12 Things My Father Told Me

V.J.’s Weekly Challenge #40: Things My Father Said*

My father adopted me and my two siblings (and three half-sibs were born).  Only five years old when we met, I’d so hoped he was the hero arrived to rescue us.  Maybe he thought he was, in his commanding, controlling way.  But he was merely a man, managing his life and ours as he saw best…with baggage and issues he didn’t discuss with me.

“God helps them who help themselves,” he told me, when I didn’t have a satisfactory answer to his query about what I was going to do with my life.  Clueless, I replied that I was waiting for God to reveal a plan.  Dad’s statement didn’t sound entirely accurate, but I kept mum. 

He added, “You have tunnel vision…writing is an avocation”.  He didn’t view it as a dependable profession, which most people agree is true…but I doubt he saw it as a worthwhile pastime either.  I wrote him a poem once, extolling him as a father…after reading it, he came out of his room misty-eyed.  Mom returned it to me when he died.

“Learn to play an instrument and you’ll always have a crowd of friends.”  None of us followed this advice…what friends we had owned stereos, record albums.

“No matter what, you’ll always have family.” I’m certain that was his dream, and God knows I wish it had come true…but as it happened, there’s more estrangement than cohesion since my parents passed.

On learning his cancer was terminal, he said, “I’ll just have to try harder”.  This was likely part of his ‘God helps those who help themselves’ doctrine, having grown up in times which celebrated self-made men, and among those who expected God to reward their efforts…with little or no recognition of Divine assistance. 

He’d been a naval officer, brooked no question of his authority…and it made me sad and a bit angry, his belief that he could grip destiny in his hands—even death—turn it like a ship’s wheel.  It set me up for a continuing sense of failure in my life…apparently I just wasn’t trying hard enough to garner success.

“Peggy Lee, now she’s a singer.” Like many parents, Dad had no appreciation for the new generation’s music.  He was always trying to steer me toward his interests…I’ve often thought he couldn’t see I was a child, confused me with his peers.

“Children are to be seen and not heard”…in many ways it seemed he imagined children should be ornaments in his life, pleasing, to be admired.

“You’re very loquacious tonight,” …his statement was meant as a vocabulary lesson.  He encouraged my interest in doing the Reader’s Digest word quiz each month, and frequently invited me to join him and mom in a game of Scrabble.  An impressive facility with language was an asset…thus, while he wasn’t keen on my bent toward writing, he took pride in my ability to speak well.

“Don’t you ever be critical of your mother.” I wasn’t a child who sassed, spoke out of turn…fearful of grievous punishment.  But there was an occasion in my teen years, never repeated, when I badly wanted to shake him from his delusions which kept my mother on a pedestal in his mind.  He worked out of the country for weeks at a time, never observed her abusive treatment.

“As the eldest, remember that you set the example for your siblings to follow.” I remain unclear why I was appointed to be the saintly one…clearly, what my siblings learned from my behavior was that they were unwilling to pursue the same dull, inhibited course.  While I was reading in my room night after night, they enjoyed a wild life of sex, drugs, rock and roll.

“You’re going to Business School—you need a job to fall back on, because you never know what might happen.” This was ordered after I dropped out of college, having had a breakdown which was never acknowledged by my parents, who seemed to think I was an irresponsible malingerer…with romantic dreams of being supported by a husband straight from the pages of a paperback novel. 

My mother had taught school during her marriage to my biological father.  When he “disappeared” (declared dead), presumably she would have continued teaching had ‘dad’ not appeared on scene.

Dutifully, I spent nine months studying to be a legal secretary…was never employed in a law office.  Although I’d aced stenography, Dictaphones had replaced the need for bosses to holler, “Marian, come in here and take a letter!”

At some late point prior to his death, dad spoke solemnly: “Even if you hadn’t been my daughter, I’m proud of you—you’re one of the finest people I’ve known.” I recall my honest confusion, how I longed to beg him to elucidate what it was exactly that he was proud about.  I’d satisfied nary a one of his high expectations and fanciful self-conceived hopes.  But after years of strict training, I knew not to say anything at all.

©Ennle Madresan, 2019 ~ All rights reserved.

Dungeon of Mind





In mind’s dungeon no rest is found

Nothing satisfies dour assemblage…

Every facet of faces is sepia frown

Their words—constant clanging

Haranguing—are physical battery

…Reproof, rebukes.

There’s no such thing as quiet

Not for a moment, hour, day…

No peace exists; dimmest corner

Ripples reverberations…defeat

Shame, pound chronic migraine.

Specters of the dead, shadows of

People still living—somewhere—

Writhe, serpents in agony.

