I did not have mercy.
My dad was mentally ill.
He beat my mom to a pulp. He psychologically tortured everyone he ever loved. He started hitting me, too, because I was a woman- and he thought that was just what men did. He thought that's what women deserved.
I haven't the slightest doubt that he loved me. He loved his children. He loved so hard it destroyed him. He held so tight. He couldn't let us live. He was a monster, clutching a bouquet of flowers he loved to look at, squeezing so hard that he crushed them.
When I was little, he told me stories of his childhood.
I don't think he ever imagined that I would remember.
He'd grown up in a kind of poverty one doesn't even imagine possible in the United States. He was one of six children.
He never owned a pair of shoes.
He never owned a clothing item that fit. His long limbs outgrew the length of his pants, but starvation made even the smallest sizes fall off of his boney hips.
He used to talk about sharing a bed with two younger siblings who would pee all night. His parents never helped. The children would lie in the urine all night and go to school with sores on their small bodies, smelling of piss and rot. It got so bad that the springs of their shared mattress started poking through. The sores became wounds, dug by rusty springs. If they tried to get out of bed, their mother would beat them. She made them lie in the urine all night. Every night.
Dad used to tell a story about falling into the outhouse- they didn't have indoor plumbing.
He was six years old. It was stormy out, but he snuck out of bed, trekked outside and went into the little wooden shack to use the bathroom. He hadn't wanted to soil his dry corner of the bed. The outhouse had a latch on the outside to hold the door shut in case of a wind storm. Well, he pulled the door shut and he went about his business, only to find himself locked inside. He was six. He panicked. He somehow ended up down the hole, sinking into feces. He sunk up to his neck in sewage before his feet hit solid ground. He couldn't get out of the hole, crushed under the weight around him. He stood in there all night. No one knew he was gone- or nobody cared. His older brother found him in the morning when he went in to relieve himself. He peed on dad's head... and dad screamed... and eventually, they got him out. It's a miracle he didn't die that night. It's a miracle he didn't drown in shit.
His mom beat him for going outside.
These are but two of the stories he told. These are the milder of those which I heard. And they were true. There were photos to prove it.
There is no excuse for what he became, but when I look at his upbringing, it isn't hard to imagine why he ended up that way.
When I was little, he was actually a wonderful father. He made many mistakes, but he never meant to be cruel. He doted on us. He took us on vacations. He played with us for endless hours. He took me on special dad and daughter times. He gave me nicknames and told excellent dad-jokes and braided my hair before bed. He drove hundreds of miles every week so that I could go horseback riding. He did the best he could. I know that in the core of my being. His insanity was mild then, only rearing its ugly head on rare occasions, easily dismissed as someone who perhaps needed a little therapy, but wasn't at all a bad person. But then, I got older.
I started wanting to go over to my friend's house instead. I started getting angry at the endless list of chores I was given during each visitation, while my brothers were allowed to play. I started seeing things I hadn't before. I started hearing words about women that made my stomach churn. He started to hate me, for what I was becoming: a woman. I wasn't dad's little girl anymore.
He wanted her back.
The abuse escalated. He became deranged.
My brothers were the last to admit it, but finally, one fateful afternoon, after he'd threatened to kill my older brother with true intent, given him a black eye and thrown me into the wall as I'd stepped between them, clung to his shirt, begged him not to murder my brother.... They finally admitted the truth.
We severed all ties.
His madness grew.
I would lie awake every night and wonder if this was the night he'd break in and kill my whole family. I didn't sleep for a decade.
I got a call one night, eight years after I'd last seen dad. It was my sister.
"He's really sick, Pearl..." she'd said.
I hadn't spoken to my sister in ten years. She'd clung to our father, refusing to see what he had become. She'd shunned me for leaving him alone.
"Shan, It's not my problem. I'm really sorry you're going through this. I have to take care of my family now," I'd said.
"No-wait-- Pearl--" I could hear her trying to stifle the tears on the other end of the line, "Pearly, he will die soon if you don't help."
