He’s scary, Mom. I’m sorry.”
“Honey, there’s nothing to be sorry about.” I am so angry, I can barely breathe. Who DOES he think he is??? He’s been trying to turn my own children against me! I’m going to kill him, I swear to God, I’m going to kill him. What if they believe him? What if they hate me for it? What the hell am I supposed to do? I can’t believe this.
We rode along, all of us crying quietly for several miles. I think Julie has lost it. She’s just holding those damn pamphlets, and crying, staring out the window. Scott has his head down, sorry, I’m sure, for all that has happened. They think it’s their fault. They are so wrong. It’s all my fault and I’m so angry, so sorry, so tired.
“Here’s what I think, Mom.” Julie turns to me, and Scott perks up in the back, scoots forward to hear her better. There’s a fiery little twinkle in her eye. There she is. My girl. She rolls down her window, and page by page, tears up those booklets and throws them out. She says “asshole” with one page, and “fucker” with another. She says “crazy” with one, and “creepy” and “sick” and “mean” and “psycho”. And then she says “good riddance” for the last one. “I love my big alcoholic family, so there! And I love you, Mom. Forever. You’re all I need.”
And I know we’re going to be okay. Somehow, we’ll all get through this…together.