I Never Had a Dad. I Had a Boogeyman.

Am I overstating?

I mean, if we’re going to make comparisons, I’m sure as far as father’s go, there are some that make him look like a goddamn saint.

However, as far as fathers go, mine sucks.

For the first 5 or 6 years, he lured me into a world where I was a princess with my whole life ahead of me.

I was adored. I was precious. I ruled a world where I was content and happy.

My mom was a little scary, but that was cool, because my dad fucking rocked. My mother suffered from severe depression with suicidal ideologies. She is awesome now. I wish her life could have been different.  

He took away the love and adoration. I spent the rest of my childhood into adulthood going “Wait, what?”

I spent decades wondering what I had done wrong. Why did he take his love away? What was wrong with me?

Then, I learned about parental narcissism. I learned that children take a well worn path. They have their role and they play their part.

I am not an expert in anything, but my father and I danced that dance like we were Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers.

I spent my earliest years being nothing more than a reflection of him.

As humans do, I became more self aware. I began developing a sense of self.

If you are child of a narcissist, then you know, developing a sense of self is a transgression the narcissistic parent will never forgive.

I stopped being a reflection of him. He saw this as a betrayal. Malignant narcissists never forget and never forgive a betrayal.

My life went from being revered to being told I was ugly and worthless. That the world would have been better had I never existed.

I think calling him the Boogeyman is fair.

He is fading so fast.

My dad is 82 years old and has congestive heart failure and COPD. He can walk a little bit before having to sit down. Like from the living room to the dining room.

He doesn’t really have his voice anymore. His voice sounds the way phlegm would sound if it could talk.

He falls down.

His skin has turned black in spots due to lack of oxygen.

He doesn’t eat much.

He smokes cigarettes and drinks soda.

The Boogeyman, my Boogeyman, isn’t scary anymore. He hasn’t been for years.

I feel sorry for him and I don’t think he will be here much longer.

Life is weird and hard.

I’m sorry that he wasted his life in bitterness, insecurity, and hatred. I’m sorry he chose to reject a relationship with 3 daughters who would have loved and cared for him.

I didn’t have a dad. I had a Boogeyman.

I have to think having a dad would have been better.

Image by Christian Supik (Fotografie) + Manuela Pleier (Design) from Pixabay

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  • I’m so sorry that there wasn’t a magical reversal where he remembers that he has children he adores. I feel sorriest really, for your mom, who stayed around to bolster you up and help keep you from believing him. Imagine how he made her feel. Try to keep the early days of his adoration in your mind so that you remember that the man of the last 5 decades was a stranger who took over your dear Fathers’ life and kept him from you. Yeah, platitudes, I know.

  • I’ve avoiding too deep an analysis of my own childhood & upbringing as my parents danced their own codependent tango – and I likewise was The Chosen One as long as I kept to The One True Path…
    It gives me a sick feeling (not to mention a headache) as I try to puzzle all this shit out – Dad has been dead now for 3 yrs, and Mom goes further down the rabbit hole of not-so-fond memories. Ugh!

  • Michelle, You almost recreated my own father in your words. The only difference is that my father has severe dementia and is in a home, and now I’m assisting in taking care of him with staff (and paying the bills). My father wasn’t a dad. He was simply a father.

    I do understand it was a different time and different rules applied. However, I have many friends my age that did not have the type of behaviour that you described about our mutual fathers. It is hard for me to forgive what he did. Today it would have been called child abuse. Then, it was just called, “discipline”.

    However, I ensure that he is taken care of because there is no one left to do it. I do it for my mother. Not for him.

    I’m glad you’re recovering from it. It certainly is a journey. The path forward is certainly better than looking backwards.

  • It says a lot about you that, from the way you talk about him, it’s clear you still care. You’re very aware of the flaws, of what a terrible person your father has been, but you have the same wish for him that you have for your mother: that his life could have been different. Even though she had troubles she didn’t ask for and he made some awful choices you still have that wish.
    Yeah, life’s weird. You got put through Hell and remained a good person.

  • Michelle,
    Narcissism is devastating because the narcissist didn’t ask to become what s/he is, but they are what they are. By definition, narcissism is more or less a life sentence. The person doesn’t realize they have the ability to change or get better because that would imply there’s something wrong with them to begin with and that simply cannot be true, yada, yada… They can’t bear to think of themselves as vulnerable, weak, human. Their core sense of self can’t handle that, ergo, they’re stuck in a self-perpetuating hell. They leave destruction and chaos in their wake. As with all personality disorders, a narcissist is created/molded/formed by parent/s who did not meet their needs along with a bunch of other stuff; nature/nurture stuff, temperament, etc. that happened in their formative years, stunted their development and formed–well, a narcissist. A monster was created. I don’t like narcissists, but I have compassion for them, just like I have compassion for the people they hurt!

