The daughter

Romantic films have happy endings. In real life only the beginnings are happy and nothing ends well. But then, nothing really ends.

The Daughter by Jane Shemilt

I picked up the book The Daughter at the airport in Chicago as I was waiting for my flight. I brought a book with me but almost finished it on the long layover. I bought the book because it looked intriguing. I know, I know, one should never choose a book by its cover. I didn’t know the author. How risky!

The main character of this fictional book was a physician whose daughter went missing. I don’t want to give anything away so I won’t. I’ll just tell you that I really liked it and think you would like it too. It struck some heavy chords such as if I wasn’t so busy at work I would’ve known something was wrong with my daughter.

Blame. It’s so easy to get into that trap as a parent. I’ve asked myself many of times what I did wrong. Maybe if I was paying more attention I would’ve known my daughter was depressed. Maybe she wouldn’t have tried to kill herself. Maybe she wouldn’t have mutilated her body so badly from cutting that she needs plastic surgery to look like she did before. But maybe, just maybe, I am part of the reason she is alive right now.

It’s hard not to blame yourself as a parent in the transition from everything’s normal to there is something really wrong. It’s easier to brush it off as a one off even though the patterns indicate it’s clearly not. We tend to trick ourselves into believing everything is fine and blame ourselves later when it’s obviously not.

At the end of the book I read the write up on the author. She is currently a full-time physician and mother of five. In her free time she went back to school to get a Master’s degree in writing and wrote a couple of books, one is a bestseller that I didn’t read yet. How impressive is that?? The author has a brilliant mind and it comes through in her writing. I loved the above quote from her book. Her quote pretty much sums up why I don’t like romance novels. Sometimes life is messy and things don’t work out in the end. I read a book a couple of months back that was a real mess but everything magically worked out in the end. I hated it because it offered false hope and not real life.

My favorite genre of books are psychological thrillers, mysteries, and dramas. I love reading self-help books too because who doesn’t want to fix themselves and everyone around them?!? I also love the classics, historical books, and survival stories fictional and non.

I don’t always want a happy ending. I want real characters and personable honest people. What are you really thinking and experiencing? I want problem upon problem. I want to know how people handle adversity. I don’t want things to magically work out in the end. I don’t know about you, but that is not how my life has been. I want to analyze how people deal with difficult circumstances. I want to know about the things you don’t want to tell anybody.

I finished my book that I was writing. It’s been over a year now. I even sent it off to test readers. But things changed. Since then I found out about the crime my dad committed. My daughter started struggling with serious mental health issues. I was no longer constrained to writing about my experiences as a sibling of someone with serious mental health issues. I could now write as a mother.

I am hoping to process everything I’ve experienced within the past year and write about it on my blog. From there I would like to incorporate it into the first edition of my book. To me it’s not all about happy endings, it’s about learning to live with what we have been given. There is beauty to be found in tragedy. That is where real stories of hope, courage, and inspiration lie.

