Day 20 of my 40 Day Blog Challenge; half way through! Today’s is a story of having to adjust to the world when it turns out people aren’t at all who you thought they were. It is my story.
Crushed is the only way I can describe what happened to me the day I found out. It was the Easter holidays 1998. I was back from Uni for a break. It was a conversation with my Mum in the kitchen of the house we rented from the school my dad was a teacher at. On the table was a school exercise book; it was a book my dad was writing about “gymnastics”. In it were were photographs of the young girls he was teaching, wearing tight fitting leotards in “athletic” poses.
“I’d be worried about that Mum” I remember saying.
“I’ve reported it to the police” was the response.
This isn’t a blog about what my dad did and didn’t do. His denial at the time and nearly 20 years silence on the subject since, means I will never truly understand or know, what was really going on, or even what actually happened. And I have learned to be OK with not knowing.
This blog is about my journey through this time.
I got on a train that afternoon and went straight back to University. My brother was at another Uni there and I met him in the pub. I told him the news. Like myself, he was disgusted, and not overly surprised. That night for the first time in my life, I drank myself into oblivion.
I disengaged from my study. I spent days on end in my room. The shame I felt made it so difficult to even speak with my close friends about what had happened. I became isolated, stuck in my room with nothing but the thoughts of what I had learned about my father. I felt full of guilt.
As a teenager, I had an unusually strong desire for fatherhood myself. All I ever really wanted was to grow up to be a good husband and dad. I thought about it a lot. It felt like that dream had been smashed. I couldn’t even see a young girl in the street without powerful feelings of disgust and guilt. What I was now battling with, was what felt like an all out assault on my sense of identity, and it literally crushed me.
I got further and further behind on my studies, spent way more time in the pub and drinking in my room than was I was comfortable with as a “good Christian lad”.
I finished the year at Uni with no real hope of ever completing the course successfully and so I dropped out. I don’t recall feeling suicidal, but desperately wanted to escape the pain of the reality I was now dealing with.
By now I had started having regular nightmares. My father would be some kind of monster which I’d have to escape. In the daytime, I’d sometimes catch glimpse of his car in town and experience huge rushes of adrenaline – and I really didn’t know whether I wanted to run or do him some serious harm.
One day, when I was living with my younger brother, who at the time was dealing with things far more gracefully than me, I arrived home in my car to see dad’s car parked in my space – he had come to visit! I revved my engine, put the car into 1st gear and…thankfully came to my senses.
In the few years that followed the events of 1998, I feel that I lost much of my identity and had become filled with so much fear and anger. I became lost, and had no real sense of direction in my life.
Then the pastor of my church asked me to come and volunteer for a year. (As I write this, I realise how much I owe you). I slowly began to reconnect with what was really important to me. During that year I also met my wife to be, who encouraged me to talk about my dad.
Eventually with her support, I arranged to meet him. I remember opening the door. He looked old. And not at all like the monster of my dreams. Very slowly, I began to forgive him the hurt he had caused me. And slowly, the healing process began to take place.
We catch up from time to time, on Facebook or the occasional text. It’s not a “normal” or idealistic father son relationship, it is perhaps, as good as it can be. He may even read this blog.
Dad I don’t write these things to shame you, but to encourage others that when your world is ripped apart and you feel that you have almost lost yourself entirely, hold on to those who love you, to those who can still see you in there. Let them carry you a while, until once again you find the strength in your legs to walk again.
I am now a father of two amazing girls. I love them and cherish them so much. That dark period of my life now seems a million miles away, and I am blessed to be surrounded by my wife and daughters, in the way in which I had always dreamed of.