On March 8–International Women’s Day–I concluded our special focus on the problem of violence against women. But one more essay came in from one of my writers that deserves to join the others bearing witness to the lives of women and girls. -Sarah White
My First Love
Raymond Joseph Collins — “Rainbow” — a boxer, a football player, a swimmer, a speed skater, a man’s man. One of ten children born to Margret Mary Murphy and Lawrence Collins, a twin, a handsome virile man. He came from a well-to-do family, his father was the Vice President of the Chicago Board of Trade, a coach, a salesman, an involved father of four, a devout Catholic who went to church almost day, an energetic fun loving man and an emotionally abusive husband.
I was his oldest and most definitely his favorite, almost to a fault. My dad was a traveling salesman and was gone Monday thru Friday. As a child Monday was my worst day and Friday my best day. I could hardly wait to see him……he would have a smile on his face from New York to Seattle and so would I! I would wait on the stoop of our duplex for his arrival…and when that lime green Ford pulled up and I ran into his arms…..that was just about as good as it gets!!
All that changed when I reached adolescence…suddenly the love of my life turned into a jealous animal.
When boys started calling me, my father insisted on answering the phone. If it was a male and for me, he would slam the phone down. I couldn’t fathom what was taking place. My mother would cry and say, “ I wish she had pimples and was ugly and no one would call! “ I was wondering what in the world was going on. Each year his behavior escalated and I was bewildered and very angry!
My sophomore year I got asked to prom by one of the more popular athletes. My yellow eyelet gown was fabulous and I was beyond excited…….until……..my father put me in the car the day of the prom and took me to a beauty salon and had all my hair cut off……I looked like a boy! That was the same year he was caught lying on his stomach looking thru a basement window trying to see what I was doing at a friend’s party.
My relationship with my father continued to get weirder and I was wondering why he was treating me like I was a whore and couldn’t be trusted. The gentlemen who dared ask me out got interrogated in the living room as I had to wait up in my bedroom until he called me down. At that point in my life, love turned to hate and I avoided him like the bubonic plague.
So fast forward 15 years, Raymond has a massive heart attack and my mother refused to take care for him. Though I was grieving the loss of my baby daughter Alexandra , I agreed to invite him into my home and care for him. My husband Neil and my father loved each other dearly and I decided maybe We could have another chance at a relationship……and boy did we ever! He was the baby now and I was the parent. We fell in love all over again.
Fast forward 10 years, my mother passes away and dad is now legally blind. I loved every dinner, every dentist appointment, every grocery store run, for I knew the love affair was coming to an end with his age, so I cherished each and every minute.
He passed away on Thanksgiving 1999, that’s when the memories of abuse were able to come out of the closet….a reoccurring dream of him taking me down stairs to a basement, unlocking a casket size box….he unlocks it and out comes a giant snake….terrified, he takes me down another set of stairs and the snake is loose..!!!
My father influenced my belief in something greater than myself. He instilled the importance of family and sticking together “ no matter what.“ He taught me how to swim, and how to skate, and how to make life fun and enjoy it no matter what your situation. He taught me to be strong and loving. I miss my father every day of my life……
He never meant to hurt me, he was sick and my first love and of course I forgive him…….that’s what happens when you love!