Writing

Father’s Day? It’s complicated.

Reading this brought up some memories and feelings, more than a few that I work hard to keep burying. (This is your trigger warning.)

“The third Sunday in June is a challenging one for those of us with fathers who were destructive forces in our lives. A missing father leaves a void—a toxic one with life-altering damage.”

Years ago, my father and I had a fight — nothing physical — while doing some yard work at my brother’s new old house. Dad has a strange obsession with work. Workaholic does not describe it accurately. I describe it as puritanical. But even that word does not seem to fully envelop it.

Anyway, I walked off after telling him that I never wanted to see him again. This became even more uncomfortable because I was staying at my parents’ house. I made some desperate pleas to friends looking for another place until leaving for Seattle but I could not find any options and I didn’t have the money for a hotel.

Since then my grandmother has died, which left us an opening for reconnecting. She was suffering from heart failure and Dad had called to let me know that she did not have long. Unfortunately, she didn’t. Thankfully, however, I spoke with her a few times before she passed.

The last time we were together, I was spending the night because she did not want to be alone. Her new husband, who my father hated, was in the hospital. Casablanca with Bogart and Bergman was on TV so we sat chatting and watching. I love that movie. I have so many fond memories of her.

I am glad she lived so long. Living in Seattle and with some serious health problems myself, I did not have the chance to visit her and other relatives in Oregon much, as I did when I was younger.

I did get a few chances to talk with her about Dad. Why was he so violent? Did Grandpa ever hit him? Only once, she said. I have been trying to unravel this for years.

Then my younger brother relayed a story to me. He was in a car driven by our uncle and he shared how our Dad would beat on him when they were growing up. Our uncle described him as the neighborhood bully. And then it all made sense. My father was a bully. He had never grown out of it. He had never grown up.

Now, I had been bullied in school year after year. I was considered a nerd and unpopular. I had friends and a happy-go-lucky attitude so it wasn’t hell per se. I would do my best to laugh off anything negative. And it worked most of the time.

An even bigger problem, however, was my father. He was violent. He was abusive, emotionally and verbally. He stands tall. He is a huge, intimidating man. He remains intimidating to me to this day.

Learning that my father was one of these bullies was a revelation. I pictured Dad as one of the bullies I had experienced in school. He was one of the bullies who targeted people like me. He IS one of the bullies who targets people like me. It is his nature. That is who he is — his natural state, like a wild bear. Of course, this does not excuse his behavior. He needs to act like a man, like a father, not a vicious animal.

After repeated episodes of hitting her and his own damn kids, Mom gave him an ultimatum. We kids did not know that she had. Stop the violence, or she was leaving him. I wish she had. But her threat did the trick. He reformed himself. The transformation was remarkable. He became a better, different husband and father. He stopped being violent with us. His attitude was mostly better, but he would sometimes revert to his old nature. The farther from that ultimatum, the worse he gets, I think.

Unfortunately, he also relapsed into the physical violence a few times, conveniently when Mom wasn’t around. The last time he hit me was August 25, 1993. I made a mental note of that date. I still do not trust him. And the sound of his voice grates on me. I do not like the way he treats Mom. He is so damn condescending sometimes. He can be an arrogant son of a bitch.

I sent Mom flowers and good wishes on Mother’s Day. But I remain confused on what to do about my bully Dad. I cannot stand him. But should I at least send him a card or something? Life is so messy and so damn confusing.

Photography

An incredible reunion

A chance encounter brought a father and daughter back together again, sparking an extraordinarily moving journey of love and forgiveness in the face of mental illness, homelessness, and hardship.

While documenting homeless people on the streets of Honolulu, Diana Kim came across her own father. The man who she remembered abandoning her as a child was now homeless, unwashed, dressed in rags, and extremely thin.

Worst of all, he didn’t even recognize her. Read more about the emotional story to discover what happened next.

Community · Mixed Media

Mental Health Awareness Month

Artist Statement: I am an ambidextrous Painter/Drawer, Performer and Writer as well as a Neurological Nutritionist. When doing nutrition, I specialize in the Gut. I put this PDF together for our Mental Health Awareness Month. This presentation is a great place to find information and learn about healing your GUT. The gut is the part that feeds all organs and systems of the Human Body. If we don’t take care of our Body, where are we going to live? Please enjoy a different kind of Art, the Art of healing!

–Melany Bell, CGP | FNTP, & Path with Art Teaching Artist
Poetry · Writing

There’s So Much About You I’ll Never Know

by Kristin

CONTENT WARNING: This poem references domestic abuse, family trauma, suicide, and mental health, and may be triggering for some readers.

There’s so much about you that I’ll never know
I inherited your bloodline and self-contempt
Yet I have so little information on who you really were

I remember your gregarious moods, getting the rest of us to laugh uncontrollably
I remember your jazz album collection, from Ella Fitzgerald to Buddy Rich
I remember your immersion in wine culture, the small vineyard and air-conditioned cellar

But most of all I remember the terror, violence and humiliation 
You unleashed on your wife and two small daughters
Time has given me perspective, but back then
I despised you, hatred consuming the young body I inhabited

When Mom broke the news that your dead body had been found
I cried tears for Mom, so in her sobbing, she wouldn’t feel alone
But I was glad to see you go

Your memorial service embarrassed me,
With your friends and colleagues gushing
What a good man you were.
I thanked them politely, thinking “If they only knew…”

1978, the year you gave up on life, was a long time ago
And now my hazy memories feel incomplete
There’s so much about you I’ll never know.

Written by Kristin


If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic abuse or suicidal ideation, please check out these resources:

National Domestic Abuse Hotline: 800-799-7233

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 800-273-8255

Crisis Connections (WA, King County): 866-427-4747

In The News

Nuts!

This made me laugh, so I just had to share it. A man in Fargo, North Dakota recently discovered that a squirrel had been stashing away walnuts for the winter — around his truck’s engine. And not just a few, but 180 pounds! That is a lot of walnuts. I have been depressed lately, so anything that makes me laugh is good.

Mixed Media · Poetry

Insomnia

I converted a section of the poem into a Photoshop brush and created a mandala. I then layered the mandala with a pattern and clipped out a section.I converted a section of the poem into a Photoshop brush and created a
mandala. I then layered the mandala with a pattern and clipped out a section.

A conversation with my psychiatrist inspired me to write the poem. He asked me why my feelings of hopelessness led to thoughts of suicide. I answered that I thought there was no point in living. He asked me, “What is the point of dying?”

Insomnia
by Tara

What is the point of living
With the struggle for sleep?
But what is the point of dying?

What is the point of living with a storm twisting inside me, turning itself inside out and leaving
The streets bleeding gold rivers of dirt that seep
Through the sheets with the sweat? A fallen rose, dying

Scatters its petals in the gutter. What is the point of living
With the waters that keep
Rising and flooding the banks of my eyelids, threatening

The lowland cottage that I built inside myself, seeping
Up through the floors, ruining the ribbons that I keep
Tucked away in drawers, ruining the snapshots of summer dying

Into fall and winter? What’s the point of living
In the deserted streets of my mind, where I weep
And wander searching

For torn packets of sugar, scattering
Themselves in the wind, searching for fragments that leap
From my fingertips, searching with the sound of lightning dying

In the distance? What is the point of living
With the cockroaches that creep
Down the walls of this tiny room inside my heart, crawling

Across my skin? It’s 3 a.m., time for housecleaning.
The pile of dishes inside the sink is deep.
I toss out the tulips dying

On the windowsill, and I struggle to keep
the conversation in mind about the urge to leap.
Perhaps the point of living
Is to struggle to the point of dying.