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Knowing My Father This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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     Have you ever discovered that a person close to you wasn’t who you thought he or she was? Have you ever wondered why people change? I still don’t know exactly why my father changed, but I know that he wasn’t the father I grew up with. He became a monster.

My family moved to Tel Aviv, Israel in 1995, the year I will never forget. It was only supposed to be a visit because my father’s mother was dying. In my father’s family, when a close relative is facing death, family members keep that person at home until he or she passes.

Death came quickly. I barely had knew my grandmother for two months when she passed away. My family had always said I looked a lot like her and they were right. I saw photographs of her as a young woman and we looked identical.

I don’t remember much about her death, but I remember that my father and all the men grieved. Their religion required that when someone dies, the survivors grieve for a week and aren’t allowed to eat, shower, or see light.

My mother, my siblings and I gave my father time to grieve with his family and cope with his mother’s passing. After a couple of months, however, we were ready to return to the United States but my father wanted to stay in Israel with his family. That was when I saw manipulation for the first time. My father told us that we could stay or leave, but he knew something we didn’t.

We chose to go home but at the airport, going through the computer process, we were not allowed to leave. We found that my father had stop warrants at all the airports. We could not leave without his consent because we were American citizens and my father was Israeli. I was young and confused, but I remember glancing at the planes taking off and hoping that my family would soon be leaving. I was afraid to leave my father behind, but even more afraid when we were denied the right to leave and were left abandoned in the airport.

Then I faced reality. My mother was sitting with her hands covering her eyes, her legs shaking. We sat at the airport for hours, wishing all this weren’t true. Were we really going to be stuck in Israel for the rest of our lives? Had our father betrayed us all along? My mother and siblings and I had no choice but to return to his home.

Months passed and we started to lose patience. We couldn’t even look at our father. Then, my mother’s mom was dying back in the United States. My father told my mother that she return to see her mother, but she couldn’t take us because he knew we wouldn’t return.

So my mother left for a month. During this time the real monster in my father came out. The father I once loved had changed into a complete stranger. So it was we four kids all alone for that month, the most frightening days of my life. My father came home drunk and high and took his anxiety out on us. I woke up each morning hoping for a new day. Maybe this was all just a dream.

I used to have a perfectly normal family, and now ... I could never have imagined that my father could be like this. He had been a normal, everyday father. Every morning we used to go to Dunkin’ Donuts to get him coffee and me a doughnut. He took me to school, kissed me on the forehead, and told me to have a good day. When we moved to Israel, he would make me fold his socks and underwear over and over again until he thought that they were folded right without caring whether I went to school or even had anything to eat.

My father came home and intentionally dirtied the house. He would wake us just to clean up after him because my mother wasn’t there to be his b---h. He would abuse my oldest brother most because he is my mother’s son from a previous marriage.

My siblings and I shared a bedroom. In the morning my father would come in and hit my brother in the head with his keys. I felt sad for my brother as I watched tears fall from his eyes. My father was a monster.

That month passed very slowly but finally my mother returned. We moved to Jerusalem, even closer to my father’s family, so we saw him less. My father never brought us around his family; sometimes I think he was embarrassed or ashamed to have married an American.

My mother would clean all day every day, and we kids would try to amuse ourselves. I remember our extremely small bathroom that was like a tiny closet with a toilet. My mom, my siblings and I would write notes on the walls which would amuse us since we could talk about my father, and he would not understand. My father spoke English fairly well but couldn’t read it.

My father would consistently abuse my mother and us kids for no reason. Why would the father who once loved us change, hurting me, my siblings and the woman he married? My family and I would pray every night, hoping he wouldn’t come home.

The whole time we were in Israel, my mother’s sister in the United States was trying to help us. After almost two years, our prayers were finally answered. The American Embassy called to tell us that we should be outside in 20 minutes. Luckily, my father was out.

The embassy told us to bring only the clothes we were wearing, leave the television on and the water running so my father would think we were home. My mother, siblings and I were scared out of our minds. Imagine being nine years old and hearing your father’s words in your head, “If your mother tries to take you kids away from me, I’ll kill her.” When we left, I was more frightened for my mother than for myself.

A cab picked us up. There was a telephone on the back of the passenger’s seat. My mother had a number to call. The embassy representative told my mother that the cab driver had been told to take us to Tel Aviv near the ocean. He also told us not to look at the driver because suspicion might arise.

We wound up spending ten hours sitting on the rocks by the ocean that night, pondering our situation until another cab picked us up and took us to the embassy where they told my mother that there was one rule: if my father caught her, she must still leave Israel and leave us kids behind. It was very common for Israeli men who caught their wives attempting to leave the country with their children to beat their wives to death.

One cab picked us up, and another took us to the airport. When our plane arrived and we finally stepped on it, we knew that our ordeal was coming to an end. We were finally going home. I felt overwhelmed but safe. On the flight home, my family and I made a pact that we would always watch over each other no matter what obstacles we faced.

To this day, I wonder if my father is the same, or if he has returned to the loving man I once knew. I’m still sorting through my anger and pain. I reflect from at time on my past, trying not to remember everything. But no matter how hard I try, there’s a scar in my heart that hasn’t healed. I live my life in fear, looking over my shoulder all the time, making sure my father is not there.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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