The words had hung heavy for what seemed like a lifetime. Finally, I whispered, "I can't." She was angry.
"He can hardly walk! It's ridiculous to think he could hurt you now. Please. PLEASE. . I need your help. I live too far away and you're still in town. I just need you to feed him. He is on a special diet..." When I just stayed silent she continued, "Pearly sue. Please. I-- He's different now. He told me what he did to you kids. He told me he's sorry-- His disease...." She'd paused, giving weight to the bombshell she was about to drop, "his disease... it affects the brain. He has been being poisoned for the last ten years... by his own body." I'd started shaking then, and I'd ultimately decided that I had to help. If there was even a slight chance at redemption, I'd offer it. I knew I would hate myself if I didn't.
I went and saw him.
And he had changed. He was on medication. His blood had been cleaned. He was on biweekly dialysis to keep his system from overloading with toxins. He was reasonable. He was kind. He let me bumble about his kitchen and dutifully ate the nasty kidney diet food he needed to survive. He told me how sorry he was.
My heart was mending.
I was going to introduce him to his grandson.
He'd met my husband and told him how lucky he was to be married to me. He'd gone on and on about what a wonderful woman I was. How proud he was. How sorry he was. He was getting better.
He was going to live.
He was going to have all of the love he'd deserved as a child.
I was going to forgive it all.
He wanted to write a letter to my mother.
He wanted to tell her how sorry he was.
I had a father. His mind was clear. It wasn't toxic.
A week later he missed a dialysis appointment.
My sister was supposed to pick him up but she didn't.
The poison in his brain took root again. We got reports of him wandering around town, assaulting people. He was placed in the psychiatric ward of the hospital.
They got him back on track.
They forced him to go to dialysis.
But the damage was done. His brain was ruined.
He'd started hearing voices and they were telling him that the hospital staff were poisoning him. He begged us all to sign release forms.
He needed more time. He needed the toxins flushed from his system. He needed to get back on his medication.
My sister went in and signed his release.
He only got worse from there.
I fought with my sister. We severed ties. And I never did see my dad again.
He went back to insanity. She let him.
I stopped being updated on his condition.
I didn't know how bad it had gotten. I got a text one January morning: hey. Dad is not doing well. He's in the ICU at OHSU. Today is the day to see him.
I didn't go.
My phone rang at 3am.
"Sis. Dad died," my brother- the one who'd almost been murdered- said.
"...We knew it was coming... are you okay?"
"Yeah. I will be."
I said bye and hung up the phone. I was not okay.
And right there, 8 lines back, is where I would have re-written.
I got a text one January morning: hey. Dad is not doing well. He's in the ICU at OHSU. Today is the day to see him.
I packed up the car, put my 6-month-old in the backseat, and drove for 6 hours. We had a hard time finding parking at the giant hospital, but finally caught a shuttle and rode over to the entrance. My feet echoed down the hallway, my gait strange as I lugged along the infant car seat. I found the ICU and they escorted me to his room. He was still awake when I arrived.
He loved his grandson. I laid my son next to him and he stroked his fuzzy head.
Dad looked at me and smiled, "I love you, Pearl girl."
"I love you, Dad," I said. He closed his eyes. I sat in the uncomfortable chair and nursed my son to sleep. Then I put my baby in his car seat and held dad's hand. I prayed over him. I forgave him. I asked God to let him come to heaven anyway. He squeezed my hand one last time before his soul left. I said goodbye and I took my baby and I cried, but I wasn't broken anymore.
There was peace.
But that isn't what happened.
Dad died alone.
No one was in the room.
The nurses kept going in and comforting, because....he was aware until the very last... and he cried for his children. He cried for me.
And then they left his side.
And he died alone.
With no one to hold his hand.
I hate the part of me that let that happen.
I didn't just rob him of a good death.
I robbed myself of healing.
I took my suffering and I spread it around.
Just like he'd always done.
I did not have mercy.
And that is my greatest regret.
If I could...
