Often in the decades since you first touched me inappropriately, I’ve given in to the despair of having lost so much had so much stolen from me.
I doubt that you realized the powerful hold your actions would continue to exert over my emotions, my perceptions, my sense of identity—my entire life. Had you known, I know you wouldn’t have cared; if anything, this knowledge would have puffed you up with pride. The Old Testament mentions a class of people who “have forgotten how to blush” over their sins, and sadly you belong among their number.
I don’t know why, but suddenly today I began musing on the good which has come from my tragic childhood. This surprises you? The idea of anything good resulting from your undisciplined lusts? Listen, it surprised me too at first. Here I was idly wondering why you perpetuated on me, and others, the same shameful abuse which afflicted your tender, formative years. Wondered why you chose to turn one way on the crossroads of life, and I another. And then it hit me that it really is all about choice. We are reasoning, feeling human beings, not animals surviving purely on instinct. What so surprised me was the realization that somewhere during the starkest wilderness season of my life, I made a choice. Because of that choice, what should have been nothing but pure evil and ruination got channeled into a whole new substance and direction for myself, and for generations to come.
In a sense I’m indebted to you, for the miserable years I spent under your roof taught me much. For instance:
Thanks to your cowardice in facing your inner woundedness, I learned not to take the easy route in life. I learned by your example that I was a victim only once, during the season of my childhood. Deliberately I choose, every day, not to continue playing the role of victim.
Thanks to your caustic tongue, I learned not to use words as weapons. I know how deeply they wound and that words once spoken can never truly be taken back.
Thanks to your scoffing at my dream of being a writer I persevered all the more, even though it meant resorting to secrecy to avoid your denigrating remarks. Your insensitive remarks and cruel laughter only served to fuel the flame of passion for writing already residing in my heart.
Thanks to your rude comments about my body I developed an aversion for hurting others by belittling their looks.
Thanks to your arrogance I developed a deep desire for true humility in my life, and to value this same quality in others. Though humility doesn’t always come naturally, I can see with clarity that its obtainment is well worth any struggle involved.
Thanks to your false and sadistic remarks about my real father I learned to never speak unkindly of my exes in front of my sons.
Thanks to your perpetual sour moods, I learned early in life to avoid inflicting any unhappiness on my part on those around me.
Thanks to the exposing of yourself when no one was looking, as well as your lascivious comments regarding my developing body, I learned to respect my sons’ privacy and to conduct myself as a parent with modesty.
All these, and more, I learned from you. Had I chosen I could have learned opposite lessons. I could just as well have learned how to give rein to my animal passions, with no regard for the well-being of others; how to use sharp words to cut like a knife; how to go through life never taking responsibility for anything because of pride. I’ve chosen, instead, to take a different route. And, in the words of an old beloved poem, “That has made all the difference.”