    I’m sorry you’re the child of a narcissist. I’m sorry I am too. LOTS OF THERAPY and, I’m better. Mostly. I have compassion for both of my parents (don’t get me started), but I also have a healthier sense of keeping away from the crazy. (That took a long time to learn.) Mom is gone now. Dad knows I love him, but I will cut him like a bitch if he tries to drag me into his shit. He does this on a fairly regularly basis. I remind him I’m not interested and I, suddenly, I have to go when he starts with the stupid. He’s 87 years old. He’s forgetful. He’s not going to change or admit to any of his bullshit. He doesn’t have the capacity to do that. Whatchagonnado?! Love the person, hate the behavior! More importantly, love yourself, protect yourself, and get the hell away from crazy when it approaches all nice and sane like and then turns back into crazy! It’s a trap! It’s always a trap! It’s difficult (understatement of the year) and some days are easier than others.

    With that said, I think of a narcissist as the equivalent of a human black hole. They suck all life and air and light out of people and they can’t get enough. It’s their survival mechanism.

    Just remember: Michelle, you can think of your dad as a boogeyman or you can think of him as a black hole who is out of control and will never know what it truly means to love or be loved. He just consumes. That seems powerful, but not if he can’t help himself, if he can’t stop. You, however, have power. You are a GODDESS with a Magic Eraser, dammit, and you know how to use it! I don’t say that lightly. You bring light into the dark. You are a force for good. You create joy and bring laughter out of the absurdity and pain. You have empathy and the ability to change and grow and do all of those things your father cannot. NOW THAT’S REAL POWER! I hope you keep that in mind. Be well, stay true to yourself–create and destroy–all of the stuff that a Goddess does. This world needs more Goddesses and less black holes! A great big hug to you, Mona

  • I’ve been listening to audiobooks while commuting. “Complex PTSD, from Surviving to Thriving” by Pete Walker is an excellent compilation of traits that come from growing up in a crazy family. It has been validating but it’s brought up more tears. The well is never dry! My mom is the narcissist and her husband is a narcissist x2. They are elderly and spectacularly stubborn. My dad drank partly because my mom was so difficult and unloving. He has passed. I often feel bad talking smack about them because they were good providers and pillars of the community. I know they had their own childhood baggage. I hope the work my sister and I are doing in therapy will heal generations of pain. My goal is peace and joy as I cross into my 60’s. I am grateful for your blog Michelle, and this community of thoughtful people. It is source of comfort, inspiration and grins. You guys are awesome!

  • It’s weird, I didn’t get along with my dad very well when I was a kid, but after I grew up and got away from him, I began to see his good side more. Some things look better from a distance. He’s been dead for a few years now and honestly I don’t harbor any bad feelings toward him for they way I was raised.
    Nope, I did fine. The bad feelings I harbor come from the way he treated my sister. Who also did fine, but had to labor under my dad’s peculiar ideas about what men and women are about. I often say that I remember the exact moment when I became a feminist. I was 13. My sister, who was senior class president with a 4.0 grade average, was not allowed to go on a date until after she turned 18. Once she tried reasoning with my dad about it by telling him “Listen, I’m not going to go out and get pregnant.” He replied “Well I’m a man, and I know different.” It still makes my blood run cold a little to type that after all of these years. She didn’t know it at that time, but my sister is gay.
    I hope you have gotten some peace into your life where your father is concerned. My sister went to therapy for years to sort out her relationship with dad, and finally came away with the idea that there are no set rules for what families have to be. They just are. That seemed to work for her, and she had the best relationship with dad out of the three of us in dad’s later years. I have to admit that most of that was from her willingness to put the time and effort into it, whereas I just mostly avoided him and my brother is dead. She got her peace of mind and some property out of the deal, so I hope she is happy with it.

    • THANK YOU for loving him. I want him to be loved. I have a hard time with that, but I really do want him to at least be a little happy. And we all deserve love.

  • Some people draw the small straw when it comes to parents others get the scraps of the ground but most are like me and win the lottery in the parents stakes

  • It’s strange growing up that way. (To put it mildly…) My father has been gone for 5 years now? I did all the dutiful daughter crap at the end – because I wanted to be okay with myself afterwards. I had gotten beyond the intense emotions by that point, and done some healing/therapy/etc. BUT I do NOT miss him in any way.

    I had a TON of anger after the funeral – hearing all the people telling how he was so wonderful. He was never wonderful or kind to me. In fact, he felt bold enough to tell us kids how he enjoyed seeing us suffer… So, also NOT a father. I have 1 or 2 happy memories involving him, and millions of horrible ones.

    The most difficult part of his passing was, for me, feeling guilty over not missing him. I never wished him pain, because I’m just not that way. But good riddance!

  • Well, you at least feel sorry for him. I hated mine until the last minute of his life…and still do. Can’t seem to move past it. Feel nothing but disdain and no respect for my mother – happy for you that you can have a relationship with yours. Life is hard enough without having hurtful, hateful parents.

By Michelle

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