"So, when are you gonna give me a grandson?" my dad asked at my wedding reception. Everyone laughed. I rolled my eyes. I had no plans to have babies any time soon. I was still in graduate school; I had a career to begin. I had a husband to grow with before we added babies into the mix. I thought five years would be good.
August, a mere two years later, God and my husband agreed it was time. My dad was more excited than everyone.
I made plans to visit him during my Christmas break, but I cancelled a lunch date with him at his office to visit with my great aunt who was 92. I assumed I would have far fewer opportunities to visit with her than him.
One should never assume.
But I did surprise him that evening at his apartment. I hid when we saw him walking towards the apartment building. Minutes later, he walked in with a palpable heaviness of spirit and said, "She didn't come," to my stepmother. It broke my heart. I jumped out, "surprise," I screeched.
I know he was happy in the moment. He loved rubbing my little belly. But he had wanted to show me off to his colleagues.
I didn't know.
Four months later, two days before my son was born, my dad died. I was on bed rest from two weeks after I saw him at Christmas, and though he had been ill, I didn't know how seriously ill.
I was the only one who didn't. Indeed, when my husband visited him a month prior to his death, my dad, who had always been overweight, weighed some 95 pounds. He knew.
Two days before my son was born, my mom called and spoke to my husband. He left the apartment on some imagined errand to call her from a pay phone (I found out later) at which point she told him my dad had passed. They didn't want to upset me into labor, so he cried before he came home. Two days later, I gave birth and in the euphoric moments following, the doctor said, "By the way, your mom and husband didn't know how to tell you, but your dad died two days ago."
If I were to rewrite history, I still wouldn't have a baby earlier as much as I wish my dad could have held him just once.
That is not mt greatest regret.
Rather, I would meet him at his job that Christmas holiday and happily let him lead me around the office to meet his colleagues...the same ones who four months later rented a bus so they could all attend his funeral...where my husband represented us both while I, preparing to leave the hospital, cradled my newborn son, and wept.
A Simple Tale, Really.
I was going to say that my biggest regret was not punching this one person in the face. What they did to me, well, it was fucked up. But I stood there. And I let it happen. Because I was scared of what people would think if I didn't.
Which takes me to my actual biggest regret. You know, two years ago, maybe three? My father asked me why on earth I was so damned depressed. And for the first time, I thought about it. I pushed past my self-loathing and anger and I really, really thought about it. The response I finally gave him was the first time I'd ever figured it out. The first time I cracked the secret code, found the underbelly of my great sadness. And he admonished me for my feelings. So I stopped thinking about it.
Recently, I remembered. It's been years of work. Maybe not.on my social anxiety but on my depression, there's definitely been improvement. Things have been pretty bad for years now, specifically the last two. I went to university. One I didn't choose, studying a course I hated that my parents decided I should do. No one told me how difficult it is to force yourself to do something when your parents aren't there as a constant reminder of how shitty you'll feel if you don't.
So I tried at first. That didn't last long. Depression... I thought it had left me for some time. During the pandemic, staying home all the time was bliss and peace. I grew closer with myself. Showed myself kindness. But that experience? I've spent the past two years - like many college students - in what felt like unnecessary agony. You pay so much fucking money and for what? A piece of paper to show for all the years of struggling to keep yourself alive?
Cos that's what it was for me. A struggle. During my two years in that university studying the great, prestigious Law my parents both have their degrees in, I experienced things on an entirely different lev from what I knew. You've heard of that kind of depression where you can't get out of bed right? I hardly ate. Hardly bathed. For weeks. Months, even, at first. I was lost. I experienced derealisation. Reality was so bad that my brain began to convince me that this wasn't real, that I needed to get out somehow. Self harm and suicide spun around in my mind when it wasn't an empty haze in there and I dreaded waking up every day.
Is it sad that I felt that way most days of my life? I'd wake up and I'd immediately hate myself for it? Beg for Death like a desperate, devout worshipper at the alter. Mine has been such a life of nothingness. I wasted so much time looking at myself like I was nothing. So here's what I would change. The one thing.