Tears don’t appease, nor repentant

Prayer, pleas for absolution.

Memory’s verbal rats gnaw feet…

Can’t sleep, on guard against

Something larger…toxic, toothier.

People who don’t believe Hell’s

A real place have yet to experience

Mental dungeon where everything

You ever feared, recall—each cruel

Betrayal, humiliation, shunning and

Mockery—whatever is horror, grief

Becomes bitter flame which burns

The flesh, sears tongue, blinds eye

Turns heart and soul to ash…

But leaves mind alert to suffer.

Those who escape discovered secret:

Dungeon keeper’s been around for

Eons, nothing new about him; he

Merely repeats what old voices speak

Copy/pastes stinging untruths…he’s

Lucifer, the Liar.

©Ennle Madresan, 2019 ~ All rights reserved.

Image: Pixabay.com

Untenable Questions

V.J.’s Weekly Challenge #39: Unanswerable

V.J. invites us to respond to her prompt “Unanswerable”.  Click the link above for more information.

I’m not bothered by what is

Unanswerable for some…such as, what

Follows when our life on Earth ends.

Faith satisfies me, removes all fear…

My true Home awaits in Heaven.

Faith doesn’t answer every question.

What wearies me, what I find

Unanswerable, is how people can do

Horrific, reprehensible evil to others…

In particular, to their own family, friends. 

Faith’s reply: “we live in Adam’s fallen world”.

It disgusts me that abusers offer their

Own past abuse as acceptable reason for

Scarring individuals known, or strangers.

Why do they deserve compassionate

Understanding…some special mercy?

Because my God metes out both mercy

And judgement…and, “His thoughts, ways

Are not as man’s”. (Isaiah 55:8)

I was abused, I didn’t become a serial killer

Or embark on path of any criminal activity.

What continues to stymie comprehension…

The aching unanswered questions in my life:

Why would my mother despise me?

How could my parents devalue me…

Accord me status of servant…rather than

Looking, and seeing a child…theirs…a gift?

I would have done anything for their

Love, but it did not exist.

The church teaches we must forgive

“Imperfect” parents because they have

Their own issues, baggage, wounds.

Response which embittered me: “they did

The best they knew how”.  Then, why

Wasn’t my best ever good enough for them?

Different standards, apparently.

I’m waiting to hear that I get a pass for

Remembering them with no affection.

For all of us, God’s grace requires not perfection.

©Ennle Madresan, 2019 ~ All rights reserved.

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” declares the LORD. Isaiah 55:8  https://biblehub.com/isaiah/55-8.htm

Scapegoat’s Notes


Would that you might have

Deleted the day I was born

Before my eyes could focus

And see the truth in yours…

That you never loved me.

In every “love ya” printed on

A birthday note, I heard a liar

Making poor pretense of being Mom…

You were maternally corrupt

Smug in your superiority as the adult.

You called me stupid, naive, as though

Your bitter cynicism, disillusionment

Regret for irrevocable choices made

Were medals to be coveted…I think

You envied my chances not yet taken.

You mocked everything about me…

In particular, my hope that there

Was more ahead of me in life

Than the role of your scapegoat.

You despised me with a fire beyond

Passion’s cool describing and belief

By others…consummate actress

Outside our home, none of your peers

Would catch you in act of cruelty…nor

Dad, who kept you on delusive pedestal.

But there was a Witness…the One who matters.

I didn’t need to send God a memo

Sixty-some years later He’s still

Picking up the pieces of young soul

You shattered over and over…and

Pasting me together again and again.

©Ennle Madresan, 2019 ~ All rights reserved.

Image: Pixabay.com

Mental District


There’s a district in my mind

The mental “bad side of town”

Where I don’t willingly visit.

Faces, voices are cruel hypocrisy

Mask unpredictable violence…

No gates needed, for they’re as dogs

Baring serrated-blade teeth, snarling.

Now and then I inadvertently

Take a wrong turn…(seemingly

Innocuous triggers)…soon I’m

Besieged by raised eyebrows

Verbal fists, mocking smirks

Loud cursing stones hurled

Which send me running for my

Life and sanity, hard and fast

To some safer, albeit temporary

Place of respite.

Unfortunately, as seasons pass

More of “them” are moving into

The District…broadening property

Limits…encroaching on my

Gardens, fountains, my peace

Well-being, self-esteem. 

Dread, frightened thoughts scatter

Like a bag of lentils spilled.

Heart is leaden, not light and open.

Breaths stuttering, I fear I’ll find

No asylum, sanctuary of poetic

Words, psalms…no angel guardians.

©Ennle Madresan, 2019 ~ All rights reserved.

Image: Pixabay.com