I watched my toddler cuddling on her fathers chest. His embrace giving her all the peace in the world.
Nothing mattered to her then. Of all the possible feelings she could have felt at that moment, safe would be the one she would use if she could express herself as an adult and not the 3 year old she was. It was then I realized what the love of a father could give to a child… and what it could take.
I cannot recall the feel of a fathers embrace. I have no recollection of the words “I love you.” But the feel of a fist, a slap, a kick, those are all too vivid in my mind. The tenderness of a purple bruise, that is the how I remember my father’s caress. The words whore, trash, loser, are the encouragement I received.
I told my husband, startled by tears, that this is how it should have been. Why didn’t I deserve this? What was I as a child that made me unworthy of the love and affection that a father could give?
As we wrap up a “group hug”; a tradition my daughter began, I remember hugging myself as a child.
Cowering in the corner, huddled alone; a reflex when the yelling and violence began.
I could never love that man. How could a child love a monster; the source of their nightmares; the crusher of their dreams?