Gratitude week 60

  1. I’m grateful that the arctic blast (two weeks of subzero temps) is now over!!!!
  2. With all the snow on the ground and the departure of the bitterly cold weather, I am able to exercise outside. I went snowshoeing this morning and am planning on going cross country skiing later this week. This is the first time I have been out this season.
  3. I’m grateful that my daughter’s frogs should be able to eat crickets now that it is warmer out. With the snowstorms and cold weather, the shipments for crickets has been severely delayed or the crickets arrive dead. After my daughter’s pets went a whole week without eating because we couldn’t find crickets anywhere, my husband bought some fishing worms for them so they didn’t starve. Yeah again for warmer weather!!
  4. My appointment with the wellness nurse went very well this past week. I graduated!! Yeah, I only need to go in once a year now. I went from having acid reflux, colitis, multiple parasites, SIBO, and over 20 food allergies to being back to a state of good health. Today the clinic called and asked if I would be willing to give a testimonial. I told them absolutely!
  5. I had lunch with my friend Jen this past week. I was kind of embarrassed though because I always order the same thing and the waitress joked with me that she didn’t even need to bring a menu because that’s what I always order. So much for being a wallflower!
  6. Paul and I went to our sailing club cruise planning meeting. Nothing feels better than getting out my calendar and scheduling the summer. We have some fun trips planned and are planning on crossing Lake Michigan for the first time in our sailboat.
  7. My daughter Angel and I spent the day together on Saturday. We went out to eat and had pizza at a restaurant that offers gluten and dairy free options. The pizza I chose was absolutely amazing. Afterwards we had vegan ice cream, again it was amazing. Then we spent the rest of the day thrift shopping. My big find was a murder mystery game that I haven’t played before. Once things settle down I’ll have to host a murder. I’ll also have to find a tape player as some of the clues are on cassette tape.
  8. My mom got her second COVID shot this past week. We have plans to visit the spa in a couple days. It will be nice to be able to visit with her again. Hopefully a lot of her fears will be put to rest.
  9. I just finished a wonderful book call The Daughter. I’m grateful to find a new author that I like. There is a quote from the book that I want to post later this week that I thought was profound.
  10. I am grateful for the opportunity to document my life mainly through writing but also through photography. I’m excited about starting the series regarding having a teenager with mental health struggles. Talking about my dad and now my daughter has been very challenging for me. But I know how beneficial writing has been in my healing journey and I am hoping that by doing so I can reach others who are also struggling with similar circumstances.

Right before the pandemic

Maybe she was crying out but I wasn’t listening. Her problems seemed so petty, like the fight with Estelle. I had given her everything I wanted but never had as a child. In my mind my problems always trumped hers because I was shielding her from life’s real problems. I didn’t listen to any complaints about how hard she had it for anything.

But in reality I really was trying to protect her. She just didn’t know about it. I didn’t tell her anything about my dad. I didn’t tell her that several weeks back her older sister found child porn on their grandpa’s computer and turned him in to the police. She was a child. I wanted to protect her from that. She seemed so innocent, carefree, and happy. Why take that from her?

I developed a plan. Arabella was going to be a foreign exchange student. Maybe she wouldn’t find out about her grandpa until it was all over. But I was worried. There were a few problems with the plan for the children in my house to have the perfect childhood. The police could arrest him any day and then the world would know what kind of monster my dad is. Our foreign exchange students might get sent home. Their parents might not want them here although they would have nothing to do with my dad.

Then there was the part about me being a complete and total mess. I fell into a downward spiral of depression and despair after I heard about my dad. I suffered greatly from the blow and the trauma I experienced as a child resurfaced in the worst way. I knew I was suffering from Complex PTSD. But that knowledge didn’t stop me from going through what I did.

I pushed everyone away. I pretended everything was okay. But I wondered how anything could ever be fine again.

I experienced moments of extreme anxiety and hyper-vigilance. One day I thought I could try to calm myself by listening to music in my earbuds. Arabella came up behind me unexpectedly to give me a hug. I freaked out and screamed at her to not touch me and get away from me. I was horrified. I apologized and tried to explain to her not to touch me if my back was to her. But I could tell she didn’t understand. She felt rejected and I blamed myself for it.

After Arabella’s suicide attempt, we had a long talk. I decided to tell her everything that was happening with my dad. I told her that I was having a hard time with it and me pushing her away had nothing to do with her. Together we cried.

Inside, though, I was furious. If my dad didn’t screw up my life once again I would’ve noticed that my daughter was depressed. I didn’t call him on his birthday. I didn’t even send a card. I blamed him for what happened with Arabella. I was so focused on his mess that I didn’t even notice my own child was suffering.

I wasn’t doing well before the suicide attempt and I certainly didn’t do well after. I suffered severely from insomnia and nightmares for over a month. I thought I was going to lose my mind. That all happened right before the pandemic.

