When my father died, I was in my second year of law school and I had not seen him for nearly 20 years.
I chose not to see my father, since he tried to kill my mother. I saw the damage he could cause both physically and emotionally. I knew he was a monster.
I was only six years old when my mother’s injuries were all over the news. I was told that she had fallen off of a ladder. I helped her get out of bed without knowing the truth.
When I was eventually told the truth— that my father tried to kill my mother by taking her down with force and banging her head against the tile floor in the front of our house, I never wanted to see my him again. He terrified me.
His motive? Nothing really— he was mentally ill, and hadn’t taken his medication. She wanted a divorce, and she wanted his dog out of the house. He took more than the dog that day.
The custody battle was terrible, as most custody battles are, but my father had money, and my mother did not. Fear ruled our world. We ate it, and drank it, and breathed it in every day.
I was told that if I saw my father, I should run.
Why? What would happen? There was a real possibility he might kidnap me, and there wasn’t much else we could do. Restraining orders only go so far.
The last time I saw my father I was 8 years old. It was ordered by a court that I see him, but I did not have to speak to him — that’s not what was required. So, I sat and was forced to let him talk at me in a room with my therapist and my stepfather and my father’s attorney.
I sat on my stepfather’s lap. My stepfather isn’t a giant man, but he was much bigger than me. I thought by sitting on his lap, it would give me more volume — like when the Power Rangers morph into larger-than-life assault machines. I felt like it gave me the most control over a situation where I otherwise had no control.
After that day, it was over. We had no more contact. I got what I wanted.
That isn’t to say, though, that my father did not have a presence in my life. He failed to pay child support on time. He failed to pay for my school on time. The threat of running into him somewhere in public loomed over me for my entire life.
As far as I was concerned, he wasn’t someone who should be able to roam the earth freely. He was a hell bound monster. He was volatile, and a threat to society. The fact that he was free was, in my mind, an injustice.
When I decided to attend college, more negotiations took place between lawyers with regard to money. Ultimately, my father paid only a very small amount of money towards my college education. But, during the course of negotiations, I was able to ask for something I had wanted for a long time.
I have two half-brothers. I wanted to know them. I wanted to get in touch with them. And, after many, many years, I received their phone numbers.
Being in touch with my brothers answered questions that had lingered in my mind for years. I am not adopted, but I imagine it’s a similar feeling. I only had pictures from when my brothers and I were children. The pictures were from when they were in high school, and I was a toddler. When I saw them next, I was in high school, and they were in their thirties.
Since those initial interactions, my brothers and I kept in touch a bit. We check in every now and again. We are friends on Facebook, and I see occasional pictures and messages come up, reminding me that I should give one of them a call.
A call is exactly what I received from my oldest brother, who told me that my father was in hospice and wasn’t going to make it. My younger brother was flying in from out of town. I needed to make a decision quickly.
If I wanted to see my father before he died, I needed to decide, and go.
I decided to wait for my younger brother to get into town, and I would go with him. Hours went by, not even days. My older brother took his wife and their new baby to see our father.
My younger brother and I missed the opportunity to see our father before he died by a very slim margin — only a few hours. That decision was made for us.
Then, there were more questions without decisions: What do we do now? Do we attend the funeral? What is appropriate mourning for a father you haven’t see in decades, and had no relationship with?
How do you mourn for your father when you think of him as a monster?
I struggled to make sense of what I felt. In some ways it was release and relief. I no longer had to worry that my father would show up around the corner when I wasn’t looking. I didn’t have to fear his presence.
My father died with millions of dollars in his estate, and he left none of it to his children or grandchildren. According to his estate plan, it was all to go to charity. My brothers and I looked into challenging the will. Were we worthy of nothing after all we had been through?
Then, my father came to me in a dream. He was angry that we would touch his money. Really, he was angry that I would touch is money. He told me to leave it alone, and that I would have my own money one day. I woke up and I was cold. I was cold, and it was spring, nearly summer.
I knew it was more than a dream. My father came to me in my dream to tell me to let him go.
He was a Hell bound monster in life and in death.
But, he is inside of me. He is a part of me that I cannot deny. I am part demon, myself.
It’s hard for anyone to relate to the feelings I felt in the initial period following my father’s death. I found them hard to relate to myself. I felt this dark presence inside of me, and I couldn’t shake it.
At the time, Imagine Dragons came out with their song “Demons.” It was the one and only thing that helped me make sense of what I was experiencing. The song spoke of the demons inside of me, and it warned others not to get too close.
These lyrics were particularly poignant:
At the curtain’s call
It’s the last of all
When the lights fade out
All the sinners crawl
So they dug your grave
And the masquerade
Will come calling out
At the mess you made
There was no elaborate funeral. They dug my father’s grave, but the “mess” he made remained. No one could sugar-coat the life that my father led. There isn’t a mask elaborate enough to cover up all of the evil. Few could deny that my father was a monster, a demon himself.
The song helped me to feel understood. Feeling understood gave me strength to lift my head up and keep going. It felt like the puzzle piece that helped me complete the map.
I needed time to process. I needed time alone. The song “Demons” comforted me. I wasn’t the only one with demons hiding inside of me.
I pushed on and finished that year of law school. I didn’t get terrible grades, either. When my father told me in that dream that I would make my own money, I let the idea that he would ever have wanted to provide for me go. In many ways, I let him go.
In “Demons,” Imagine Dragons sing:
They say it’s what you make, I say it’s up to fate
It’s woven in my soul, I need to let you go
It is up to fate. My father’s prophecy is woven in my soul. I let him, his money, and all he stood for, go.
I would make my own money. I would live up to my father’s prophecy. I made the decision that I would be successful in my own right, and I haven’t looked back.
Whenever I hear “Demons” now, it reminds me that I can overcome whatever evil is inside of me. I will thrive in spite of it. I am more powerful than my monster father, and whatever demons he has left behind.