As we sat huddled up in the bathroom hiding, my mom would start singing a song, “Somebody’s knockin’ should I let him in, Lord it’s the devil, his name is Chuck Renz…”
My step-dad would pound on the door, but it was locked tight. I would peek under the door to see if I could see his shoes, yep, he was still out there. We’d stay in the bathroom for what seemed like an eternity. My step-dad wasn’t trying to hurt us, he wanted to tickle us. The strange thing, however, was that there was this mixture of real fear mingled with the excitement and dread.
My first full memory in life is one in which I am riding in a car and leaving home. For some reason there is a part of me that knows that this trip is different, that we won’t ever be going back.
We stop in front of a house, get out of the car and I traipse up the lawn in my underwear struggling to hold on to my green blanket. Inside the house there is a man sitting on a brown tweed couch. He smiles a big toothy smile that is wrapped in a foo man chu. He scares me. I poke my head out from under the blanket from time to time, but I’m frightened and the blanket is the only thing that I had making me feel secure. At the time I didn’t realize that this man would be my new dad. This man, whose face I remember perfectly clear, immediately replaced my biological father.
Before this point in my life I have very few memories. There are flashes of a house and my Aunt Ordelia who watched us. I remember her sleeping on the couch, her large black body just piled up and snoring. I remember the hair oil, the way it smelled, but I don’t remember my real dad at all whatsoever. There are no images of him holding me, no snippets of his voice, no lingering sense of his presence. It is a black hole that no matter how far I venture into I still come up empty.
My mom met my new dad at Jack-in-the-Box. She was only 23 and he was the manager. “I didn’t like like him at all at first, I thought he was a womanizer.” I remember my mother saying. “He would always come in and kiss all the women and they would be fawning all over him…”
The interesting thing about my step-dad is his ability to be two different people. Like Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde he could flip a switch and become so very kind, but when he was upset he become something else altogether. He threatened once that if he found the kitchen counters dirty he would make us lick them clean. He never did, but I believed his threat.
Once I got whipped for letting the water run while I was washing dishes, without hesitation I got hit with the wire end of a fly-swatter, before I could even explain why the water was still running I felt the sharp sting of metal against my bare legs.
Sometimes, we would all get the silent treatment. The scraping sounds of forks on the plates was all that was heard at the dinner table. I hated these moments. Hated how unfair my dad could be and how unreasonable. I hated that my mother had to put up with it at times. it was like we could never be ourselves and that part of us was always hiding from him.
Over the years my step-dad and I have had a very rocky relationship. His quick temper and high-expectations made him nearly impossible to please. Now, we’ve overcome a lot of the past, I love him very much and we are close, but there are still doors shut tightly between us and I don’t know if I will ever be able to fully let him in.
“Somebody’s knocking should I let him in
Lord it’s the devil would you look at him
I’ve heard about him but I never dreamed
He’d have blue eyes and blue jeans”