by Tamara Flaherty
I wasn’t sure if my dad became the Anti-Christ before or after he dated Farrah Fawcett. Sometimes I got the details confused. That’s easy to do when you’re a child.
I’m sure Farrah was a lovely lady although I don’t remember ever meeting her.
I do remember the hole in the backyard where my dad, the “Anti-Christ”, buried all of our Bibles, as well as the burning barrel out back where he burned all of our Christian literature.
I remember wondering why he buried the Bibles instead of burning them with the other stuff. Surely if he was really the Anti-Christ he would have burned the Bibles as well. As I said, it was all very confusing.
You see, my dad lived with paranoid schizophrenia and as a result, so did my siblings, my mother, and I.
We really never knew what each new day would bring.
I can remember back far enough to recall a time when my dad was not exhibiting signs of mental illness.
I can catch fleeting glimpses of a memory where he was carrying me on his back in the front yard of our little house on East T street in Tacoma and laughing.
I remember hunting in the woods in Iowa for mushrooms that he would then sauté in a wonderful butter sauce.
He used to fashion me a fishing pole from bamboo and my siblings and I would catch sunfish from the banks of Lake Manawa in Council Bluffs, Iowa and to this day I’ve never had a better fish dinner than the ones he would cook when we got home. He was an excellent cook!
We moved back to Washington State when I was 7 years old, and that’s the year that everything really changed for all of us.
Maybe he had been fighting it in his own mind for many years up to that point.
Maybe he stopped fighting it just long enough for it to take over.
In any case, IT was in full force and had taken over my dad and my family.
We were no longer allowed to whisper around my dad because we were “plotting” against him.
All hugging stopped! Whenever I would try to hug him after that, it was not allowed. I didn’t understand that.
If I got him a gift, he would not take it. I suppose knowing what I know now, it was because it could be a trick to harm him.
Everyone was out to get him, even his children.
The person he feared the most however, was Howard Hughes.
So much of my life was disrupted by Howard Hughes that I literally hated this man as a small child.
I won my school spelling Bee in the 2nd grade and was going to City finals in Tacoma, Wa to compete. I can’t even tell you how excited I was! It was going to be awesome.
As it turned out, my dad “got word” that Howard Hughes was going to try to kill me that day, and so I was not allowed to attend. I was crushed to put it mildly.
Howard disrupted so many outings. Mom, dad, and all of us kids had piled into the car for a fun day at Wapato Park. We could barely stay in our seats we were so excited. As we circled the parking lot for a place to park….there he was. Howard Hughes again. Of course only my dad actually “saw” him but nevertheless, he turned the car around and back home we went, crushed with another disappointment.
By the time I was 10, my parents marriage was over, mom had had enough. Quite honestly, so had I. We weren’t even allowed to leave our yard by then because of the “danger”.
I remember that in addition to being afraid of my dad by that time, I was also embarrassed by and ashamed of him.
After the divorce he became that guy. That ragged looking, homeless guy that carried everything he owned with him, wandering the streets of Tacoma, talking to himself. That guy that people crossed the street to avoid.
Oh the shame!
The small Christian camp that I attended as a kid had a big fence around the perimeter. Often I would look up and see my dad watching us from the other side of the fence and quickly pretend that I hadn’t seen him. Sure enough, someone would soon yell out “Hey Tammy, there’s your dad.”
Having no choice, I would begin the “walk of shame” over to the fence, feeling everyone’s eyes on me, to talk to my dad.
I’m ashamed of myself now. I’m ashamed of my lack of compassion for a soul that was broken, reaching out to the only people who seemed familiar, or real in his world.
I have forgiven my dad and myself long, long ago.
As a nurse, I understand mental illness enough to understand that he was a victim of something he had no power to control by himself.
As a daughter, I understand that my dad really did love me, his disease just didn’t let him show it.
I just hope that before he died , my dad understood how much that I loved him!
More than 26% of Americans suffer from a treatable mental illness. There is help and hope available. Don’t suffer in silence. Get help!!
*Just in case I didn’t make it clear, my dad was NOT actually the Anti-Christ (as far as I know), he did NOT actually date Farrah Fawcett, and Howard Hughes was NOT trying to kill me.
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