50 years and a million tears

Today is my parents 50th wedding anniversary. It is a huge milestone that should be celebrated yet I feel conflicted. They have been unhappily married for probably a good 49 of those years. They are miserable together, but they did stick it out.

My mom acts like everything is normal between them as if the police couldn’t show up at any moment and haul my dad away. I don’t know how she can live that way. She would rather stay with him then start over without him. I think if it was me I would’ve left a long time ago.

I think my mom’s life would’ve been better if she never married my dad. Maybe she should’ve left him for good that time he was mean to her before we were even born. I think my dad would have been better suited as a single man without children. He just wasn’t good husband and father material despite the fact that his parents were wonderful people.

I know that if my mom didn’t stay my brothers and I would never have been born. I wouldn’t have my children. I wouldn’t have my nieces. There wouldn’t be me. How can I say that it would be better if my parents weren’t ever together if it threatens our very existence?

What would the world be like without me ever being here? How can I say what is best for someone else if it would obliterate my existence and those of my siblings? I have to look at the good that came out of their relationship. Sometimes good things do come out of bad situations.

I examine my life sometimes more than George Bailey in the movie It’s a Wonderful Life. There must be a reason we are here or we wouldn’t be. Right?

I will not send my parents a sappy card that says I want a marriage just like theirs. Quite the contrary, from them I learned I wanted something different.

For their anniversary they are getting a snow storm cold and blustery. It’s not a lot different from their wedding day or their marriage.

I wish them the best, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t wish things were different.

Gratitude week 57

  1. I’m back!! Seriously, I’m grateful that Paul and I made it home without getting stuck somewhere on the day we were scheduled to be back home. Our original flight ended up being cancelled so instead of two flights we ended up with three flights with two less than an hour layovers. Oh, and one of the flights was to Chicago during a winter storm warning. Fun times! Despite emails suggesting cancelling my route to Chicago then home the airline told me my only way to my home airport was through Chicago.
  2. I’m grateful that despite the storms we flew over the flights home were really smooth.
  3. I checked Louisiana off my bucket list.
  4. I also checked Alabama off my bucket list.
  5. The kids and pets are still alive and the house is still standing. Unfortunately, however, it is not a good idea to have two adult children manage the house while we were gone as there is currently a war going on between them that is still waging.
  6. My husband has the goal to quit drinking for a year. He struggled with that goal while we visited Bourbon St. in New Orleans. It was always in his face. Sometimes we had to sit at the bar because there was no where else to sit. Even a wine truck parked in front of the place we were staying as we were enjoying some time on the porch. I know it wasn’t easy but I’m really grateful he was able to stick to his goal on vacation.
  7. I’m thankful that January is over. I find it to be the most difficult month to live through in our climate. It’s the letdown month after the excitement and joy of the holidays. We usually have the coldest temperatures of the year along with a lot of snow.
  8. I’m grateful to be able to travel and experience new things even though it was not what I originally planned before COVID.
  9. I’m grateful that my parents and brother Matt received the COVID vaccine without any issues.
  10. I feel really grateful for the gift of writing and being able to share my story. I’ve been thinking about it a lot since I’ve had a break from blogging. I feel like writing is the creative masterpiece of my life. I’m not the most vocal person. I don’t create beautiful portraits. But I create with words and am happy to discover how important it is to me.

