He yelled all the time.
I don’t remember him talking. He would get emotional and pace up and down through the rooms, roaring away. This frightened me.
He was gone six months of the year.
He played the horses and dogs and when the tracks closed in Miami, he would leave my mother, my brother, my sister and me and migrate to Boston, where the tracks opened. He was never there for the Father-Daughter elementary school banquet in May, so I never attended. The only person in my class who didn’t have their father there was Penny Kowalsky. And her father was dead.
He didn’t remember my birthday.
That was bad, but….
He didn’t remember how old I was.
In the summer when he was gone I would speak to him for a minute or two call on the black phone in the hall. I’d bring the phone into the closet and sit on the floor among the umbrellas. And when it was my birthday week my mother would knock on the closet door and yell at him that it had been my birthday. And he’d say something to me like, “Oh, Happy Birthday! How old are you now?”
He mimicked me.
He thought it was funny to mock my cheerleading tryout. And anything else that I didn’t do well.
He would say things like “your sister is my favorite.”
He hurt me. I don’t remember a compliment.
He took money from my wallet.
He didn’t really support us. He gambled, and that’s about it. When he “borrowed” a dollar or two from me to buy a racing form he’d say “I’ll pay you back.” He sometimes did.
He never said I love you.
I don’t remember ever hearing it. Or feeling it.
He would come into my bed some mornings and fall asleep with his arm around me.
This is a hard one. It was minimized when I finally brought it up to my mother, as an adult. I do not remember anything more than what I wrote above. It happened maybe a couple of times a year. I didn’t understand it. I didn’t like the way it felt. I didn’t like the way he smelled, of cigarette smoke and sweat. I stayed still. I don’t remember anything more than his presence. He would eventually fall asleep, snoring. And I would extricate myself and leave the room. This went on until I went off to college. Maybe nothing happened.
He never changed.
But I did.