If I could go back, I'd do just one little thing. I'd accept myself. I'd choose to understand and I would work towards making myself happy. I'd do that instead of learning to judge myself as my parents judged others, internalise everything society said so I would be perfect enough, hold making pretty grades and getting people to laugh over the rot going on in my own head. I'd choose me, not them. Me.
Just that one thing. That one little thing. It's funny how I've spent my life denying myself. I run from people when they show me too much kindness, truly believing I don't deserve it. I harm myself for being "weak", call myself a "coward" because I just don't like to exist the way some others do. I'm shy and I'm lazy and I'm loud and I'm quiet. I am a dickhead and the sweetest fucker you'll ever meet and I love and hate how good and bad people can be. I am a mountain of contradictions that was taught to hate themselves by watching their parents, by watching the world and comparing myself to every single thing I could find.
This isn't a spot the difference book. You can't become anyone else. I spent my entire life running from myself, hating myself, listing all the ways I was "wrong" day and night. I tortured myself with thoughts of how I wasn't good enough. It's taken so long to realise that there is no good enough. People are murderers and charity workers, swim like fish and swear like the devil himself.
You know what I am? Human. I'm just me.
If I'd known, all this years ago, that I could just be me? What a life I would have lived. Every bad thing that has happened happened because I've spent my entire life telling myself I had to be something different. I had to fit into that box, those expectations, being anything less than what I felt society wanted seemed a fate worse than death. But I have died for them.
I've spent the last two- no, the past six or seven years of my life dying over and over again. I know the pain and the empty by heart. I've felt my heart explode in my chest from crippling panic attacks, I've felt it still to a stop from the cold nothing of being a ghost in a living body. I've learnt a lot. Most painfully.
But hey. I'm leaving Law. I'm going to study English and see where we go from there, soon. I can't change the past anymore than I wish I could. But I suppose... After so many years of being a corpse, I might as well try to remember how to live and breathe, again.
My mother was dying. She had progressive dementia for 6 years and had become non-verbal a couple weeks before. Wednesday morning she could not walk. We took her temperature, asked her about pain. She shook her head.
The next day she did not attempt to get out of bed. An ambulance came and took her to the ER where they did a CT scan blood tests. I waited with her for the 20 minutes that became 2 hours before the doctor came in. He took my outside the little room. My mother had a low grade UTI that had become septic. The poison spreading through her organs with every beat of her still strong heart. There was nothing they could do except admit her to the hospice wing. Do not resuscitate. It was Thursday.
Death a process. Secure in a comfortable darkened room, the murmurings began. Frantic speech behind pursed lips to beings all too real behind her eyelids clenched tight. I was told this was normal as I sat beside her bed holding her hand but couldn’t stand the mental turmoil. It had become Sunday evening. They gave her morphine. Her face relaxed.
Monday she was quiet. The infection in her body nearly complete in its destruction. The chaplain came in and suggested we hold hands and sing. A young women doing her best she choose three worship songs too new all wrong. I should have interrupted her…so here given a redo…I will.
”Excuse me but my mother is 88 and loved the old hymns. Could you please just sing How Great Thou Art?” I say. “She will hear and be comforted. She knows the words by heart.”
We all reclasp hands. Mine holding my mother’s left hand squeezing tight. Withered fingers now tangibly growing cold.
“When Christ shall come, with shout of acclamation
And take me home, what joy shall fill my heart
Then I shall bow, in humble adoration
And then proclaim, my God, how great Thou art.”
I take my mother’s calm peaceful face in my warm hands and plant wet kisses on her forehead and cheeks, glance over at the monitor and see the lines now all flat.
To make myself feel better, I play with my memories. I twist them and alter them to stage a story in which I am innocent. I believe them. I believe that everyone else believes them. I have grown to do it unconsciously, so I never know what’s real and what is tampered. There are two me’s. One is the perfect me I show to the world, the me that is merely a dream, pretending. The other is the real messy sinful me that no one must see or discover. The me that is real despite everything I do.
