This story is part of a series called Craigslist Confessional. Writer Helena Dea Bala started meeting people via a Craigslist ad in 2014 and has been documenting their lives ever since. By listening to their stories — anonymously and for free — she hopes to bear witness to her subjects’ lives, providing them with an outlet, a judgment-free ear, and a sense of catharsis. In sharing them with you, she wants to facilitate acceptance and understanding of issues that are seldom publicly discussed at the risk of fear, stigma, and ostracism. To share your story with Helena, e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read prior Confessions here. Names and locations have been changed to protect her subjects’ anonymity.
“I wonder what our lives would have been like had our father loved us.”
My father was the son of a preacher and a mean drunk. My mom had long left him. He bought a hotel in the ‘70s and convinced us kids that we were going to get rich, so we stayed with him. We were cheap labor, of course.
At the hotel, we lived in barren rooms. We had nothing — no belongings, no toys. No friends. We worked after school. It was not negotiable. But sometimes, when we had a full house, dad would make us skip school altogether. One year, I missed 88 days. He never asked me if I had a lot of homework to do, or if I’d learned anything. He only asked about my work schedule, and whether I planned on going to school that day.
During those years, I don’t remember having a meal that was actually prepared for us. When anyone ordered room service or when we cleaned up after checkout, we would just eat whatever people happened to leave behind. We washed our clothes in the kitchen sink and hung them on the heaters to dry in time for school. Everything was for the customers. We were of no value to him. We didn’t get paid, so running away was not an option because we had nowhere to go.
Meanwhile, he bought a new Cadillac Eldorado every year. He and my stepmother lived lavishly. When she could prevail on him to take me with them for dinner, he would stop me before going inside, point a finger in my face and say: “You can have one Coke. No refills.” And I would watch them as they ate their meals. He was a cold SOB.
I think I got off relatively easy. My two sisters — one of them was an alcoholic, she’s now clean. The other one has bad depression. When things were really bad, she knocked on the door of the room I was sharing with my older brother and told me she’d swallowed a bottle of aspirin. I went to my dad, panicked, and told him that she was dying.
He was in the kitchen, yelling at the help about some order they’d gotten wrong. I remember that he had his back to the door and he was wearing a short sleeved shirt. I blurted out what had happened and he kind of turned his head back so that I could see his profile. All he said was, “so take her to the hospital.” And he went back about his business. He genuinely just did not care. So I drove her to the hospital to have her stomach pumped. I was 15.
He died in 1983. I was long gone at that point, but I went back home and presented his flag for the funeral — he was a Marine. I shed some tears, but not for him. I felt relieved that he died, like the world had rid itself of a blemish. He was a terrible man who didn’t care for his own blood. I wonder what our lives would have been like had our father loved us.