Gratitude week 55

  1. Although this was something I was initially upset about, I’m grateful that I made a wasted trip to the psychiatrist with my daughter a week earlier due to a scheduling error. Arabella was not doing well the day of her rescheduled appointment which lead the psychiatrist take my concerns seriously. He thinks she has more serious mental health issues then he initially thought. Then he told us he was retiring and couldn’t help anymore. The appointment was devastating on many levels, but at least we are closer to getting answers.
  2. I got a hair cut and my nails done today. I feel like a new person.
  3. My husband and I are still planning on taking the vacation I planned several months back. We are flying out this week to Arkansas and spending a few days in Hot Springs then traveling on to New Orleans. From there we will be staying on the Alabama coast and flying out of Florida. I have been conflicted about this trip. I booked it before I knew how serious things were with my daughter. As of now we are going. We have been pretty burnt out and could really use a break.
  4. I’m grateful we have trustworthy and reliable people in place to take care of things at home while we are gone.
  5. I’m grateful I finished the series about my dad. It was one of the hardest things I had to write about. So much so that I considered not even doing it. But as it is a personal blog, I am hoping to write about the good and the bad things in my life. After we get back from our trip I am going to lighten things up a bit and write about our travels. Then I am going to dive into another deep topic, having a child develop severe mental health issues during a pandemic. I’m hoping to post one more time this week. So don’t worry if you don’t hear from me for awhile!
  6. I’m grateful that my best friend picked me up and took me out to brunch over the weekend.
  7. I’m grateful for a good conversation with my mom yesterday.
  8. I’m grateful to realize that I need to take care of myself once in awhile too.
  9. I’m grateful to be travelling with Paul and for the adventures we will have. We’ve had a lot of stress and so many plans fall through this past year.
  10. I’m grateful to have had some tests done today to continue on my path to seek health. I’m hoping with this trip it won’t feel so long before I get the results back.

Still waiting…

We were expecting something to happen at any minute when COVID hit the nation. Nothing happened. Would they delay pressing charges?

The detective told me they found 20 images on the laptop. That was before they took my dad’s main computer. I hardly think that would be overlooked. We are talking felony charges, a hefty fine, and my dad spending the rest of his life in prison. It’s hard to process. Would I go to the trial? Would I visit him in prison? Write letters? A part of me doesn’t want to worry about that until it happen.

When the pandemic hit the nation, my brother’s group home shut down temporarily and my brother came home. My mom became paranoid about the virus. She pushed almost everyone away. Yet she was stuck at home with my dad and brother, both who needed care. I watched my mom start to slip. It wore her down and she stopped sleeping. She started taking anti-depressants and sleeping pills but none of it really worked. She ended up having a bad side effect from the medication and ended up in the hospital.

I took my brother back to his group home. Once they took him back he was not allowed to come back home and hasn’t been home since. Meanwhile, my mom stayed at home locked in the house with my dad. She started doing strange things. Sometimes she wanted to leave my dad, then at other times she told me that my dad was now the love of her life. He held her at night when she couldn’t sleep and helped her through it. He comforted her from the pain he caused her. It was all very bizarre and I had to wonder if she had some sort of mental illness that went beyond anxiety. No one would blame her for wanting to leave. But staying?

In June, the police department contacted my parents and said they could pick up some of the items from evidence. They printed off the photos on the laptop for my mom like they said they would. That is how this whole thing started. My mom’s laptop crashed and she wanted to save her pictures so she gave it to my daughter’s boyfriend to fix. The police printed off her pictures but kept the laptop as evidence. They also kept my dad’s computer. I can’t even imagine how many images were found on there.

This set us off to feeling upset, angry, and on edge again. It could be any minute, any time that they would receive a knock on the door. I accompanied my mom to visit the lawyer to get her affairs in order. The conversation about my dad was very uncomfortable. In the end, she didn’t end up doing anything.

I think part of my mom’s decision to stay with my dad was because she didn’t want to leave the house she has been living in for the last 45 years. Also, if he is arrested and goes to prison she really doesn’t have to go through all the work of moving. The house would be hers.

But there was a part of her that pressured us to accept our dad. Your dad loves you. Your dad is praying for you. She wrote birthday cards where she went back to cross out the I and wrote WE love you. Sometimes she would talk to me on speaker phone and I didn’t know my dad was listening to the conversation. Sometimes she would prompt him to say things to me…tell your daughter that you love her. It was uncomfortable and disturbing. I honestly think that both of my parents might have serious mental health problems.

