A Letter to Dad

May 7, 2010
By Siobhan Howard BRONZE, Los Altos Hills, California
Siobhan Howard BRONZE, Los Altos Hills, California
2 articles 0 photos 0 comments

Dear Dad,
?I have this particularly horrible habit of believing everything you tell me. Like when I was ten, you told me that as soon as I turned 13, I would also turn into a boy. And I believed you, no questions asked. Or more recently, how you convinced me that my old baby-sitter Dotty (who is now in her late 60's, mind you) had become a major star in a Broadway Musical. Once again, I was as convinced of this as I was that the sky is blue.
?So as I was saying, my believing in you has turned into some sort of a habit. I guess you could blame it on me being incredibly gullible, or on you just being a persuasive man. But no matter what ridiculous stories you spin, I ate up every word of it, even though every time it was a lie trying to trick me. Your stories were never the truth.
?Before, this didn't matter too much, because before it was all just fun and games. Before, my believing in you ended in laughter . But now, my believing in you is getting me into trouble. Or at least, it did at first.
?At first, I believed you when you said everything was alright. Even though my stomach was telling me what deep down inside I knew was true, and even though my head and heart were setting off sirens and warnings, I believed you. I mean, why shouldn't I have believed you? In normal circumstances I would've. Little girls are naturally inclined to trust their father, to look up to him even.
?But this wasn't normal circumstances.
?I've heard that girls in my situation, of my age, tend to blame themselves for what goes wrong. They constantly pick at their insides, making an already painful situation even more harmful. But no, I never blamed myself. I did nothing wrong, I am the innocent one, the victim. I blame you. You, and you alone. The only thing I did wrong, was believe you for one day too long...
?I must have been 6 when it first happened... You came in to tuck me into bed, like you always used to- shutting the door behind you. To this day, I remember exactly what you said next. You said, "Anna, honey, would you like a massage before bed tonight? Would you sweetie?" You looked so believable with your wide eyes and welcoming smile. I should have seen it then, it was the same familiar expression I got whenever you were forming a lie. But I didn't see it. So, naively I agreed.
?Afterwards, you stood in the doorway, with the light from beyond framing your body. But your wide eyes and welcoming smile had turned into a disgustingly smug grin, with no hint of guilt. You just stood there, and looked at me, for what seemed like forever. Then all of a sudden you said, "Hey Anna, don't tell Mama about me giving you a massage, okay? She doesn't like me giving massages to anyone but her." Your words rang through me a long time after you left my room that night.
?That was the first night I lay awake throughout. I was paralyzed with fear, confusion, and disbelief. My mind was suffocating me; I needed to get out, but I couldn't move. What kind of man would handpick his daughter, and gently settle her down into the depths of hell? My head kept screaming, "Run! Run! RUN!" But my body believed you; that everything would be alright, that I should trust you, and that I should just learn to keep my mouth shut.
?That one night forever ruined me. You must have been able to see the affect it had on me, it was too abruptly there to ignore. I refused to shut my eyes at night, in fear that you would return, and therefore made up for my lack of sleep during the day, causing my grades to slip terribly. I withdrew from everything and everyone- even Mama, because I wanted her to love me and you said she wouldn't if she found out. I hid the forming bruises from the night before, and the ones from months prior, under baggy old clothes. And when I was older, I was always being taken to the hospital because I was constantly fainting, and never eating. I'm sure you remember the day I was diagnosed with anorexia very well. The thing is though, I didn't push away from the dinner table because I didn't think I was skinny. I pushed away because I thought, maybe if I'm brought to hospital, they will test me- and one of those tests will somehow show that I was being abused. Then I wouldn't be at fault for telling... Then the truth would just be out, and I'd be free.
?I'd like to think that if only you had been aware of the agonizing torture that was going on within me- not due to 'anorexia', not due to my 'lack of social skills', but due to you, that you would have stopped. But even with what you did see of my downward spiral, you never failed to show up at my door to say good night and give me a massage.
?It took me less than a minute to figure out that everything wasn't alright, two long, treacherous nights to understand that I should stop trusting my beloved father, and a little under 10 years to learn that I need to speak up. I refuse to lie another night, paralyzed in bed. I can't say I'm sorry Daddy, because I stopped believing in you ages ago. I'm telling Mama.

The author's comments:
When I first showed this piece to people they thought it was true and the school guidance counselor was called in, and teachers gave me worried looks, and everyone thought that I was Anna (the girl the letter is from). So I just want to say now, don't freak out and think I have some huge life story after reading this. Maybe I do have a huge life story, but it is absolutely nothing like what this letter conveys so don't worry about that.

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