“He Used to Do That to Me!”

     Like his predecessor, Joseph Stalin, my father had a sense of humor. 

     Several times when I was taking a nap as a child in my father’s house, he would change into all-black clothing and put a ski mask on his head.  

      Then he would get a butcher knife from the kitchen and wake me up by poking me with something.  I’d wake up and and see this strange man standing over me, holding a knife.

      I doubt that I have to describe my reaction…though, after the first few times I came to recognize it as a trick, and so he ceased doing it. 

       I told my mother this story for the first time a few years ago.

       “He used to do that to me!” she said, eyes wide in recognition.  “He did that to me a few times when I was in the shower!  Scared me to death!  It happened to me, too!”

         Well, I told the story to my analyst–my father’s joke and my mother’s reaction. 

        She looked appalled. 

         “Margo, that is not a normal reaction.  Your mother’s reaction was not normal.”

        “What do you mean?  She said that it happened to her, too.”

       “I know, but the reaction shouldn’t be ‘he did it to me!’ but ‘I can’t believe that bastard did that to you! That’s terrible!'”



        I don’t know.  So confused. 

11 thoughts on ““He Used to Do That to Me!””

    1. Really? Thank you for your input, but that is sort of depressing.

      And what the heck was my father thinking? I love practical jokes, but who does that to a woman?

    1. Thank you, Downlow. It is wrong, isn’t it? I’d scream and freak out and he would take off the mask and laugh and say it was just a joke.

      WTF. I would not even do that to an adult. Even on Halloween, I wouldn’t do it.

  1. I would have served him right if your mom was armed, and shot him when he did that.
    But then, I assume that if he suspected she would defend herself he never would have done it. Same reason he got a thrill from scaring you as a child – he knew you were defenseless.
    I kind of agree with the therapist and the other Anonymous – the “me too!” reaction is more typical of a friend than a mom. However, you were an adult when you told her, and although a Mom is always a Mom, the relationship changes when the child becomes an adult – it hopefully develops into friendship at that point. Her reaction may have been different when you were a child. Speaking of which, do you know why you didn’t tell her about this until recently?

    1. Hi Anne!

      Yeah, he did it to her when she was in the shower because he knew that is when she’d be completely vulnerable…

      He was so bad that my mother divorced him, or at least started trying to, after less than a year an a half of marriage. That is how abusive he was.

      I didn’t tell her for two reasons: 1) I wasn’t sure that his behavior was wrong. He said it was a joke, like something normal all parents did. 2) my father waged war against my mother for approx 10 years to punish her for leaving him, and he used me to do it (see the post “Margo Gets a Haircut.”). I kept his behavior a secret because if I told my mother what went on in his house, it was like I was disloyal. Like a spy. If I told one parent something, the other parent would be angry and punish me.

      My father would say that he was going to take me to Germany and she’d never see me again. Then when she came to pick me up, he’d take me to the grocery store or a restaurant. She’d pound on his door and drive around looking for him, thinking that he kidnapped me.

      One time she was so afraid that she sent the police because she couldn’t find us when it was time to pick me up. It is one of my earliest memories. I remember the cop and his uniform and cop mustache. I asked him if he wanted to see the basement and I offered him an Oreo cookie. He was so nice to me. He said No, Darling, I just need to talk to your Daddy. I was in Preschool. How old is that? Like 4 years old? 5?

      I remember that cop so vividly.

      I wish I had Scotch to wash it all away.

  2. What a pathetic excuse for a human being your father is. A coward and a bully (the two are often synonymous).

    How can he live with the memory of having done this? Let’s call a spade a spade. This is not funny. He doesn’t have a sense of humour, however warped. This is torture. This is child abuse. He should be in jail.

    Oh, and forget the Scotch. That would mean he wins. Because in the final analysis, torture like that is designed to break the victim down and make them willing accomplices in their own self-destruction.

    And as Sartre pointed out, torture is a form of gangrene.

    1. My father is a sick fuck. He is not, however, a coward. His sociopathic tendencies render him immune from fear. He has anxieties, but they are not human. I’ve never seen him afraid of a human. Franz would stare down Ted Bundy. I’m actually sort of surprised he got an honorable discharge from the Army, given his utter contempt for authority.

  3. Hi Miss Margo,

    I know this post is years old, but I’m surprised that your therapist didn’t mention something:

    Consider that your father told you that it was all a joke. He would have told your mother the same thing. Like her terror was somehow irrational. Geez, it was just a joke, what’s your problem? Crazy women, amirite?

    I feel like perhaps your mother’s reaction to you was one of relief. That someone else felt the same fear and therefore that she hadn’t been irrational in her reaction. She may have felt validated, and maybe felt that she was validating your responses as well.

    I know that’s very sad, and it’s not really the reaction of a mother. But I don’t feel like it was the reaction of a friend either. It was the reaction of a fellow.

    Does that make sense?

    1. Hi, Random Canuck. Many thanks for your comment.

      I truly believe, in my heart, that my mother was trying to be as compassionate and empathetic as she could be. I do believe that. Everything in my understanding of her says this is the truth.

      So, yes, she felt relief, and some empathy/sympathy. And I know that living with my father was a very strange experience.

      It makes sense, and I want you to know that I have thought about your comment for several hours. I have ruminated about it..and you. You have the full force of my scrutiny.


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