My father’s favourite insult was to call me “filthy”. Filthy in mind, behaviour and nature. I was a vile creature to him who lived a dirty life. His obsession with order and precision, his love for appearances were the very things that kept his power over me burning so strong. He rarely cleaned the house himself. That was a “woman’s job”. It wasn’t his fault his wife left him so why should he have to take over in that aspect? I was the woman of the house. It was my role to take care of it. Except it wasn’t my role. I had a job of my own, I had a life and I was not about to step into the role of my mother to take care of this abusive man. I had no duty to him, I did not owe him anything. I looked after myself and where I lived to the best of my ability. However taking care of a five bedroom house is no mean feat. Things were missed and under his careful inspection, these mistakes were regularly pointed out. After I left home, my father had to step up. There was nobody to look after him. For once, he had to look after himself. The house fell apart a little. He no longer had someone to dump chores on. It became clear that cleaning the house was a very big job for one person. He liked to think he was on top of things but when I visited, I understood immediately how hard things really were. I dared not say anything. He would see it as an attack and push the blame onto me for “leaving” him. I had learned from previous mistakes to keep my mouth shut. This toaster was a prime example of how dirty he lived, how dangerous he was and how blasé he’d become. My father always boasted about being invincible. Looking at this picture disgusts me. He would often blame me for leaving him with too much work and say (in 2012) that I deliberately caused it. That he had been cleaning up my mess for the last two years.
Look at the way you lived. You caused it. Not me.
The garage: a place he kept all the things that could not fit in anywhere else. I hated it. It never had a purpose, it was just a dirty storage unit for my father. When I was growing up, the garage was filled with garden equipment, old suitcases, our childhood bikes, ladders and occasional cleaning products. It was kept just like a garage should be. When my mother left, it’s purpose became unclear and my father began using it as a dumping ground. Old chairs began to surface as did other furniture we had stopped using. He started collecting crates of wine and endless bottles of beer there. Several sets of garden furniture appeared over the years, just in case he ran out during his BBQs for his “friends”. His hoarding was growing out of control. Worst of all, this space one day became my father’s gym. He bought a rowing machine and exercise bike and placed them into the already cramped area. I kept well away. No one ever entered the garage except him. That was until he started using it as an airing room. The damp, mouldy garage became the place he hung his clothes to be aired. When my father decided that he wanted entire control over every aspect of my life and began washing my clothes,* the garage was the place to let them dry. As he had been tirelessly looking after me, it was then my “job” to make sure all the clothes were hanged up on the washing lines he had now attached to the garage ceiling. ALL the clothes. Including his underwear. I refused of course. I would not attach mine either, he hated my insolence but nothing was going to let me degrade myself any further. He just laughed at me reiterating how ridiculous I was being and to “grow up and take responsibility”. I stood my ground, I already felt belittled enough.
I dreaded Sundays.
The day of “rest”. Well, it wasn’t for me. It was the day my father would do the few chores he set for himself. It was the day of “inspection” where my father would check on my cleaning and tidying. It was the day where I would often find piles of my “mess” the abuser had discovered strewn and scattered all over the house. It was my day to hang up the laundry and enter the disgusting garage. Sunday was the day I hated, when my father would follow me in and watch to see if I was doing it correctly otherwise it would all be taken down and done again. This time as he waited.
*See post: The right to wash my own clothes – Published 2nd April 2013