2004: No Calls Please

I draft a letter to Dad for my next weekly session with Dr. Vee while repeating my silent mantra: you can do this…you can face your fear.

The plastic casing surrounding my BIC pen cracks as I squiggle my signature with defiance. Done. Wonder what Dr. Vee will think when I show up with this totally unexpected letter today?

He greets me in the waiting room. “All set for you now, Jenny.”

Trembling, I remove the loose-leaf sheet from my purse, and hand him the trifold. “I want to show you something. A letter that I intend to send to my Father, today.”

Dr. Vee reads the note intently as I take my usual place on the sofa and mentally recite every painstaking word.

Dear Dad,

 I am writing to let you know that I can no longer talk to you every day on the phone. This is not because I don’t love you, but it’s become too difficult for me. Other people don’t talk to their parents several times a day. This is not normal behavior. So I’m proposing a schedule to talk on the phone twice per week. I will not answer my phone if it is not one of those days. Again, I know this will be difficult for you, but I hope you can understand in time.

Love, Your Daughter,

Jenny Leigh

Stunned, Dr. Vee says, “Once again, I’m blown away that you had the courage to write this letter to your father already. This is only your first month of therapy. You really are a resilient person.”

I blush a little while welling up at his accolade. You always have a hard time with compliments, dummy. You’re supposed to say, ‘Thank you.’ But you don’t deserve any credit.

He asks, “Are you really going to send him this letter?”

“I think I have to after our last couple of conversations confirming his severe mental illness. If I don’t start setting some boundaries, he’s going to kill me. I can’t take it anymore. I have to stop letting him control my life like this.”

“Are you afraid of his reaction?”

“Yes. I’m so frightened that I’ve devised a plan with my fiancé. We’re taking off on a trip for a few days when Dad will receive the letter. I feel safer that way. In case he shows up at our apartment with an ax.”

I realize our session is up as Dr. Vee glances at his watch. “Good luck and safe travels, Jenny.”

“Thank you, Doctor. I’m sure I’ll have news next time…you know, if I’m still alive.” He shoots me a concerned look followed by a reassuring smile.

Exiting the office, I drop the letter in the nearest outgoing mailbox. Swish. All gone. Too late. 

On our second morning at the bed and breakfast, my cell phone rings. Dad.

My hands tremble so profusely; I nearly shut my blue Motorola before answering.

“Hello?” Let’s get this the fuck over with.

“Jenny. It’s your Father. Or have you forgotten about me?”

“No, Dad.”

“I received you letter in the mail yesterday. Threw Daddy for quite a surprise.”

God if he stays this calm, you’ll end up feeling guilty.

“Listen, don’t do your Father any favors. No one ever has. Not one person in my family. Not one motherfucker has ever been there for me in 60 years. After all I’ve done for you, and you can’t talk to me on the phone! Well don’t fucking worry about it! You’re a no good WHORE just like your mother and all the rest of them!”

Pheww…you didn’t send the letter in vain. Stay strong…like he trained you, but for YOU this time.

My heart pounds to a nearly audible beat. Dad’s tone grows fiercer with every syllable. “Dad—Dad—are you going to let me—get a word—in…” “NO!!!” Click. The bastard hung up. Couldn’t take the heat.

I glimpse over at my fiancé as he sits patiently on the edge of an elaborately carved mahogany four-poster bed. Jesus…Surely he’s never witnessed anything like that before.

For the next hour I pace the room and rehearse the events while clenching my fists and breaking out in cold sweats. Fuck, you can’t go through with this. You tried to do too much too soon.

But as my toe catches the corner of the substantial bedpost…Ouch!!!…I remember Dad’s cruel words to me. “You’re a no good whore like all the rest.”

 Twenty years of brutality. Haven’t you sacrificed yourself enough for him? God’s plan…Last daughter…Prisoner. Enough!

While rubbing my injured limb, I reach for my cell phone on the hotel nightstand, and shut it off for three whole days.

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2004: Shrink Session

After my carpet-burned belly incident, I browse online for the name of a good psychologist. One that specializes in childhood trauma.

My first fifty-minute session with Dr. Vee flies by as I hurriedly recount the past 20 years.

My parents had an affair in 1980.

My Father lied to my Mother about having a vasectomy.

Then he brutally forced my Mother to carry me once she became pregnant.

While they were both married with children.

My Father moved my mother in with his family. Not pretty.

She abandoned me after he threatened her life multiple times.

Everyone considers me to be his property. Even she does.

I don’t.

I’m afraid of him.

He’s threatened my life countless times.

I know my fear is not irrational.

I can’t go on like this anymore. What now?

I watch Dr. Vee scribble furiously on a legal pad propped against his knee. Offer him some proof. “Next time, I could bring you some of the letters he’s written to me…if that would help?”

“Sure. That would be very useful. It was a pleasure to meet you, Jenny. I’ll see you in a week.”

During our second appointment, Dr. Vee reads Dad’s letters while I sit across from him on a velvety mushroom hued sofa. I fidget with the pillows to distract myself from the anticipation. Please, please let him recognize that Dad is crazy. Don’t let him be fooled like every teacher, friend, and warm body who thought he was god’s gift as a single father. Just let one person understand

“Well, Jenny, after reading these letters, my diagnosis of your Father is that he’s a psychotic-schizophrenic-paranoid-narcissist.”

Yes! He understands! Wait, he’s what? That’s even worse than you thought…

Dr. Vee stares at me intently. “People, like your Father, with this particular combination of mental illnesses, they are usually very dangerous. I want you to be very careful—particularly in confronting him.”

I take my first breath since Dr. Vee’s diagnosis. “Yes. I’m glad someone finally understands what I’ve been coping with for twenty years. Believe me, I have always been cautious around him. A few weeks ago he let himself into our apartment without knocking. The next day, my fiancé changed the lock. Before that, we got into a fight over the phone—which by the way, I’m sick of talking to him five times a day—and he threatened to kill me because I don’t believe in his predictions or whatever. This has to end!”

“Jenny, I understand your frustration here. I want you to know that I don’t see any qualities in you that are like your Father. You understand what happened to you very deeply, and you’re far more normal than you might realize. Next time we will discuss the possibility of limiting contact, or cutting ties completely. Though I caution you, that can be a very difficult thing to do, psychologically.”

After wringing my hands the whole session, I rise from the couch and sling my purse over my right shoulder. “Thank you, Doctor. This is going to help me. I’m so glad I came to see you.”

As I make my way across the narrow hall, and down two flights of stairs, I feel lighter somehow. Progress! You can do this…you can face your fear. Just you wait until next week, Doctor Vee.