For the longest time, whenever I would discuss the ugly topic of my ex-stepdad with anybody, if the conversation went deep enough, I would mention that he “borderline” emotionally abused us.
Enough with the borderline crap. I’m not sure if this was because I was repressing my memories of his time with us, or if I was in denial, maybe a mixture of both. But no, he point blank period emotionally abused us, and for the sake of personal closure, I want to discuss this.
Before I get too deep into this, as a partly reluctant disclaimer, my ex-stepdad isn’t wholeheartedly evil, and neither is he the devil. Frankly, it takes a lot to say that after dragging up all these old memories, because some of the stuff he put us through was pretty freaking demonic.
Out of all the nasty memories that I have of my ex-stepdad, there’s one that for some reason stood out to me like a sore thumb tonight as I sought peace over him. During a summer Friday a few years ago when he was still with us, me and my sisters went to spend the weekend with our dad and stepmom. My memory isn’t entirely clear on this, but we apparently forgot to close the garage door. If we did, it was an honest mistake.
Our ex-stepdad didn’t treat it as such, however. When we were supposed to be enjoying a relaxing dinner at a restaurant in their town an hour away, he sent the three of us a ridiculous group message telling us that because we had left the garage door open, a variety of items had been stolen from the garage. This evidently included my step-brother’s trombone, among other precious valuables. Our dad and stepmom watched sadly as us three siblings had a collective panic attack that later turned into angry disbelief when we found out afterwards that he lied to us.
You see, nothing was stolen. But in order to punish us, he went out of his way in malicious detail to inflict emotional harm on us. In hindsight, I really shouldn’t have been surprised that he would stoop so low.
This wasn’t the only time he’d emotionally abused the three of us. If there was ever an occasion when the three of us would stand up to him, he would ensure that the entire family was watching as he verbally humiliated the offending sibling. When we tried to speak out that he was going too far, he ridiculed us, and effectively gaslighted us.
There were also times when it didn’t take us trying to stand up to him for him to spitefully single us out. Anyone who knows me well enough knows that I’m a sincere introvert, and in my immediate family, it can be argued that I am hands-down the most introverted out of us all. Our ex-stepdad didn’t like that, because according to him, I didn’t speak enough at the dinner table. Apparently, me refusing to engage in bland small talk, just for the sake of talking, was displeasing to him.
It led to a very nasty surprise when I came home for winter break after my first semester at college. During my first round of finals, I’d been dreading having to go back home, because I knew that I’d have to put up with him again. Sure enough, the first dinner I spent with my family back home, he took out a book of conversation starters he’d bought while I was away. That night, my ex-stepdad made a speech about how it was unacceptable how little I talked at the table, and that he was going to make me select a topic from the book every night to force conversation out of me. All this, because for some reason I didn’t talk enough to his preference. Turns out that my aggravations over going home back then were completely justified.
I regret not blatantly calling a spade a spade after he left us. He was an emotionally abusive monster, and a horrible excuse for a father figure. On top of that, not to be petty, but he didn’t own up to the Christian standard he often spoke about. I’m lucky and grateful that his hypocrisy didn’t have a negative influence on my faith journey.
He’s gone from our lives, and as time slowly but surely heals our wounds, his memory will eventually disappear. A rough lesson for me in the meantime has been letting myself be angry about him, because for too long I denied myself, refusing to acknowledge my own feelings because I hate feeling angry. To me, anger is the ugliest emotion, and I don’t ever want to be seen as an angry person. But for the sake of catharsis, I had to let myself be angry enough to fully acknowledge the depravity that he put me and my siblings through.
That was a dark time for the three of us, a nightmare that continues to haunt us when we least expect it. I will forever remember him with at least a hint of disdain because he refused to have any humility, even after leaving us, for the blatant wrongdoings he committed against our family. Even in his final note to the three of us, when he could’ve acknowledged that he’d hurt us, he instead went on a baseless tangent of an excuse that he left because “your mother and I couldn’t make things work” (not his exact words).
I can’t bring myself to say that I’m grateful for any lessons he taught me, because I still remember the tears I watched my mom and two sisters shed because of him. The four of us deserved so much better, and we needed a vital form of spiritual antidote after what happened to us.
God’s answer was Jamie, the awesome man I affectionately refer to as “Scottish Dad”.
Jamie is the loving antithesis to all of the bad that we remember our ex-stepdad to be. While our ex-stepdad was spitefully cruel to us, Jamie as more than filled our wounds with the overabundance of love that we needed. My Scottish Dad is the living embodiment of these Bible verses from 1 Corinthians 4-7:
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”
We suffered under our ex-stepdad, but the pain we experienced ended up helping us sincerely appreciate the blessing of Jamie in our lives. And there’s no amount of grief that can take him or his love for us away. Thank you Scottish Dad, always, for all that you do for us ❤