While I’m focused on separating the soggy label from my beer on a visit home, my dad recounts my childhood stories. Conjured up is Liz Farkas (my once-best friend), John Matthews (the boy who promised to marry me at 5), but then he mentions one story I wasn’t expecting.
“Remember when you stole thousands of dollars from me and moved to California?”
My beer shatters hitting the concrete.
You have to know that this isn’t the man I grew up with. Age and disease have given him a kindness and a light in his eyes that wasn’t there before.
Growing up, my dad was the type to hit, break, and ask questions later. When you have money, the hole in the wall is a remodel. It’s that you wanted a new television, not that it shattered at the bottom of the stairs. Money makes rationalizing easy. So easy that you don’t notice the nervous wife or the three shaking children behind her.
But we always stayed. Like many abused women, my mother didn’t work and had been cut off from friends since before I was born. I’d sit with her on the couch as she’d rock herself back and forth in the dark. She’d cry for her freedom, always calling him by his first name. As a child, that’s how I learned to separate them – Frank and daddy. When I reached my teens, the lesson she was giving seemed obvious: If she had money, we could have left. Money made you safe.
So I became a hoarder.
My mission became storing as much money as I could. Luckily, Frank used money to control us – in life and in menial tasks.
$10 for eating dinner at the table like a family.
$5 to get the morning paper.
$2 to put the milk back in the fridge.
Looking back, had I devised my plan earlier, I’d be retired now. But all I wanted was an exit strategy.
The plan was to save my father’s money and use it to leave after college. Avoid getting stuck.
First, I needed a place to store the money I was saving. The pink metallic cash box that sat on my dresser wouldn’t work. Too obvious. I needed something a nosy little brother wouldn’t notice. I grabbed a white envelope from my father’s desk drawer, scribbled GOOJF in permanent marker, and hid it under a piece of loose carpet in my closet.
The Get Out Of Jail Fund was born.
From then on, every time my father gave me money, I’d do the best I could not to spend it. If I got $20 to see a movie – $11 went to the movie, the rest to the GOOJF. The money he’d give me for a new outfit or a CD? GOOJF. Easter money, birthday money, Valentine’s money, Christmas money, Dad’s In A Good Mood money – Saved.
The hoarding continued in college, though it became more difficult. Sure, I got the occasional check to make sure I wasn’t starving, but I was 4 hours away and not around for the day-to-day stuff. Checks were also harder to hide. Since I had set up a checking account before 18, my parents had access. I didn’t think my father would check, but I couldn’t be sure. I’d deposit the check and then withdraw small amounts over time, just in case.
Halfway through my junior year, the money stopped. My father had become suspicious of the boy I was dating in California and feared I’d save up and leave. I didn’t tell him I planned to move west once I finished school, but he knew. He believed that if he didn’t give me money, I’d be forced to move back home. Back with him.
So for a year and a half, I spent nothing.
When I graduated, it became time. I sat with my father and told him of my plans to leave. I thought maybe he’d be proud; instead his lip just went thin, just like it always did before he struck.
He had just five words:
“I’m not paying for it.”
But he had.
When no one was watching, I had saved just over $7,000, five dollars at a time, straight from his hand. It would be enough to buy the one-way ticket to California, a car, and to start a whole new life on my own terms.
I had gotten out.
And though Frank was angry, my dad, the man seated across the table now, looks decidedly proud telling the tale.
This is my favorite piece of yours. Proud of you for going *there* in it and prouder that you got out. Brave piece and very well done.
Whether it’s cathartic for you to be sharing this, or just something you felt needed to be said, there are probably millions of people who need to read it Lisa. Just Awesome.
I was wondering when the world was going to get this story out of you. Money is the mode of transport for the vast majority of people in controlling relationships. I love Resourceful Lisa. She deserves a BUWHAHAHAHAHA for this post. <3
Rhea: I commented in class tonight that not everyone was happy that I was covering things and people in certain lights. Truth is, I have a great relationship with my dad today, but it took a lot for it get there. Alan: Thanks, Alan. It’s less a cathartic thing and more just writing stories I think people could benefit from hearing. Or some that others have prodded me to get out. [looks at Kim and Rhea 😉 ]
Holy crap Lisa, this is amazing!I’m obviously not talking about the crap you went through that no human should have to endure, but the fact that you’re able to almost instantaneously transport the reader into your mindset, your emotions, your LIFE.That’s a skill that’s incredibly rare, even among professional writers. I can only once again voice my request that you continue to publish as often as possible on any topic.And the story of how you came to have a good relationship with your dad after that would be a great read as well.
I can relate to the new dad you have. My grandpa was like that for me. I knew him as the most loving, God-fearing and generous man. My father’s reality is so far from that version of him that I wouldn’t believe he was the same man if I hadn’t gotten his red hair. Time and experience change people, it’s good to see it can happen for the better and that you got this time to spend with him! Hopefully I can speak for Kim and myself when I say, you know we love you! 😉 hee
Thanks, Skitzzo. That really means a lot. The book will come. Just need to decide on a direction. And maybe find some people interested in me writing one. 😉
Thank you. I’ve never had an experience remotely close to that one. But I can’t express how much it means to read that post. Trust me… There are millions who need to read that.
