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Grieving a Monster

Updated on February 15, 2014
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During the summer of 2012, my mother called with the news that my first step-father had passed away. He was the second of my mother's three husbands. He was also my sister's biological father. I knew that he had numerous health issues, and he was also a very worn-out 70 years old at the time of his passing. Many years before his death, he was diagnosed with type-2 diabetes. He was also later diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease, and just months before he died, he was told that he had lung cancer. However, based on the obituary that I found online, it is believed that he died of heart failure. As tragic as this all sounds, he did many harmful things to himself that undoubtedly contributed to his health issues. He smoked cigarettes for almost, if not over, 50 years. He was an alcoholic that preferred beer (especially cheap, skunky beer), and for many years, he abused prescription pain medications, especially Percodan and Oxycotin. He also repeatedly spent time in and out of jail for his countless cons and dealings.

For a little bit of a back-story, my mother left her first husband, my biological father, when I was three months old. My father had been diagnosed with schizophrenia shortly before I was born, and on more than one occasion, my mother and paternal grandmother had him hospitalized because of it. The doctors told my mother that, if raised in that surrounding, I ran the risk of becoming schizophrenic myself. I must be pointed out that it was 1971 at the time, and little was known about the illness, as compared to today's knowledge of the disease. Therefore, that, combined with my father's tendency to hit my mother, drove her to leave him and take me with her. She soon met Justin, but he was frequently addressed as "Judd". They married not long after, and Judd would go on to adopt me as his son. So, until I was 20 years old, I was led to believe that he was my biological father. Thus, my life seemed a bit like a soap opera. However, and thankfully, I took the initiative to legally change my name back to my birth name in 1996.

As a father-figure, Judd seemed to do alright for the first few years. Yes, he could be stern and strict at times, and on a few occasions, his temper would show. However, the years before I was 10 years old, he could be someone that was really fun to be around, and he also seemed to be very encouraging and supportive when it came to my interests and talents. Moreover, since we lived in South Florida, we often went to Walt Disney World for weekend stays. We stayed in the various hotels and resorts associated with the Walt Disney World area at that time, and we often rode in the front car of the monorails with the driver, which seemed like a big deal in the late 70s. We also did a lot of things around the state that showed we could have a great time together. He was not always the monster that he would become.

Words Hit Harder
Words Hit Harder | Source

Like I stated before, when I turned 10 years old, things changed between us. At first, it started out as severe criticisms of my nature to my mother, which I overheard. One of the many things that he suggested was that I was doing certain things, and I didn't even know what these things could be. I will try to put this as delicately as possible, but one example he alluded to was what I was doing in the shower ... other than washing and rinsing my hair and body. He didn't stop there though. As I got older, the criticisms became directed towards me, and they soon turned into insults, names, character assassinations and other derogatory remarks. Some of the more mild examples were "wimp" and "mama's boy". When I learned to tune him out on some days, he would up the ante with physical abuse. He held me against the wall by my throat. He punched me in the face many times. I can't count how many times he shoved me around while telling me that I would never be a "real man".

I came to hate him. I remember some nights when I was 16 years old where I would lie in my bed with tears streaming down my face and plot out schemes in my head where I killed Judd and got away with it. Deep down, I knew I couldn't get away with it, and this was the 80s. No one in that day and age used abuse as a justification for murder ... at least not that frequently. But yeah, I thought about it. I thought about killing that monster.

Judd and me - January 1989
Judd and me - January 1989 | Source

Eventually, my mother left Judd and met Ronnie, her third husband. I joined the Navy, got married, divorced, re-married and divorced again. I got to know my biological father and have a relationship with him. In my second marriage, I became a step-father, and I did my best to be everything that was the opposite of Judd. It turned out that my second ex-wife could be a monster too. We divorced, and I helped my mother with Ronnie and his health issues.

Unfortunately, Ronnie died in May 2008. Six weeks later, my biological father died. Despite not thinking on Judd for many years, I started thinking about how I would feel when the day came that I learned that he had died. I always told myself that I wouldn't feel anything. I spent many years using poetry to release my hatred for him. However, I still get nightmares, and my mother firmly believes that I suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which is funny because she swears she knew nothing about it while it was happening, but she says I display nine of the twelve main symptoms of it.

In the end though, Judd is gone. The man that used to be my personal monster is dead, and I did feel grief. I spent four years telling myself that I wouldn't, but I did, in fact, grieve his death. Maybe I found a way to forgive him to the extent that I hope his passing did not cause him fear, pain or any other distress. Mom said he passed in the early morning hours. So, I hope he died in his sleep and that he didn't know the difference between his dream and the afterlife. The monster is dead, but hopefully, a God-forgiven spirit lives on.

Final Thoughts

I have heard so many people try to say things about abuse not being the fault of the victim, and that each victim needs to find that one thing in life that he or she can use to fill his or her wounds and scars in order to move on.

However, it is not that easy. If a victim is suffering from PTSD due to the abuse, he or she has to be treated for it, and the vast majority do not seek treatment. Moreover, they do not suffer alone. Those scars will itch, and they are so vulnerable to being opened again. A misspoken statement can trigger a moment to "fight back", even when it is only meant as a joke. People need to remember that not every joke is funny, especially to the one being joke about.

It isn't about tip-toeing around people. No one is perfect, but there is a moment where empathy is needed and to recognize that not everyone has loving parents providing happy childhoods. So, instead of just saying "lighten up" or "it's just a joke", just be respectful and apologize. Because a good person would not want to become the new monster, right?

© 2012 Charles Dawson


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