Estranged from my abusive biological father for years, I got a call the night after my birthday that he had died. Finally free of the abuse that had gone on for years, the memories flood back and the healing begins for my mom and I
The call from the coroner woke me up on the night after my birthday; my adoring new boyfriend next to me. I just couldn't help but listen to the problems of my past flood in to affect the happiness I had finally found as the late night voicemail informed me of my biological father's death. Thinking it was an emergency, I played the message and as I did I couldn't help but display my shaking hand and genuine surprise. "Did that say coroner," my boyfriend asked sleepily.... I remember applying for college in 2006 and it had asked about the incomes of both of my parents; I had written 'deceased' for my father. I really couldn't prove that he wasn't as we had been estranged since 2004. But now he actually was. It had been 12 years since I last saw him because he had been an abusive asshole to my mother and I during my life. For over a decade I hadn't needed to see or hear from the man who was a large part of making my childhood sad and hopeless. He had physically and mentally abused my mother, he was the first man to ever call me a bitch, he made fun of my speech impediment as a child and he constantly called to threaten my mother with custody issues we couldn't afford and when he didn't get his way he called to threaten our lives. A shining light happened when I graduated high school and the last time we spoke it was to say, "you're an adult now and not my problem." I was relieved. That night, I called back right away but to no avail so I left them a message and went on with life a little shook up. The coroner finally called me back 5 days later, saying they get flooded with calls. Made sense; people die every day. The coroner was a man with an odd sense of humor and in that professional you'd have to be especially considering he said most of the calls he made resulted with conversations like "I'm glad that bastard is dead," or "do you know what he did to me." Coroners only call when the family doesn't already know an individual is dead which means there are a lot of people out there with situations like mine.Other than letting me know he was dead, they also wanted to know what to do with the body. They told me he had actually died almost a week prior but he lived alone and was retired so nobody noticed he was missing until the manager at his apartment building went looking for the rent. At that moment; the anger I thought I would feel towards his death gave way to mercy and empathy.I was on the phone with the coroner's office less than one minute when I decided that I didn't want to be involved with the funeral arrangements in my biological father's death. Yet I still felt compelled to ask my mother. After all, she went through more hell with him than I did. She was ok though now too. She married a nice man she had met in church and I love my stepdad and the happier memories we had as a new family. I told my mother and she asked if I wanted to have a funeral or try to claim any of his possessions. We decided we had no desire to cry over a casket, go through his worldly belongings or access whatever money he did or didn't have. Even if he had millions of dollars I wouldn't have taken it; it would have felt tainted. What I had wanted and needed from his wasn't a possibility while he was alive, let alone now that he died. The thing I really wanted was to figure out why he had been so unhappy in life and why he has decided to abuse his ex-wife and young daughter. 'Some people just don't want to be fixed,' is what my mom always said about him. Some people get lemons in life and make lemonade while others run around squirting the juice into the eyes of other people and that was my biological father. The notion that hurting people hurt people is 100% true. He was abused himself as a child and he never learned to break the cycle.Trying to understand his motive was unrealistic but for the first time I did see him as not such a monster but as just a sad, unhappy, unwell individual. The thought of just falling over dead from a heart attack in a tiny apartment bathroom with only the landlord to find you because he wants the rent is just a pitiful thought that cleared the clouds of my anger and made me feel something I had never felt for him before: mercy and pity. He made us miserable because he was miserable. He hit us because he was hit. He said nasty things to us and probably more so to himself. We left him and found nice lives while he died long before he was buried.While I started to see him in a different light, I also had to uncover some memories and emotions that I had tried to bury long ago. The biggest misconception in dealing with painful personal emotions is that once it is dealt with that everything will be ok again. However, that's what scars are; the wound may not be open anymore but there will always be a reminder of it. As much self-healing as I had tried to do and how many therapy tactics I've employed over the years, a part of me will always be pissed off at him because he beat my mom. And because he teased me and called me derogatory names. Because he kept dragging us to court which left us with less money than the little we had. Because he made my life so much harder than it needed to be. I thought, how can I be equally pissed and pitiful towards him? Death is strange....In that case though, I suppose I could thank him because without that pain to push me I'm not sure I'd be so motivated to keep going when I wanted to stop and trying to be a better person was a number one priority for me. I think he helped to light a fire in me that I would not have learned anywhere else and it will burn forever if for no other reason than I want to be nothing like him. I don't want to push people away. I don't want to abuse people I love. I don't want to die in a tiny bathroom; never having really lived at all anyway. Despite his blood in my veins, I am not like him nor will I ever be. My mom and I decided to let it go and we were in agreement of not dealing with the final arrangements. My final call with the coroner was short and to the point. I let a nice lady who answered know that my family had no desire to be part of the final arrangements. So hanging up from the coroner's office, I was sweet and polite because it is not their fault that he was an abusive asshole for most of his life. She acknowledged my wishes and seemed disappointed in the decision but I finally took a deep breath. I felt mercy for him, his life and the lonely circumstances of his death. I felt that my mom and I were finally released.I had a lot of time to think about what I had done… or not done. What was I supposed to do? Will I feel guilty later? Do I seem cold-hearted? Should I have thought about it more? Will people say they support my decision but secretly criticize my decision?Though possibly not a popular one, there was nothing positive to be gained in calling funeral homes, standing over a casket and going through belongings that just need to be buried. My newfound mercy allowed me to feel his pain and pity that he must have felt a majority of his life and if he had ever let any of us help him with that, I may have listened. Or not. I'm not sure what I would have done and at this point I'm not really sure that it matters. What's done is done and for better or worse this pain can be buried… or cremated…. Or refrigerated…. Depending on what the state decides to do with the remains.My mom, stepdad and boyfriend were my rocks as skeletons of my past conga-lined out of my closet over the next few weeks but we all got over it. My mom and I took a girl's trip in Mexico about a month later and lying on the beautiful beach sipping little umbrella drinks we both let out a sigh like we were finally free from the abuse that had kept us captive and buried for so long. It was really finally over. We took comfort in the fact that neither one of us would ever come across his profile on Facebook or run into him at the grocery store. We also took comfort in the fact that we both felt actual empathy for him and that alone made us nothing like him. We had emerged on the other side of our abuse stronger, more merciful and realizing how to actually love other people despite our scars from the past.