June 16, 2001
The week after the big fight, I dared to entertain hopes that things would go back to normal despite how badly they had fallen apart. But when my siblings returned home with boxes and packing tape, I knew that it was a permanent change. I listened at the foot of the stairs while everybody joked around and carried on while they packed up their stuff. It would have been easier to adjust to had they gradually moved out one-by-one, but they were all gone in the space of a few days.
For the next several months they couch-surfed and lived out of the trunks of their cars until they finally found dingy basement apartments to stay in. And then for the next two or three years I did not know where any of them lived. They wouldn’t tell me. I didn’t even have a phone number to contact them. They still didn’t trust me with any information, fearful that I would tell Dad and he would come and find them. I was hurt and insulted that I had to use Mom as an intermediary to contact them. I frequently complained to her about the whole situation, but the only solace she offered was, “They’ll tell you when they’re ready.” Apparently at sixteen years old I still wasn’t old enough to know where my own family lived.
At least I still had Mom. She worked overnights with a home companion service, and since Dad worked during the day that ensured she’d (mostly) be out of his way. In the meantime it was hard to get used to an empty house. Now that Dad had finally gotten his wish, one would think he’d be happy about it. But he still had a bug up his ass, and that bug was Mom. Not only had she abandoned her wifely duties, but now he accused her of brainwashing all the kids and turning them against him. With everybody out of the house he had a wide open field to tear into her whenever he caught her at home, and when she wasn’t working on the weekends she’d wake up in the middle of the night to find him standing over her bed and shouting. She gave as good as she got, but it was always a nerve-wracking experience and she’d be completely shaken up afterwards.
I was in my junior year of high school and Mom wanted to stick it out until I graduated. She almost made it. This particular Sunday Dad went on another rampage. He worked himself up into such a rage that he was literally foaming at the mouth. They were fighting in the hallway right outside my room, and then I heard loud banging. Dad had turned and was punching holes in the wall behind him, his usual way of venting his frustration.
“Go ahead, hit me! I’m right here! I’M RIGHT HERE!” Mom taunted. Dad just kept punching holes in the wall, nearly destroying it from top to bottom. Finally he just told her to get out. Fortunately she had already been preparing in case of such an event. Most of her things were at Kathleen’s and she kept all her important papers locked in the trunk of her car. So when Dad told her to get out all she had to do was say “okay” and walk right past him and out the front door. She decided it was best if she finally removed herself from the situation, since Dad was only getting angrier by the day and it was all directed at her.
“YOU’LL BE BACK!” Dad called after her. “YOU CAN’T MAKE IT WITHOUT ME…YOU NEED ME!”
“Happy Father’s Day, by the way,” she called back.
Now it was just me and Dad.