*The author’s name is being withheld to protect her privacy.
It’s been more than a year since I’ve talked to my dad. My dad was abusive to my family so I don’t want him in my life anymore.
He only spanked me to discipline me when I fought with my brother. But he hit my brother every week. When I was 6, my 5-year-old brother told my dad that he didn’t want to go to Bible camp. My dad cursed at him and repeatedly kicked him in the stomach in the church parking lot. My dad didn’t hit my mom in front of me, but later my mom told me that he hit her frequently.
I tolerated what my dad did to us because I couldn’t do anything about it and he treated me like his favorite. There were also good times with my dad. Some nights, he made me and my brother laugh until we cried by telling us about the time he lost a finger while fixing a machine when he was in the Korean army.
These were the moments that made me feel like my dad could change and be loving. I wanted my family to be happy. But everything I was hoping for didn’t happen.
One day when I was 8, my parents were fighting in the kitchen, while I listened to the argument in the living room. I heard my mom say, “I’m going to get a divorce!” and my dad say, “I’ll kill you first and then burn your parents’ house down!” I was scared, so I started to cry and rock myself back and forth. I heard utensils rattle, someone get slapped and my mom scream. I thought about running to my neighbors for help or calling the police. But I didn’t do anything because I feared that the police would take my brother and me away.
Thirty minutes later, my dad came out and stomped into the bedroom, while my mom hurried off to the bathroom. When I caught a glimpse of my mom’s face, I saw red puffy eyes from crying and small cuts on her face from where he’d cut her with a knife. I was shocked.
My mom had enough of the abuse
Not long after that fight, my mom decided to separate from my dad. We went to a domestic violence shelter that was disguised as an apartment. After about a month, we moved to an apartment near my school and my mom’s work, even though it was also close to my dad’s house.
A few months later, my dad found out where we were living after he spotted us walking near our home. He came to our apartment several times, wanting us to open the door. We moved to another apartment and he found us there, too.
A few weeks later, my dad told my mom in court that he wanted to see me and my brother. We didn’t think he would do anything bad to us in public, so my mom allowed him to take me and my brother out to restaurants.
After the second time, my brother stopped going because he never liked my dad. But I went out to eat with my dad throughout elementary and middle school. He was fun unlike my mom. The mood in my home was depressing because my mom stressed over work and having to raise two kids on her own. My dad took me to the mall, the fair and the Huntington Library. My mom just liked to rest at home after work and on the weekends.
He would blow up at me for no reason
But my relationship with my dad was complicated. There were times in the car when out of nowhere, he would yell at me about how my mom was a psycho for ripping the family apart and how it was her fault that he had to drive me home. I felt like he was trying to turn me against my mom. I would scream back, “You’re the psycho! You hit us and never appreciated us. That’s why we left. Why can’t you just accept it?” When we arrived at my house, I would run out of the car, go in my room and cry on my bed.
After our fights, he would always call and promise to take me out to a nice restaurant or give me $200. I would accept his offer and continue to see him. I liked hanging out with my dad because I got to keep both of my parents in my life.
When I was in seventh grade, my dad got remarried. I went to my dad’s house every weekend. My stepmom cooked delicious meals. I walked to the library with my 3-year-old stepsister and helped her ride her tricycle.
While I was hanging out with my dad, my mom was going on dates. My mom kept seeing this guy she had gone on a blind date with. I didn’t like this guy at all. He was 10 years older than my mom, he smoked and he wasn’t much of a talker. One day when I was in ninth grade, my mom told me that she was going to marry him and that we were going to move to another city closer to his work as soon as school ended. I said, “Stop joking. That’s not funny.”
But my mom’s decision was final. She went out every weekend with her fiancé to look for a house that they could rent. She would occasionally invite him over to our house for dinner. I didn’t like eating with him because he never talked and it was weird to have a grown man in our house.
One day, someone broke into my mom’s car. Her fiancé skipped work to drive her to her job, took her car to the repair shop and picked her up again. If my mom had still been with my dad, he wouldn’t have done anything except scream at her. When my mom’s fiancé came over that night, I made him toast shaped like a heart to show my appreciation.