Fantastic read, Lisa! I’ll echo what Ben said… you have a rare talent to project your feelings.I’m glad for you that your relationship with your Dad is good now. I’m one of the lucky ones whose father was all I could hope for, so it pains me to think how it must be to have dread certain moods, triggers or behaviors. I have no doubt that reading this will be beneficial for anyone in similar circumstances. Thank you for sharing it.
Thank you for sharing this amazing story with us. I’m sure these words that describe your resolve to make a better life for yourself will resonate with someone else out there. Someone who may also be looking for a way out of a similar situation. Kudos to you.
Lisa, this is just an amazing piece and it leaves me sitting here thinking about my dad. He passed away just over five years ag and I miss him every day. He was stern but fair, the life of the party and my best friend. But he was that way Because his father was not. His father beat on my grandmother. His father would disappear for days. His father couldn’t hold a job.My dad worked for the same company for 25 years. My dad never missed a single one of my games. He never missed an opportunity to tell me he was proud of me.People with the strength to break the cycle of abuse make the world a better place because they know just how bad things can get and work hard to keep their loved ones from ever having to see it. Thank you for sharing the story.
Wow. Lisa, thank you so much for sharing this story. Everyone has a story to tell and you do it so eloquently. It means a lot to me to read these personal posts and feel like I get to know you just that much more. I appreciate the thoughtfulness and courage that goes into writing posts like this. But again, thank you for sharing it with us.I have to agree with the others, that if you wrote a book (preferably not about internet marketing… that’s my vote) I’d be one of the first to buy it. 🙂
I’m at a loss for words (and for those that know me, you know *that’s* rare). I really am speechless after reading this – so well written, so honest, so brave. You’re an incredible person Lisa, with a wonderful talent to share. Please keep writing. And fighting.
It takes a lot of guts to write, and keep writing, so honestly. Thank you.
Wow, great post Lisa. I can relate to your story. My father used guilt, and much less money, though he did buy us things. He was a good provider, the best he could be given his insurance salesman’s income and his horse racing gambling vice which had eventually gotten the best of him. I was the youngest of 4 kids all 3 years apart growing up in the 70’s and 80’s. My father hit too. That’s how it was back then. It was socially acceptable. But I have kids of my own now. And I am struggling as a parent. There are days when I think to myself that I am a failure as a parent. No, I do not hit my kids. But, never the less, I still get stressed. I work in IT, so I am on call a lot. There are times when I get home from work and I have to quickly jump on the computer to solve some production web server outage, leaving my family to wait even more hours for me before I can be free to help out. I thought I would never become like my father. But in many ways I have. He is part of who I am. I have a quick temper too, some times. So, no, I am not the most consistent parent. But then again, nobody is perfectly consistent. That goal is simply unattainable. But I never give up to try to do the best I can in achieving it. I was not at lucky as you to be able to escape with a bankroll. I was ten grand in debt on my first attempt at age 23. That was after four years of hard labor running a horse farm for father in north central Florida. That escape only lasted 4 years. My other three siblings later cajoled me into spending another 5 years helping him out, living with him, providing for him since he was then bankrupt. I had even given him my car right after making the last payment. One day, I had to walk home from work because he was using my car, that I paid for. That was before cell phones were as ubiquitous as they are now. Anyway, so, the next time I was able to get away, I was 31, I worked two jobs, and this time I was debt free, but still for the most part penniless save for an IRA that I managed to sock 14 grand into. But I ended up spending that money so I could get out of the "working-two-blue-collar-jobs" lifestyle that left me with a bad back and knees. So, I withdrew the funds from my IRA and lived off the money while I went to school to learn PC support and repair. Seriously, it was doctors orders. It was either that or continue down a path toward becoming a statistic that supports how careers in manual labor often lead to becoming disabled. And so, here I am 12 years later now, with a wife and two kids. We live pay check to pay check. I’m 6 classes shy of getting a bachelors degree. But that ship has sailed for now. I will finish it some day. My kids need more of me right now. Its not about me. Its about them. But eventually, it needs to be enough about me so that I can provide better for them. I refuse to stay stagnant. I refuse to give up. The moral of the story is that if you get down, always get back up. And things can always be worse.
Good post Lisa. Thank you for sharing. Steve
Yeah, you need to do more writing like this. NEED.
Wow, Lisa… Once again you’ve proven to the world that your voice should never be interrupted. You’d better write that book! So many people need to hear you.
Amazing story Lisa, gave me chills. Can totally relate to the incredible freedom of getting out from parental manipulation and abuse in an almost "Shawshank" great escape fashion. Thanks for sharing.
I really love this. I totally agree with the Shawshank comment. (You know me and movies!) Such trials you experienced but found a way to convey it with such cleverness and triumph. It’s not even just how awesome you are for doing what the story says, but how awesome you write it. Reminded me of Sedaris…a lot. 🙂 <3
For me it was the out of control father who walked around armed with two pistols who held my hand under a flame until it blistered because I had a book of matches or beat me or my mother and sisters for any minor offense, and if not that it was the semi-professional ball player alcoholic step-father son of an abusive drunken professional boxer – in each case making me lift weights hours and hours a day so I would be strong enough to defend myself while I walked around in fear with a fighting knife and slept with a hatchet under my pillow every night. Running away from home, living in forts in the woods with other criminal runaway kids with equally abusive parents, stealing our breakfast, stealing cars… and worse, some of us, out there in the woods. My poor friend Phil who’s father died young was killed in the reservoir. You’re lucky you got away.