(Trigger warning: this post contains disturbing material. Proceed at your own risk.)
My father, Daniel Lee Marsh, was from Jonesboro, Arkansas, and was alive from 1933 to 2010. At almost nine years after his death, there are still several things I cannot figure out about the man. Why did he do the things he did?
When he finally reached his long-delayed, long-anticipated expiration date, I had already been eagerly waiting for that day for years. I was utterly confused that my mother and sister reacted to the news of his death by becoming upset. He was finally gone. He could hurt no one, ever again. This was, in my view, an occasion for celebration, not mourning, for his long-awaited death meant he could harm no one else. They reacted with tears, while I was euphoric, and demonstrated that euphoria with hysterical laughter. I think I confused them as much as they confused me.
My father was a pedophile, who targeted young males, and horribly neglected the females in his life. Several of my childhood friends were molested by the man. He was also a teacher (as I am), and abused that position to find new victims. He was never punished by the criminal justice system. I did report his behavior to police, late in his life, but he had successfully hidden all evidence of his crimes by this point, and the police came to conclusion that my report was false. My surviving family had tried to convince me for years not to report his crimes, as a shameful family secret, but I eventually reached the breaking point, which means I had to act, which I did — not that it did any good. The police dropped their investigation, and then harassed me, as if I had filed a false complaint.
I have no biological children, having always being afraid to become involved in a pregnancy, for fear I would turn out like him. I do have two stepchildren, whom I love as if they carried my own DNA. I fear this is as close to fatherhood as I dare come. I have a strong memory of his cruelty — many, in fact — but one sticks out from when I was six years old. I was angry at him for something (I don’t remember what), and he handed me a scalpel, then invited me to stick it into his head, just behind his left ear, which he told me would kill him quickly. No six-year-old should experience that.
For a time when I was young, I had a roommate, a college student named Jerry. I had no idea that Jerry was secretly my father’s primary sexual partner, only learning of that years later. My mother discovered this, but did not divorce him immediately, staying in this hell of a marriage for the sake of my sister and myself. Much later, she did divorce him. I reacted by legally changing my last name to my mother’s maiden name, just to show whose side I was on.
Can you imagine being a teenager, and having your own father molest your neighborhood friends? I don’t have to imagine it — those memories are burned into my brain. I’ve had to go so far as to be tested for HIV, just in case I was a direct target myself, for it is difficult for me to trust my memory. Fortunately, the test results cleared me of worrying about possibly contracting AIDS.
There’s worse. When the two of us were going somewhere in the car, he would often masturbate, while driving, to the point of orgasm, in full view of me, under the guise of “sex education,” in my tween and early teen years. I did not realize until later how harmful this was to me, but now I know this is one of several reasons I have to deal with PTSD for the rest of my life.
There’s also the matter of religion. My father hopped from one religion to another every few years, and tried his best to drag the whole family along with him each time. The new “word from on high” was in effect, and previous revelations were abandoned. These religions varied from the ultra-conservative Church of Christ, to a degenerate form of Buddhism called Soka Gakkai, to his own version of a Native-American-belief-based magic-mushroom cult, and many others. He was quite charismatic, and never had any trouble attracting a small group of “disciples” to follow him along whichever pseudo-spiritual “path” he was on. I grew up, unsurprisingly, with the attitude that all religions were both harmful, and deeply flawed. If you want to raise a young child to become an atheist, there is no more effective approach than what my father did with regards to religion.
The inconsistency of his “parenting” was horrible. One year, he would be providing me with age-inappropriate hard-core pornography, such as Hustler magazine — and the next year, he would mark as “forbidden,” in the TV Guide, any movie which contained nudity. I can’t explain this. It makes no sense.
This is not a complete list.
He’s gone now, but my PTSD remains. If you have kids, please do not torture them, as my father did. If you know of any situation like this going on around you, please report it to the proper authorities. Monsters in human form do exist, and it is the responsibility of all of us to stop them.