But still, I didn’t want to believe that he was going to be my new dad. One day, I told my mom that she shouldn’t marry someone she’d known for less than a year. She replied, “When you get to my age and experience lots of things, you know what’s right for you. And I know that he is right for me, you and your brother. If you don’t want me to marry, you can just go live with your dad.”
Of course I wanted to live with my mom because I knew that my dad was nice only when I was with him. I knew he still had problems with his anger because I would sometimes catch him yelling at my stepsister or my stepmom. Although my mom and I argue sometimes, I love her and appreciate everything she does for me. But, I thought my mom should have let me get to know her fiancé for a long time before making such a life-changing decision.
In my room, I thought about everything I would lose if my mom got married and I moved: a good relationship with my dad and stepfamily, my friends, the city where I’d grown up. I didn’t want to let them go.
But one day, my dad and I got into the biggest argument we’ve ever had and I realized that he would never change. While driving me home from lunch, he kept pressuring me to tell him who the male voice was that he’d heard in the background when he called a few days before. He kept saying, “Your mom has a boyfriend, doesn’t she?” I started crying. I didn’t want to lie to him anymore. I would always tell him my mom wasn’t seeing anyone or it was none of his business when he asked questions like that. My dad said, “It’s OK. I’m not mad. I understand how you feel.” But a few seconds later, he yelled, “Give me your phone. Call your mom right now. It’s her fault that you’re crying. She’s crazy. Call that f***ing b**** NOW!”
I wanted him to understand the hurt I’d been feeling, but he only cared about himself. He was jealous that my mom was seeing another guy and he wanted to yell at her about it. I yelled back, “Why do you give a s*** if mom’s dating someone? You have your own wife! You’re crazy, not mom. I hate you!” He said, “If you hate me, why do you want to see me so often?” I said, “I wanted to keep you in my life because I loved you.” I had told him how I really felt and he laughed. I got even angrier.
We kept yelling at each other. Once we arrived at my house, I slammed his car door and stormed inside. I cried for two hours in my room and promised myself that I wouldn’t talk to him again. I was tired of fighting, making up and repeating the cycle. When my mom came home from work, I told her that I was more than happy to move to another city and she told me I made a good decision. On the first day of summer vacation, we moved 30 miles away.
Throughout the summer, my dad called me but I never picked up the phone. It was really hard not to give in, but I knew that he’d manipulate me to find out where I lived if I met up with him. I didn’t want my dad coming to our house and harassing us like he had when we lived in L.A. That would get my stepdad involved and things would get complicated. I don’t want to deal with any of that.
My mom’s new husband is nothing like my dad
After the wedding in July, my stepdad moved in. I didn’t want to live with him. I believed that every man had the potential to be as mean as my dad so I tried to annoy him so he’d get violent; his kindness seemed like an act to win me over. Then, my mom would see that it was like living with my dad all over again and leave him. I’d ask, “Did you go to the market?” and walk away before he finished speaking. I would say, “Hey you,” instead of calling him “dad.” But he never yelled or hit any of us. He was patient and understanding, so after a year I stopped being a brat. I felt sorry for acting the way I did. When I talked in funny accents and made him laugh my mom told me that she was thankful that I was trying to be nice.
Since my mom comes home late from work, my stepdad cooks for me and my brother. I love the kimchi soup he makes from scratch. When I ask him to drive me somewhere at the last minute, he says, “OK sure.” Since my stepdad doesn’t yell at little things like my dad used to, I feel like I can ask him or talk to him about anything.
One day, when I was unloading groceries from his car, my voice shook a little as I said, “Dad, do you want me to close the trunk?” It was so awkward to say “dad.” But I kept practicing and now it feels normal. I finally have a peaceful and loving family, just not the one I expected.
It’s been more than a year since I’ve talked to my dad. I’m sad that he is not a part of my life anymore. I miss eating dinner with him and going places like we used to. I sometimes wonder what he’s doing. I still sometimes cry about not having him in my life anymore. But I know it’s better because it creates less heartbreak.
My family isn’t perfect. We have minor issues that every family deals with, but not the kind of problems when someone is abusive. I’m grateful for how things turned out.