My father is not a kind, gentle or good man. I haven't seen or spoke to him in eleven years, but I know with a certainty I can say that and it still be true. Men like him do not change, they do not grow, they do not admit fault.
A few of my posts have spoken of the memories of him that are forever seared into my mind. I sometimes needed to write a bit about him to help you understand certain points or feelings I have now as an adult. I can go months and months without ever having him cross my mind, and that's fine with me. I do not want him in my life, my children know that he is alive and that he is a very bad, bad man. While he's never shown stalking or interest in my life since my mother left him all those years ago, I still take the precautions to warn the school and keep him on the no pick up list with the phrase "contact police immediately" written underneath. Although he could not access my children's school anyway, since they are military children on a base with great security...that is the type of fear he has so gratefully bestowed upon me during my childhood. It lingers and haunts me, and it does even more so during the holiday season.
I could write of the beatings, emotional scarring, terror, sexual abuse, and general asshole-iness he loved to dole out to his family on a near daily basis. I could retell any number of situations from my childhood that would make you cringe, tear up, or feel pity for my family. I don't say this with pride or expectation; I say this because I want you to fully understand that even through that haze of hate my sisters and I were still children, and despite him we held fast to our imaginations and hopes, and we tried so desperately to believe in the simple magic of Christmas. It will probably come as no surprise that with a father like him, those fragile dreams didn't last.
I remember my mother crying one morning, shortly before Christmas. I was a pre-teen, and knew instantly that it had something to do with my father. I felt my heart slamming in my chest as I secretly prayed that he had finally been shot, overdosed or died. He'd gone on a bender and had been missing for three days. Certainly not his longest one, but normally our mother didn't cry in front of us about his being gone. Instead she'd howl, threaten, and we'd help her pack his belongings in trash bags and throw them out onto our lawn in front of our house to await his return. My sisters and I would taunt him, scream that we hate him from behind the safety of our screen door when he returned hung over and strung out. We felt strong, even brave at those times...until he came back inside and we paid the price. However, this time mom was upset because he had stolen our only car. It was a beater, old and ugly. My mother wasn't crying because of this, we'd lost many a car, radio, t.v....you name it and the odds are good he had sold it at some point over the years for drugs. No, she was crying because she had just the day before gone and picked up a donation of toys to give to her four children for Christmas, and she had left them in the trunk of that car.
He came home a day later. The car was gone, and he claimed that he was "mugged". The only signs of distress was the disgusting odor surrounding him, the red in his eyes and the greasiness of his hair. My father was easily six foot, if not larger. I cannot honestly say, but in my memories he was a towering giant, a devil made of hellfire and brutality. He's always been larger than life and I recall wondering how exactly a man of my fathers size and bulkiness always manages to get mugged, because this certainly wasn't the first time he had told that story to us.
With just days before Christmas, my mother was frantic. My sisters were all younger than me and still held some belief in Santa and the magic of the holiday. Say what you will about it being a commercial holiday, that does not change the fact that most children fall asleep dreaming of the bounty of gifts and candy that waits for them in the morning under a glittering tree. Somehow, my mother managed to pull something together that Christmas. There were a few gifts for each of the children under our small tree, although several were used, not boxed or tagged, and obviously not purchased from a store, she had managed to save Christmas for her children. Looking back now I feel incredibly ashamed of myself, standing there clutching a slightly dingy unwrapped stuffed sheep and thinking about how much that Christmas sucked. My siblings were happy, they were young and did not notice the things I did. I was a pre-teen. I wanted lip gloss, perfume, or roller skates. I felt envious of the gifts my younger siblings had because I had only gotten a few, and they had more than I did, used or not I was still jealous. While I was conscious of the actions of my father, I wasn't able to rationalize or fully understand how hard that was on my mother. To see her daughter standing there disappointed and to be honest, probably looking a little bitchy (I was a pre-teen after all) probably crushed her. As a parent now, with children of my own, seeing that sight would shred my insides. I know that somewhere down the line it's going to happen. As parents we are going to disappoint our children, or fail to provide for them in some way. No matter the amount of money, somehow we are going to fail somewhere. That feeling for my mother was made even worse, knowing that she had done what she could to get us nice things, and that he had once again fucked it up.
That Christmas paints a normal picture of our holidays. My mother would work hard to try to provide for us, while he'd steal, takes off and sell/destroys our things. I remember one birthday when I was very young, I mean I had to have been in K or first grade, I was given the game Mouse Trap for my birthday. I wanted so badly to play that game with my father that I set it up on the table. I don't recall clearly if he had just come home from work or the bar, but he was drunk and he was angry. He destroyed my game.
