I don’t know that I actually hated him, but the news of his sudden death from a massive coronary last week elicited nothing more than an enormous sigh of relief. My childhood abuser, the family sociopath, was dead at age 69. I wasn’t anticipating dancing on his grave, nor did I expect to feel any sorrow at the passing of a truly worthless human being. I was surprised, then, to find my equanimity so disturbed that I really didn’t know how or what to feel.
For much of my life, I avoided mirrors, convinced of my unattractiveness: I was ugly and I knew it. It was many years before I understand that the face in the mirror was not my own, but that of my tormentor. Such is the damage done by a child molester to his victim.
One day, at age 9, a year after we’d moved to the Midwest, I ran away from home, wearing a little sun suit and red, rubber-toed sneakers, and carrying my little suitcase. I got as far as the piano teacher’s house. She and her husband took me home. As soon as they had left, my mother turned on me and insisted I get down on my knees to beg for forgiveness. I was a contrary child, and since I’d done nothing wrong in my mind, I refused to kneel down on the cold, hard, marble floor, and I’d be damned if I were going to apologize.
What I needed, instead, was for her to take me in her arms, tell me she loved me, and ask me why I had felt it necessary to run away. For my impudence, I was sent to my room. For many years, I kept my ugly secret buried, and though my mother did eventually learn of it, she never did know why I ran away from home.
I kept silent for too long. He continued his perversion, until eventually, his children and ex-wife brought it to the attention of the law, after which he was sentenced to prison a second time, the first time for securities fraud.
He was a monster. Not only had he sexually abused his siblings and children, he had bankrupted our parents and financially ruined three of our other siblings. Married four times, he had nine children by four women (of which I’m aware—perhaps more, given his constant philandering). For all the pain he caused so many people, I seem unable to forgive him, though I have tried for years. This is what has thrown me off my stride. I forgive everyone. Just not him. For several days, I tried to sort things out, and finally came to the realization that if I were to regain my equanimity, I would have to forgive myself for not forgiving him and that’s okay. …Done.