I’m the Son of a Verbal Abuser

My father was a good provider for our family.  He always made sure that I received the best medical care for my health problem that were caused by my birth defects.

Unfortunately, his good qualities were always dwarfed by his verbally abusive words our family endured for decades.

The abuse I endured

I can remember a night when I was in second grade.  While my parents worked on the family budget in the living room, I was in my bedroom working on a budget for my weekly allowance.  My budget included putting money away for savings, education and of course toys.  When I showed my father my budget, instead of him complementing me on my hard work, all he could say was “How do you ever expect to get into college if you are too dumb to spell college correctly?”  (At the age of 8 I spelled college k-o-l-a-g-e,)

I recall that in third grade my teacher always emphasized to the class, “if you write your first name on something you must also write your last name”.  The night of my father’s 32nd birthday I and my younger brother wrote our first and last names on Dad’s birthday card before handing it to him.  Although he mumbled thanks when he opened the card. Later that evening we smelled smoke coming from his bedroom.  We stood outside of his bathroom and when he exited we learned he burnt the birthday card just because we wrote our last names on it.

The abuse I witnessed

My father was also verbally abusive towards my mother.  In almost every argument my parents had, my father would put my mother down.  One of his more frequent verbal abuse topics towards my mother was her choice of not drinking alcohol.

Every time they fought my stomach would get all tied up in knots.  I would lie in my room, staring at the night sky while continuously begging God to stop my Dad from yelling and cursing at my mother.

No one outside of our family knew

While friends, neighbors and teachers avoided my father, I do not think any of them knew about the verbal abuse I witnessed and/or endured from my Father in my home, nor did anyone realize that the verbal abuse was starting to impact my everyday life.  I can recall that during my grade school years, if not earlier, I began to dread my father coming home in the evenings, I also would do anything to avoid having to spend time with him or even talk to him, and when the arguments between my parents were happening at least once a week, I began fearing coming home from school and I dreaded every weekend being trapped in the house with my father.

How the verbal abuse impacted my life

My unhappy home life was one of several contributing factors to my academic struggles in school. My academic struggles resulted in several troubling progress reports and report cards with poor grades.

Consequences of my reaction to the abuse

I still can hear my Dad’s hurtful words that my brother and I heard as we stood before him when we brought home a report card with low grades.  My father would say repeatedly “with grades like these you are not going to be anything but either a dumb janitor or stupid garbage man”.  Once he even repetitively threated to make my brother ride on the back of the garbage truck!

Things will get better, right?

When I moved out of my parents’ home at the age of 23, I was hoping the verbal abuse would end, but deep down I knew that it wouldn’t, and I was right.

If I did not thank him profusely for doing anything for me or giving me even the smallest of gifts, I would hear a tirade of “you are an ungrateful person!”  it became so bad I really didn’t want anything from him.

When he learned that my politics were opposite of his, he went through the roof.  I cannot begin to count the number of time he said I was disrespecting him because I voted against his candidate of choice.

The most hurtful verbal abuse I endured

“I wish I had never became a father!”

Those words from my Dad, hurt more than all the other abusive things he had ever said to me.

He said those words to me at least three times in my life.  The first two times he made that statement were in verbally abusive emails.  The third time he said them was in my presence.  I was sitting at table at Applebee’s having lunch with my father and mother.  My Dad’s friends Bill and Carol were sitting next to my Dad.  He didn’t say it to anyone, but he said it loud enough for those around him to hear “I wish I never had children”.  Bill, who is also my Godfather, heard those words along with my wife Kimberly.

Through all the decades I never realized I was a victim of verbal abuse. 

Whenever my Dad yelled at me and said those hurtful words, I thought that I again let my father down.  I again failed gain his approval of what I did or who I am, and I didn’t measure up to his expectations.

All I ever wanted, and I believe every son wants the same for his father, was my dad to be proud of me, to encourage and guide me back onto the right path when I strayed off course, and to approve of the man I have become.

Words of praise and approval meant very little to me.

There were times that my father did tell me that he was proud of me.  Unfortunately, for every one time he said he was proud of me there were at probably 50 verbally abusive remarks he had me to me.  Sometimes he would tell me that he was proud of me in the afternoon then later that night I would receive a hate filled abusive via email where he ranted about how horrible of a person I was because of my political views.

My father’s hurtful words carried more weight than his words of praise.  When my father said to me “I’m proud of you” I would say to myself for how long will this last?  Does he really mean it? or I don’t believe my father. because the damage had already been done by the decades of his abusive words that I knew would certainly return.

The long-lasting invisible (and not so invisible) scars from the verbal abuse

Sadly, I have also allowed the verbal abuse to lower my self-esteem and self-worth.

I have also allowed the verbal abuse to make me into a person who is closed off from others, unwilling and/or unable to share my deepest and most personal thoughts with the people closest to me.

Knowing that these problems were caused by the verbal abuse, I am trying every day to overcome the damage that was either inflicted on me as a young child, or that I have allowed to happen to me as an adult, and become a better person.