Prodigal Daughter

The first time I returned to my father’s house wasn’t a happy homecoming, not one of joyful reunion; the prodigal daughter returning only slightly battered by her adventures but welcome nonetheless. This is not to say my father wasn’t happy to see me, he simply didn’t know what to make of me; I disrupted the rhythm he and my brother had established and I was not easy. No, I did not fit into the domestic tranquility they had established without my mother.

The Wild Child returns or was it truly the Prodigal Daughter

There was a silence between us an abyss of unspoken anger and hurt. Occasionally that dark silence would erupt, molten heat flow between us rife with all that would remain unsaid. My father was angered by what he saw as my rebellious nature; he was infuriated by what seemed to him my failure to be bowed by my circumstance, my great failure. He truly had no idea just how tipped over I was, how often I could be found curled into myself begging for relief, my pain beating like a tattoo on the walls of my chest so loudly I often couldn’t hear my own heart beating.

I took back my old room, the walls folded in on me and memories battered me. Memories from before my run and memories of my years away. Memories I could not tell that no one, especially my father, wanted to hear. Memories that screamed in my head and battered my heart. My brother was not happy at my arrival; this didn’t make my homecoming easier. My insertion back into my family home was full of angst, fury even. I was seeking safe harbor, my father was looking for the daughter he never had but thought he remembered as if in a dream. We were both so wrong and both furious at the other for our disappointment.

When my brother was 17 and I was 20, I had been home less than a year my father had three heart attacks. He was just 51 years old and had never taken particularly good care of himself. He had been single for five years by this time and had found he enjoyed life without the harridan that was my mother. He had known for quite some time that his heart was bad; he did nothing to correct the problem. This led to a triple bi-pass and a significant change in his life-style. It wasn’t enough. My father was hardheaded; he thought he could outsmart his own body and his family history. He continued to work, play and not take particularly good care of himself for another ten years. His health suffered and this led to another series of heart attacks and another bi-pass surgery.

While my dad was a brilliant man in many ways, he was emotionally stunted. He had a far easier time bailing me out of my ‘difficulties’, the things I did to force his attention than simply listening to why I did them. Don’t

My brother and I in 1981

misunderstand me, there was not a single time after my return to the fold my father wasn’t there for me, not once my dad didn’t open his wallet if I needed help. I paid for those failures though, paid in rancor and ferocity. Paid also in knowing I couldn’t be enough, couldn’t ever be ‘good enough’. These feelings would engender in me such jealousy of the relationship he had with my brother, the easy camaraderie and friendship it would taint my relationship with both my brother and my father for many years to come making it difficult for us to come together and finally find peace.

Ultimately it wasn’t he and I that found the necessary building blocks to make peace, perhaps alone we would have never found our way back to each other. After my father’s second round with heart surgery he finally determined he would live. He retired from the work he loved after 30 years. He took up new hobbies and new interests, including unbeknownst even to him a love interest. I think by then he had already begun to find his heart back home in Texas, though it would be a while longer before he or any of the rest of us realized just how much of his heart he had truly found.

By the time my father had his second open heart surgery I had been through the stage of trying to distract his attention through my wild child antics. It did of course work, but not in a way that made sense. I did far more harm to myself with nothing really gained but his anger and disdain. Ultimately I married once in haste and with deep regret two years later divorced. I had finally married the man I would remain married to for fourteen years, the father of my two sons and the ex-husband of my favorite wife-in-law.

My brother in the meantime joined the Army making my father ‘proud’, words I heard with regularity but not directed at me.

One my dad disapproved, the Wild Child in Action

I sought my father, his attention but mostly his approval, constantly, but could not tell him what was wrong. Maybe if he had asked, maybe if I thought he could sit to hear the truth I would have told. But I could never tell him, he asked me once why I did the things I did;

Because I hate myself

He shook his head and walked away. He never asked why. Maybe if he had I could have told him.

