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I Was Blind But Now I See

As the saying goes, "Hindsight is 20/20." When you're a kid, you rarely fully realize the way that things really are, and you come to conclusions that are often not quite right. The innocent eyes of youth are wonderful things, but sometimes the cynical, experienced eyes of an adult see things that the eyes of the child could never see.

"We won, Mom! We won! We're the best team in the league!" I was so jazzed that I couldn't stop jumping up and down; I felt I could run non-stop around the city.

Mom smiled. "That's great, Jack! We have to hurry, though, so that lunch is ready on time. Grab your ball and let's go home."

We hopped into the van and drove the few minutes to our house. I couldn't wait to tell Dad we had won. I had been such a failure at baseball and football that he had made it clear that I had seriously disappointed him. This win would finally make him proud of me. Just for once I wanted to show him I could do something right.

I barreled through the door from the garage into the kitchen.

"What the hell do you think you're doing! Get those dirty shoes off before you track mud in my house!" He was drinking again, alternately taking a swig from his pitcher and puffing out a cloud of smoke from his Parliaments.

I'd screwed up again.

"I'm sorry, Dad," I mumbled, bowing my head and stooping to quickly untie my shoes. How could I be so stupid and not take off my shoes?

"I don't give a fuck if you're sorry; you damn well know better, you dilrod!" That screaming voice always petrified me. I wanted to just hide, but I knew winning the soccer championship would be sure to make him happy.

"We won the league championship, Dad," I said softly, looking up as he took a huge gulp from the pitcher. "Coach said I was the best goalie he's ever seen."

He glared at me. "It's just a pussy's game. Real men play baseball and football, and you can't do shit!" I knew the blow was coming but also knew better than to try dodging the hit he aimed at my head. Crack! My head throbbed. How can he hate me so much?

"Get your ass outside and mow the lawn before I beat the shit out of you! Just keep the hell out of my sight, you God-damned pussy!

"Annie! Where the hell's my lunch?!"

He started arguing with Mom the moment she entered the kitchen, forgetting that I even existed. I slunk to my room to change into old clothes and mow the lawn. I'd failed him again, and I had no idea how to ever win his love.


It's hard to remember individual days of my childhood a lot of times because they all just blend into each other so much. Yelling and abuse from my father; some form of battery; countless chores and labors; and no comfort or compassion from anyone, even my mom. Partly I think it's that I don't want to think about individual days. I may not be able to forget growing up with an abusive, alcoholic father, but there's no reason to consciously choose to recollect specific incidents. Some days simply stand out as defining moments, however - days that showed it was all him and not me.

I specifically remember that day I came home from winning the local soccer league championships. I was so happy, and I wanted my father to be proud of me. He hadn't gone to watch me, of course. He never did. For that matter, neither did my mom, but at least she drove me there and picked me up. But I had won, and that should have counted for something. And it might have counted for any other father.

I don't know why I was surprised to find him drinking and smoking when I got home - it was his normal routine after all. I had jumped from the van the moment it had stopped and run in to tell my dad we had won. He bitched at me the moment I stepped inside, complaining about tracking dirt into his house because I hadn't taken my shoes off. The fact that I'd been playing in the grass and had no mud on my shoes was unimportant, as was the fact that there was already a track of mud up to where he sat at the kitchen table, sweaty and grimy, from when he was working in the garden.

He always had to make me feel guilty, though. That's how he held power over me, through guilt and fear. At the time, I believed everything was my fault and that he would only love me when I lived up to his expectations. That's why I believed what he said when he told me my victory meant nothing and I would never be a real man since I was a complete loser at playing baseball or football. The fact that he'd never taught me those games or played with me had nothing to do with my failure. It was all supposed to be my fault. That's why I had felt I deserved to be yelled at and beaten, belittled for any accomplishment I might make, and starved of any affection from anyone in the family.

He was a hard, hurtful man without an ounce of love in his body. Unfortunately it took me far too long to realize that fact, wasting a couple of decades trying to win a love that never existed. That day was indicative of every other. I lost my whole childhood trying to please a man who could never be satisfied and who could only find pleasure in causing pain to others. I will always hate that man for stealing my childhood. I only wish there had been some way to know these things as a child so that I wouldn't have hated myself so much.


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I Was Blind But Now I See, by Paul Cales, © October 2001