Beneath the facade he shared with his friends, he was a taskmaster at best, a sadistic monster at worst. My father was a physically imposing man. At 6'2, he towered over my mother, and when I was very little, about three or so, I remember thinking he was some sort of giant from a fairy tale. He could pick me up as if I weighed nothing. When he would dangle me by one foot and pretend to drop me, he'd say he was just teaching me about trust. When he would actually drop me, he'd say he was just teaching me to get up after a fall. As I grew older, I learned that he found picking on me to be a sport for him. He took tremendous joy in tripping or kicking me, laughing when I'd go down and screaming at my mother to let me shake it off on my own without her babying me. If she did help me, she'd pay her own price. It wasn't until I was about ten that I realized when he would drag her into their bedroom and slam the door shut, he wasn't only hitting her to make her scream.
I grew up terrified of my father. On the few occasions I would try to stand up to him, he would usually defeat me, but I never regretted one bruise or cut in those moments. I hated him as much as I was scared of him, and the day I left home for college, I felt as if I'd been released from prison. My one regret was having to leave Mom behind with him. But, from what I could tell, he was a different man without me around. I must have been the trigger for all of his rage and hatred, and I still don't know why, though I have my suspicions. I remember him suspecting me of being gay when I was very small. I'd tried putting on some of Mom's lipstick - a little boy emulating the one person who loved him, nothing else. We both caught hell for that. But it was the start of a campaign for him to make a man out of me. As I got older, I was horrified to discover that I did have inappropriate feelings for boys. I did everything I could to hide and deny it, but Dad still somehow knew and tried to beat it out of me. And I let him win. I screwed every girl I could in college. I cut all ties with my best friend because I couldn't face being in love with him. There. That's the first time I've admitted that out loud. Peter thought I shut him out because he objected to my getting married, but the truth was I had to run away from the one person I wanted but couldn't have in any way. I got married far too young in order to prove that I wasn't the "fucking faggot" my father thought I was. All because I was scared of him.
When Dad died, I stopped just shy of celebrating. I even felt bad. He was my father, after all. But I also felt free, relieved, unburdened, and as if I could finally start to live my life. That was in 2001. By that time I'd been married to Talia for almost 8 years. The urge to start a new life passed once I decided that the familiar was better than the unknown. Four years later, though, when Peter came back into my life, I couldn't pretend anymore. And because my father was gone, I didn't have to.