For a little while I stopped outwardly trying to gain his approval, but inside I was always the little girl that wanted to be Daddy’s girl. I wanted him to love me and to like me. The problem was I simply didn’t like me enough to tell him what had been done, I wanted him to be angry but I wouldn’t tell him so he could comfort me. I wanted him to guess rather than know. I was so ashamed I couldn’t tell and so I was angry that he didn’t protect me and instead bought my silence. That was always what it felt like; he bailed me out because that was all he had for me.

When I was still Daddy’s Little Girl

My father missed my graduation, it crushed me but I never told him.

My father missed my son’s wedding, this also hurt my feelings but I told him this one by then our relationship had changed.

_____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

I have tried to write the story of my father and I as a trilogy and found it to be far too complex, perhaps because it has an ending that includes a reconciliation

Part I – In Your Absence

Part II – Growing up Texas

Comments

  1. Makes me wonder why some of us need to have such a difficult life. I feel for you, Valentine. I hope this writing has been / is theraputic so you can let the sunshine in and enjoy a deep breath of fresh air. You deserve to. It’s time.

    • You know, it is a story that should be told. I am okay really. My life mostly is pretty damned good most days. It has taken me 40 years to begin telling these stories, perhaps others will read them and find help. They are good for me to finally release also, of course. But honestly, without my past without my history I wouldn’t be me. I cannot regret my history. I might be furious with some of it for what I lost, but I don’t regret who I am.

      Val

  2. I am reading your story backwards Val … Your writing skills and sensitivity in your wording takes us with you through your own pain as we see your story unfold..

    • Isn’t it odd Sue, this of all the stories was the hardest to write. This was the most wrenching, yet this is the only one with a truly ‘happy’ ending.

  3. Thank you Val for this open sharing. It is heartfelt and I see it helping many others in similar situations.

    Peace, Eric

  4. I have a feeling your writing will help in my healing. ❤

  5. Why would a reconciliation make the story difficult to tell?

    • It isn’t the reconciliation that caused the difficulty. It was the complexity of our relationship that made it difficult to tell as a trilogy, as I had planned. With Broken Chains I try to keep things in three, with my Father I simply found I couldn’t.

  6. aFrankAngle says:

    I haven’t been here long, but I’m thinking that writing this was both difficult and therapeutic. BTW – excellent title.

    • Broken Chains started with my mother, several back Frank. None are easy to write. I am uncertain how I came to the decision to write these stories or why. None are easy, most I have never told before, certainly not as whole stories or in their entirety. For the most part much of what I am telling now have remained secret for more than 40 years.

      I suppose part of it is secrets break us. Therapy maybe. Mostly though, it is simply time.

      • aFrankAngle says:

        I understand what you are saying … yes, everything has its time, and you simply figured out when it was right.

  7. ha the things we did to attract our parents attention…no not the cute ones…
    but the ones that we thought would make them wonder and bring them closer but it didnt..never ever …made them even more angry like you said..
    damn i was a difficult one ..lost in my world, coping with abuse in hands of a relative..no one to turn to…if only once i felt i could …or just that pat would have done..

    loved the shots 🙂

    • Soma my dear friend, I am so sorry and hurt so for you. I wish I could comfort you with words and hugs.

      You cannot imagine the things I did to force my father to look in my direction. When he did I then wished he would look elsewhere. I was so very envious of the relationship he had with my brother, never full of rancor or anger. Oh, they did at times fight but it as arguments of nearly equals even when my brother was nothing but a speck. As I have said before, my brother and I grew up in different households, our experiences couldn’t ever be compared.

      There are very few pictures of me. I had to go digging. But those are from that wild child period. I am glad you liked them.

  8. There is nothing wrong with taking your time in this one. You offer a large portion of yourself here. Remember, the chains are yours to break. Identifying them as yours is perfectly plausible.

    My heart aches this was not a shorter period. Yet, again, had it been, the end may have been very different. He needed the outside influence to change his heart.

    I love you,
    Red.

    • I think we needed this time, perhaps we wouldn’t have found our way back without it.

      I love you also, I am so grateful for your support I don’t think you will ever know how much.

      Val

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