It would be safe to say I hated my father. Those are harsh words from a daughter, but there they are. It shocks me now as an adult to look back at my childhood. My father began working the night shift when I was a kid and I realized early on that my family was happiest when he was at work. Our house was a completely different place when he wasn’t there. My mom was fun and easy to get along with when my father wasn’t home. And when he was home, everyone walked on eggshells, afraid to say something that might set him off. Unfortunately, I was very good at setting him off. Ivan is two years and five months older than me. But Liam is six years and eight months older than me. When I was seven, something happened that would change the family dynamic in our home for the next decade and would ensure my father picked up a lot of extra shifts.
It was a Saturday and one of my friends from school was having a skating and pizza party for her birthday. I’d been invited, but my father had told me I couldn’t go, because he was off work and we were going to sit down and have family time. By dinner, he was drunk. After dinner, we all assembled in the living room forced to sit quietly while our father watched TV. A half hour into his sitcoms he told me to go get him a beer. He’d been snoring off an on for the last ten minutes and I told him no he didn’t need another beer. He grabbed his belt and told me to do as I was told. My mom stood up and told him he’d better put the belt away, I was his child not his servant and she was done watching him bully his children. My father stood up and hit mom with the belt. Mom punched him in return. He tripped over the coffee table and fell to the floor, spilling his beer. He grabbed mom by the hair and looped the belt around her neck. Liam who was nearly the same height as our father by this point stood up. He’d had enough. I don’t know who looked more murderous Liam or our father. Liam broke our father’s arm that night pulling him off our mom and then put him in a choke hold that put him to sleep. Mom called the police and an ambulance.
My father was hospitalized for a 72-hour psych evaluation that night. Mom didn’t press charges, but she did give him an ultimatum, if he returned home and ever raised a belt to any of us again, she’d have him killed. The following Monday, mom went around collecting business cards from divorce lawyers and she proudly displayed all of them on the fridge. My father was ordered to get help for his drinking problem and anger management by the police department and he lost a lot of friends on the force that weekend because my mom was now able to prove that her husband was a homicidal lunatic with a badge. My father became less abusive after that incident. I never again felt the sting of the belt as a child. He turned his anger at the world into verbal jabs constantly telling mom and I we were fat and ugly.
At least until I was fourteen. When I was fourteen, my father punched me in the face. Mom wasn’t home, Liam was off getting a degree in criminal justice and psychology. It was Ivan, Devlin, and I at home. He hit Devlin first, backhanding him because he got an F on a test in biology. I spoke up defending Dev. He was twelve and had been moved ahead a grade, but the reason for the F wasn’t because he didn’t know the material, he’d forgotten to write his name on his test and it had been mixed up with another kids. Dev would bring home the correct test the following day and it had a giant A at the top of it. For standing up for my brother, I was punched in the face. Ivan grabbed a knife and stabbed our father twice, once in the hand and once in the forearm. The knife went through dad’s arm and stuck in the table top. It didn’t take long for my black eye to form thankfully and it was eventually ruled self defense and no charges were brought against Ivan. Our father moved out after being discharged from the hospital. He’d done that a few times in the past too, he always came back, especially since neither his Catholic priest nor my mother’s Orthodox priest would green light a divorce. That was the year I was allowed to stop attending church too.
My father’s priest told Ivan and I we were wrong to stand up to our father and it would have been better to let him beat Devlin for the bad grade that wasn’t his than disrespect our father that way. Our grandfather Dedka Leon had a much different take on it, he congratulated Ivan and I for standing up for Devlin. His god didn’t believe hitting children for bad grades was acceptable. It was weird to hear him say that. We have always called him Dedka Leon because Dedka is the Russian word for grandfather, it is not part of his name. Anyway, I had always thought of Dedka as being Old Testament. Yet here he was praising Ivan for stabbing our father, of course, I guess that could have been Old Testament.
For the next two years, all us children would provide a catalog of abuses at the hands of our father for mom’s divorce petition. I was sixteen when the petition for divorce was rejected by the Orthodox church, even though mom had Dedka Leon’s blessing. I have plenty of reasons for believing Dedka had my father killed. For instance, in the eight months after my mother’s petition was rejected my father was nearly killed in a car accident, someone threw a molotov cocktail into his car one night while he slept in it in the driveway of our house, and someone shot him in a drive by, he was saved from that shooting by a Kevlar vest. It was exactly 11 months after the divorce petition was denied that my father was shot and killed in an armed robbery where nothing was taken and the clerk was completely ignored. To this day, his case is still unsolved.