Even when our holidays were decent, he was still a dick. There were some Christmas's when our grandparents and mother would pull together and give us nice gifts, stockings and we felt like a real family...so long as we stayed quiet until eleven or twelve in the afternoon staring all morning longingly at the tree because our father drunk himself into a stupor and refused to get out of bed...but God forgive us if we open those gifts without him. My sisters and I battled with our longing to open the shiny gifts, and our desperate fear of our father beating us senseless for bothering him again. Once he woke up the attention needed to be on him. We had to thank him regardless of who gave us the gift, we had to shower appreciation on him for managing not to steal, drink, or destroy our gifts that year. Even though I was small, I remember the resentment I carried toward him.
I want to say that while my mother isn't a saint, she's far from a sinner. She's human and she worked her ass off through our childhood to celebrate the holidays she celebrated as a child, and to protect us the best she could from him. She was not above asking for help, working ninety hours a week (provided my father had not gotten her fired from another job), or scrimping and saving to buy us even the cheapest toys to open. She was a strong woman who had been beaten down, shamed, and felt that she had nowhere in the world to turn to. Whether or not that is true, the emotional and mental hell my father put her through had destroyed any and all confidence and beliefs she once held. In her mind, she was alone, she was stuck. Eventually she found her voice and her strength. She left him, in the middle of yet another one of his benders, she borrowed a truck, called her sister and before we could blink we were being relocated far, far away from him. It came several years later than any of us wished it would, but at least it came before we were killed by him.
I don't feel the need to write any more about my past, in fact I am pretty sure I over shared more than some people would have wanted me too. I'm sorry to those that my post brings up poor memories for, but I wanted to make sure that the next words I type have an impact, and hopefully will shame those who would take advantage of the season into clicking elsewhere to run their scams.
You see, November 28th marks my 10th year of marriage. My husband asked me what I wanted for our anniversary and after thinking long and hard I still could not come up with one material item that I wanted. I have everything I need, more than I want and it's such a huge change from my childhood that when I went to bed last night the memories of our past holidays came screeching into my mind. I woke up this morning knowing what I want for my anniversary. I want to reach out to the woman my mother was. I want to help the woman who is sitting on the other side of this screen, torn inside because she can barely feed her children, much less purchase toys for Christmas. The woman who has born bruises inside and out, who still may be concealing them. I want to stop the shredding of your heart Christmas morning. While I am content in my life, we are still just a military family. I cannot and will not purchase high end electronics or send you any money. Not because I don't trust you...it's because I don't trust him. If you're a woman (or a man, I want to make it clear that I know domestic abuse goes both ways...my personal story just is one where the man is the perpetrator) and considering entering then I know you have a demon of your own. I will not encourage you to leave him, I understand better than most just how hard and impossible that can seem. I do want you to know that, no matter how dark the road is there is always a light ahead of you...even if you can't see it.
I cannot help everyone, but I will do my best. If I find I can help more than one person, I will continue to use rafflecopter to generate the numbers. Of course I might not have any response at all to this and will donate more to Toys for Tots (which I am donating to anyways), but I want to put it out there. If you have five, three or even one gift for your child I am asking that you do not enter. One gift is still one gift more than my mother has had to offer to us many years. One gift is one gift that you have worked for and should be proud of, regardless of price or if it's home made. I will not be giving out a huge bag of presents, but I can promise that I will do my very best to get the most I can for your child, be it one, three or more gifts. My husband has given me the okay to work my coupon magic to try to send to you something for your child, because he's soothed my tears in the night. He's dealt with the mental issues for the last ten years (twelve if you count our dating) left by my father. He's met my mother and my sister, he's seen first hand how something as simple as just being able to safely hide a gift from a drunk, drugged out asshole can make a difference in your life, and keep the magic alive in your child's eyes.
So please, share this post. When I was stateside, I'd comb Craiglist, meeting with people and helping when I could. I'm sure I got scammed and ripped off a few times, but all I can do is hope that won't happen again.
This will go on until November 28th, to give me time to shop. I will most likely have the items sent directly to you from the store (unless I purchase the gifts here), and hope that you are able to keep them safe. I will also try to send a stocking for your child/children. I know this is considered early since Thanksgiving isn't even here yet, but for those of you who do not know, I live in Japan. Shopping, stuffing, and shipping will make it a close call to get stateside in time for Christmas (especially since I am in a full leg cast and venture out rarely to shop). So please save all of your "oh my God it's not even December" bitching for my next post about how I terrorize my children with elves.