I can play with my memories, but I cannot play with security cameras.
In this reality, I can.
The cameras did not see me bundled in my coat staring hesitantly at the butterfingers bar. They did not see my fingers dart out and snatch it. They did not see me slip it in my pocket.
They did see me check out with nail polish remover. They did see me thank the cashier and walk slowly out of the store.
In both realities, they did not see my fear and regret. In the first, because regret is not material. In the second, because it wasn’t there. No regerts.
That is something my mom says when she does something that cannot be undone. I think she read it off a misspelled tattoo. “No regerts”. Maybe is wasn’t misspelled.
I am untrustworthy, as is my memory. I close my eyes and hide away from reality, escaping to the ideal reality I created for myself. I will it upon everyone else. Everyone but the cameras. Cameras cannot be denied.
Or did I play with those too and tell myself I didn’t? I would have believed it. We will never know.
These days, the vast majority of anything could ever learn or want to learn is on the internet, readily available. A notable number of millionaires and billionaires are college and even high school dropouts. Know this, I, like a dumb-dumb, still went to college to learn what I could and should have learn on the computer. I was already published while I was in school, AND I STILL KEEP PURSUING. This is the story, albeit brief, of how I didn’t make a bad decision…
In high school, as I work on what will be my first and third books, Boy from the Clouds and the Son of Hades, respectively, I also train to be an electrician. After hours of on-the-job tutelage, with the skill and knowledge of an electrician, I now make $40,000 on a slow year. My skills are something I can take ANYWHERE, working for someone or doing a solo gig. I am now well-off and happily writing for the entertainment of the masses.
Be Careful Who You Date
When I was a lot younger, I dated a guy so refreshing to my whole being that I think I don't deserve him. We had a whirlwind romance. We made out like a few times ever since we met and got together for just about a few days.
The time I was going back to my hometown after fetching and packing all my stuff from my dorm room, he volunteered to accompany me and this is what I regretted the most.
If I could have just went straight to the terminal and told him that I already left, we wouldn't have been in a motorcycle accident which left me and my Mom scarred forever. I don't regret having a scar from it but it turned my world upside down. Mom began to distrust me because of that and it hurt me more than anything. My thought that I deserved him changed to remorse as I stayed longer with him.
He was not the one I knew he was. I learned to distrust him and in time got angry with myself for liking him more no matter how bad of a match we are. He doesn't understand my goals and our future together but just our present. I cannot live with a man like that. He's jobless as I am at the time and he doesn't think of employing to one as I have the plan to go find one for myself to sustain myself.
Leaving him may be a breath of fresh air but it also got harder to move on from him because of how good he was before the fall happened.
If I can rewrite this one back, I would have stopped myself from being a daredevil to date him in the first place so both of us did not get hurt at all.
A huge regret of my Youth
As I sit and reflect
on my life thus far,
there are many regrets
but my greatest one
is probably the fact that
I was afraid of everything -
that I let opportunities
to achieve great feats
pass me by.
This was my life attending
school, when I was younger.
More friends I could have
made, more things I could
said and done...
I could have made my
life more rich in that sense.
But since I put my foot
down, realizing I had to
make it stop, I have had
more success than I ever
would have had, if I had
continued down that path.
Given a pen and if I had the
power over this: my life, including my past, I would
erase it completely from my
history like it never even
happened and I would live different as a young child
rather than now
deciding to change only
after becoming an adult
I regret this entire thread of life I’ve endured. The pain of this experience has far outweighed the pleasure and the adventure was not as hoped for.
Sadly I regret that I had such a strong sense of motherhood and duty to family because it got me nowhere. The love and affection that I had for my elders, my children don’t feel for me.
I regret that I didn’t give up motherhood and go on to Veterinary school and become an Equine and Bovine doctor so that I could at least be earning a living and not relying on a man. Now it’s too late.
I looked up a school mate of mine the other day. Here’s the irony.
She has the family, the horses, the cattle and the country life style that I always wanted. She’s living the life I wanted to have.