Politics are not my thing, but a little nagging voice inspired me to write about Trump’s disparaging comments about women. Saturday night, with my laptop on my lap and a glass of wine (from France, of course), I sat down and let my fingers type their way through the messiness to find meaning in the words.
What Trump said out loud wasn’t shocking to me. Nor had I placed him on a pedestal high enough to induce feverish anger. To me, the news was as blasé as hot dogs for dinner.
But I was unhinged about something. The words poured out Helter Skelter crazy with no sensibility to them. The slant finally began to drift toward my father.
Ah yes, my father.
He had been in town last week. Knowledge of his proximity had rendered me into a weak-kneed, vulnerable scaredy cat. My heart raced at the first phone call. I did not answer.
My dad, father to three girls, was known for the opposite of exquisite praise. Fed up with bickering, he would say, “Good God I wish I had boys. One punch and it’s over.” Then he’d shove a triple decker of Saltines with cheese in his mouth.
His method of parenting: insult. He swallowed food. I swallowed anger. As I grew, the words inside me built from Shut up to I hate you! Of course, I never said any of these out loud. Well, maybe I did. Yes, I did. But nothing answered the eternal burn of his influence: What’s wrong with me?
As it is, I love my father. I recognize the gap left by unmet needs that made him violent and explosive, drunk and unpredictable. Still, in his presence I waver between the woman who deserves respect and the daughter who yearns to make her father proud.
I have no say in the latter. I never did. Growing up, my sisters and I were present and vulnerable to his needs—the needs we should never have had to shore up with our innocence. His words diced us into shards just as a fist punches. The pain wasn’t visible, but the scars will last a lifetime.
My father’s words speak of the culture that raised him. He had no say over it. It is forgivable.
But I couldn’t summon the strength to answer the phone the second time he called. I was afraid he would avoid the conversation I need with him. I was afraid I would cave in to his needs and avoid it too. My love for my father is courageous and raw, wild and stray. I no longer want to feed it, but I can let it run.
I know this hurts him. People are wild, we hurt each other. But we can stop hurting with words.
Words make all the difference.