Later that evening, my father came back after my mother was home from work. He slept in our room, and Carrie and Jason snuggled up next to him on the floor. They moved the beds aside to fit them all onto a couple of sleeping bags. I did not feel the need to sleep with them, nor did I want to be close to him, so I slept on my bed that was pushed up against the wall. The panic and warning had subsided, but it had not fully gone away. How is it that my brother and sister do not feel uncomfortable? I thought. There was no reason to talk to them or my mom about it. Perhaps I was overreacting. It seemed I was the only one who did not feel at ease near him.
There was no way I could have known that just a few months previous to this, my father was in Toni's home, cleaning up blood that had splat¬tered on the walls. Or that he had just dumped a body near our favorite family picnic spot in Oregon. In the spring of 1990, my father and Toni moved into her mother's ranch-styled home in Portland, Oregon. The heartache continued for us when Dad picked us up to visit them that summer.
When we all walked in to her home, the cries of "Daddy! Daddy!" rang in my ears and pierced my heart. It was torture for us to watch other chil¬dren having a relationship with my father in a way we used to have before the divorce.
Now I was an observer to this new family in which I did not belong. It did not feel fair that they received my father's time and attention. When I would feel these emotions, I would get angry at myself, and this brought on lingering questions of my own worth as well as a sense of shame. I felt shame for my thoughts and feelings toward this young boy and girl, and I thought that I must not have been as fun to play with as these children were, or Dad would still be with us. These feelings would intensify if my father was in a bad mood.
"You're just like your mother!" He blasted the remark at me more than once that summer, and it was usually right after he blamed her for something or had just finished complaining about what a horrible person she was. I could tell how my father felt about my mother, and being "just like your mother" meant that I was a horrible, ugly person in my father's eyes—not worthy of his presence.
My first impressions of Toni as a mother were more accurate than I had imagined. I observed her through the weeks we stayed in her home, and she often yelled and treated her two kids roughly and harshly. It seemed they couldn't do anything right, either.
Sometimes Toni would ask my father to discipline her children, includ¬ing spanking them, but he would refuse. It was up to her to discipline her kids. In some ways, I liked to see her children get a bum deal, but some¬where deep inside, I knew that it was my jealousy talking. My heart hurt whenever they were yelled at, pushed around, or slapped. I knew that they deserved to be treated with patience and kindness, as all children did. Things came to a head when Toni tried to treat me as one of her own children, or even worse. She passed on to me the rough and dirty jobs on the chore chart. It seemed unfair that I was getting the toilet cleaning duty all the time, and she didn't withhold yelling at me whenever she thought I had made a mistake. However, she never touched my body, or my siblings', and I think Dad must have laid down the law with her like he had with his father when it concerned us.