It’s been over a year now. Still nothing has happened. The first 7 months were especially challenging. With COVID and my dad we haven’t gotten together with family for over a year. I didn’t even talk to or see my brother Mark in 2020. The family cabin has fallen into disrepair. Our hands are tied because our dad owns the cabin. There have been miscommunications and hard feelings. It sucks!

It’s messed up but I’ve been processing it. I realize it could all unravel at any minute. But until then I’ll be waiting for the ax to drop. As the song says, sometimes the waiting is the hardest part.

Finding God?

Something else strange happened. A couple weeks after the police came, old friends of my parents showed up at their door. They hadn’t seen each other for about 10 years. The couple said they were sent by God. The man reached out to my dad and my dad accepted.

A couple months previous I told my dad that I hope he finds God before God found him. At that time my dad smugly laughed and said it was unlikely that would ever happen. Apparently he had a change of heart.

It was an especially confusing and difficult time for me. If my dad truly accepted Christ then I expected my phone to be ringing off the hook from his contrite heart asking for forgiveness. It didn’t happen. I had this salvation fantasy that we would have this new relationship and he would be the dad I always wanted him to be. My mom was terribly excited, but I wasn’t convinced.

My mom said that he reads the Bible and prays with her. Does he really read the Bible? Well…he listens to it when it is read. Does he really pray with you? Well…he says amen after I pray. Or is he just doing what you want so you don’t leave? My mom believes that my dad has faith. Now he is finally the man she wants him to be. She believes what she wants to believe despite evidence to the contrary. It’s helping her to love and live with him again.

You see, I think I wanted my dad to find God for me. Then everything would somehow be magical and perfect. I wanted to feel happy, but instead I felt betrayed. God loves my dad but he surely doesn’t love me. Look what happened.

I can be a fair weather Christian at times. When things are going well, I am pretty happy with God. When things aren’t going well, I don’t go out and seek God more like some people do. Instead I get angry. I shake my fist and ask God why he would do something like that to me. Why are you punishing me God? If you have complete control why did you allow this to happen? Are you even there? Don’t you care about me? What did I do to deserve this? Why? WHY???

I didn’t feel like God could love both my dad and me simultaneously. In fact, God was one of the few places I could find solace from my dad as a child. He mocked and laughed at my mother for going to church. I wanted God more because my dad wasn’t there. Faith was almost an act of rebellion.

I question if my dad has real faith. But that isn’t for me to judge. I have a very limited capacity to trust both God and man which makes me more skeptical. I didn’t expect my dad’s crime then his subsequent faith would shake my foundation to its very core. I had to go back and examine my life. Part of my foundation was held together with childlike beliefs which held no merit. I had to re-evaluate what is truth versus what is just a coping mechanism. It was a process I had to work through. I had no idea it would leave me questioning everything I ever believed in.

I had to separate myself from my parents and find my own way.

Collateral damage

Nothing happened. Christmas passed, then we entered the new year. It was a month after the police came, still nothing.

My mom stayed with us a few days, then with her siblings. Eventually she went back home. My mom had a doctor appointment she wanted me to take her to. She didn’t trust that my dad wouldn’t drive them both off the road. I talked to my dad that day for the first time since everything happened. He looked sickly and lost a lot of weight. I told him I was sorry which seemed kind of weird since he was the one that committed the crime. He asked why I was sorry and I said that I never wanted things to be the way they were. I wanted a dad that loved and protected me.

As a child, I wanted retribution. I wanted my dad to burn in hell and pay for every cruel thing he did. But when his head was on the chopping block I found I didn’t want it as much anymore. It really was painful for the rest of us.

It wasn’t long before things went back to normal almost. My mom’s doctor visit went well. A week later my dad went in for a stress test. I wasn’t hoping for good results. I was hoping that he would have congestive heart failure like his mother. I was hoping that he would silently die and the whole prison thing would just go away.

