I saw Christmas lights decorating a house tonight. The holiday season is here again. Your birthday, the anniversary of the night you left forever, are not far away. I remember driving around with you looking at the houses outlined in twinkle lights. All dressed in their Christmas finest--wise men, virgins, saints, santas, reindeer, snowmen, and all glowing warmly in the cold icy darkness. We laughed, but I could hear your sadness. You were trying to find something or maybe trying to show me something. Looking back over the years, I wonder if it was the easy commraderie of two miserables that I should cherish, or if you were telling me to look at all these people who weren't one of the miserables--be like them, not like me.

Daddy, since you've been gone I've been sort of messed up. I don't think you would be all that surprised by anything I've said or done in the last years, but I have to tell you something that might upset you. Your birthday is almost here and there is something I have to give you. Something for you to take from me and bury deep in the misty reaches of the netherworld. There are things you gave me that I can't hold anymore. Things that I have to return to you--so I am wrapping them up in my favorite bows and ribbons and making them a gift for you. I know that when you open the package and see how black my heart has become it will seem like a cruel gift to have given you. But daddy, this gift is the only thing I can do to let me love you, to let me love the world and myself.

This is the only way I can think of to find my way back to life. I want to live daddy. I never thought I would, but I stared into death, and the peace it gave you, escaped me. So please daddy, don't get mad, please know that I love you with all that I can possibly love you with and this is the only way for me to not let that love destroy me or to let it turn ugly and hateful.

These are things I've never told anyone. Never spoken, never uttered, they are your hauntings and I am doing this to free you as much as to free myself. Absolution.

It was late at night when I came home. The house was quiet and dark. All I remember was the orange dot in the dark that was the end of your cigaretter burning in the night. The clanking of ice cubes against your glass followed next. You asked where I'd been. I think I said with friends. I don't remember anymore where I'd gone or what I did--that part of my night is gone forever. The innocent laughter with my friends became a dim memory and everyone I knew was about to become a complete stranger in my life after this night.

You take a deep drag on your cigarette, a few silent moments, and I sense that you are finding words for me. Then ugly, nasty evil ones spill from your mouth and pour onto me. Accusations, lies, assumptions that I cannot comprehend. You yell. I run from you, but in this tiny house there is no place to hide, no sanctuary from your voice that is bellowing incriminations and threats. Each word you throw at me like a hand grenade and each name explodes in my face driving me deeper into despair and resignation. I curl up into a tiny ball and hide somewhere deep inside of myself searching out shelter or any kind of safety.

My bedroom door is no match for your anger. As you fling it open, I struggle to understand what I could have done to cause this. Sitting on my bed in the blackness, the dogs barking, I am anxious, scared, confused. What will happen next? The ground slips from beneath my feet when I feel your hands on my body. Your breath heavy with sorrow and liquor. Your words, honey sweet one moment, piss and vinegar the next. Who are you? What have you become? Please stop, please leave. Can't we please start this night over? Whatever I did I take it back--anything to make this night stop right here...before it is too late to ever forget it. No more frozen moments--there have already been too many to mention.

Bloody, bruised, angry tear-filled nights hang between you and I every waking moment. I feel your hands on me and I feel you trying to take those back. Regrets, apologies I don't want from you. I hear your wwhispers--feel the wetness from your tongue against my ear and I understand that you love me. You love me and I should let the night unfold the way you want it to. I should stop resisting your hands, you are only trying to say that you are sorry for all the other times when they weren't so gentle so caring so loving...

Where is she? How can she let this happen in the next room? How can she sleep through your unholy tantrums and pathetic pleading whines? HOW? So many questions that are never to be answered, let alone asked.

You leave my room and I collapse--devastated and destroyed. What can ever happen to make this night right? How can I ever fix the things you broke that night? I'd give anything for a few bruises, a cut, something that I could bandage. I lock my door after you leave as if that could ever do a thing. My plywood door is cracked and dinged from your fits. So many postcards and placards have fallen to the floor from your poundings.

I hear you screaming again. The night has not yet come to a close. This will never end, will it? More names, more shouts, more curses. Then a loud bang and a thud, more dog barking. I do not want to see you, EVER, but I know what I must do and I unlock my door. I walk into your room. You stand over her limp body. She is curled up on the floor at your feet. She will not say anything to you. She will not move. She does not see me. She does not see any of us. She's gone. She's inside her head, catatonic from your constant abuse and hatred. You are unsteady, you wobble from foot to foot but you kick at the form at your feet. You miss, and you connect. Some of your hits are followed by a deep gutteral sigh, some are followed by silence.

I push you toward the door and am surprised when you yield because you are so much bigger than me. I keep pushing and you move along. There is no will, no fight, no anything left in you. You mumble about love, about understanding, about trust and how I am the only one for you. She is nothing, she is dirt, she resents you, resents me. She hates, you love. I pour you into your favorite chair and hear the flick of a lighter behind me as I leave to go to her.

She is still on the floor where you discarded her. When I pull her up, her eyes are vacant and swollen. Small rivers of blood pool at the edges of her nostrils. She will not acknowledge me, she is lost to me. And I have no urge to go after her. Like a nurse, I wipe her tears, clean her face and change her from the bed clothes you tried to rip from her. When she finally speaks, it is to ask for another drink.

After I have guided her back to bed, I check on you. Both unconscious, both quiet, both of you seem so peaceful, it is hard to imagine that moments before we were all in battle. In the morning, I will be the only witness to the wreckage of the night. The gift of not remembering has been granted to you both. Forward into the future, and backward into time, countless scenes of ordinary terror like this night pile up before me. My legacy is overrun with nights like this--different in substance perhaps, but similar in their horror. I am their only living witness. Their only breathing victim.

Daddy, I give you this night and the numerous others you left me--nights that you only did it because you loved me, nights that you only did it because you cared, nights that you only did it because you felt so alone and exhausted that you saw in me some sort of salvation. Daddy, take them back. You are finally free--please save me. Please open this gift and toss into the abyss. Take it all, everything you left that is rotting me from the inside out. Let me be. Let me live, love and laugh like I want to. Please daddy, I don't want to live your life anymore. I think you want that for me, at least I think that is what you were saying to me that night when we watched the Christmas lights less than a month before you died. I don't want the pain that you left for me to infect me anymore. I don't want your disease to be with me for another moment.

Daddy, I forgive you. Will you forgive me for reminding you of this night? Will you take it from me so that I can go on? I have to believe that you will. I have to believe that you really did love me in your own way and if you could you would have never done any of it, but you couldn't help yourself and I can't destroy myself anymore. xoxoxo