You see, I didn’t want us to pay the price for his crime. My dad would be far worse then not being respected. He would be a registered sex offender, a pedophile. I would have a parent in prison. It wasn’t the kind of inheritance I was planning on receiving. The family name would be dragged through the dirt. Having the same last name might reflect negatively on my brother’s career. My dad lives in the same small town he grew up in. It would ruin the family name that my grandparents and their parents before them proudly built in that small town.

We probably couldn’t even go up north to the family cabin because everyone knows us up there too. People might make assumptions about the character of the rest of us. People might destroy our property or even threaten my mother who still lives in the house she spent the past 45 years in. A single heart attack and those worries would all be gone. But his physical heart was fine.

So we waited and we waited some more. Nothing happened. We were all on edge, waiting. Nobody did anything so I called the detective. The detective said that after the holidays he had to take a couple weeks off work because he broke his leg. He was still working on the case and it should be wrapped up soon. He seemed blunt and rather harsh in his tone. He was hesitant to talk to me until I told him I was the mother of the girl that brought her grandpa’s computer to the police department.

I asked the detective if there were any resources for families. Maybe a support group? He said he didn’t know of any and that we should get some counseling. He said he sees it all the time, collateral damage. It’s like being in a war. Sometimes innocent people get hit by stray bullets.

It wasn’t long after the conversation that COVID hit the nation which once again left us waiting…

PA

When did it become such a problem? My dad was always a perv. He was never a highly respected member of our community. He barely held down a job. I can’t remember a time when he was employed full-time. He didn’t cook or clean. He pretty much let us run wild while he held down the couch.

It was my mom that worked 50 hours a week. She didn’t do much cleaning but she did pretty much all the cooking. She was an attentive parent but was always busy as you can imagine being the breadwinner and minding 4 kids, one who was severely autistic. There are a few things I remember my dad doing. Sometimes he would grill. He fried zucchini on the stove. Once or twice a year he would clean the toilets which was a job only he did. He would discipline the kids which included a show of flying off the handle in a rage. Sometimes he would drive us places. With the exception of disciplining his children, every responsibility was met with a pissy attitude.

My dad behaved bizarrely. He sat around the house in his underwear. He got the mail from the mailbox at the end of the driveway in his underwear. He mowed the lawn in his underwear at times. He answered the door in his underwear. I think he was sitting around in his underwear when the police came.

My dad rarely showered. He was a greasy guy who surrounded himself with greasy friends. My dad wasn’t good at relationships. His friends were the same. Almost all the guys were single. Their friendship started from belonging to a hobby club. I don’t think the club itself was bad. For a period of time my mom was involved in the club too. I think there was a subgroup of the club that was heavily into porn.

I remember as a teen my dad hanging out for the weekend with club friends. There was some sort of emergency and my mom couldn’t get ahold of my dad. Since it was in a time before cell phones, my mom drove out to the guy’s house they were meeting at. I can’t remember what the emergency was, but I remember how shook up my mom was when she got back. Apparently one of the guys outside smoking told my mom that my dad was inside. She went in to find my dad watching porn with his friends and that it was really bad. It wasn’t long after that the wife of the man hosting the party left him.

My mom never left though. Because of her faith she didn’t believe in divorce. Was watching porn really cheating? She didn’t threaten to leave. She didn’t confront him on his behavior. My parents had so many marital issues that I think my mom had already given up at that point.

I honestly don’t know when my dad’s addiction to porn switched from regular porn to that of child. I’m sure my dad’s slime ball friends had something to do with it though.

I’m an adult child of a child porn addict. There isn’t a support group out there for us. I don’t even know anyone else (besides my siblings) who is experiencing this at a similar level. How am I supposed to feel? What is normal? Maybe I should start my own support group and call it PA (Pornaholics Anonymous).

I feel conflicted about my dad. How much of this is him? How much of him is his addiction? Do I totally cut him out of my life? I pretty much have.

How do you even know if it is a serious problem? I think most of the time my mom didn’t even know what was going on because she was working.

I don’t have all the answers. The only thing I can say is that my dad’s addiction is a big mess and it totally tore up our family.