Since Your Father Tried to Kill You

You were disappointed when your father tried to kill you. All these years, you thought you had a good relationship, a Bob Saget-Candance Cameron bond. Then, disaster struck. Kevin Fanning sifts through the after-effects and offers consolation.

Your father tried to kill you. Once he realized you were still alive, he began to pretend he hadn’t really meant it. He left two messages on your answering machine, neither of which you returned. He sent you an e-card on your birthday, and in the text area he wrote ‘No hard feelings!!!’ In the ‘from’ box he typed his name and the names of his wife and stepdaughters. When his birthday passed and he didn’t get a card from you, he emailed to say he had never known anyone could be so full of hate.

You found yourself surprised that when your father tried to kill you, he didn’t use any of the guns he used to keep in his closet. They were always in a row of shoeboxes on a shelf that was easily reachable when standing on a chair. You and your younger brother would play with them all the time, never sure if you were putting them back exactly the way you found them, but your father never said anything about it. You always thought they would be his weapons of choice, if anyone ever needed killing.

After your father tried to kill you, you immediately canceled your life insurance policies. You realized that this was no time to be worth more dead than alive, to anyone. Even then, you didn’t feel safe. You began to wonder if perhaps when you were born, your father took out a large policy on you, named himself the sole beneficiary, and never told anyone about it. You’ve never visited the house he lives in now, but you picture your name on a bundle of legal documents hidden in a locked desk, in a locked room.

Surviving an event like this causes a sudden resurgence of memories long-buried in the subconscious. He used to spend hours down in his office in the basement, and you never knew what he did for a living. Whenever you asked, he would say ‘I work, is what I do,’ and change the subject. Once in high school the two of you took a road trip, alone together, so you could visit prospective colleges. Three days in his Chrysler LeBaron; sitting across from each other over nine greasy restaurant meals; two nights of shared motel rooms with no cable television, and you can’t remember either of you saying one word to the other.

So what were you supposed to do, after your father tried to kill you? You found this was a topic most people couldn’t talk about. It was really just between the two of you. Other family members couldn’t imagine what it was like. Suddenly, your relationship with your brother was jeopardized. Even though he’d always hated your father only slightly less than you, he still had been able to build a civil relationship. Now he found himself in an awkward position.

Since you no longer returned your father’s calls or answered his emails, he tried to pass messages through your brother. Your brother didn’t like being caught in the middle. ‘Dad wants to know what you want for Christmas,’ your brother said. ‘How can you keep talking to him,’ you shot back, ‘You were the one who drove me to the hospital.’ ‘He’s our father,’ he said. He sighed, and in the breath you heard the distance increasing between you.

You both grew up in the same house. Why was it so difficult for you to accept your father? How was your brother’s relationship so different? Why hadn’t your father tried to kill him as well? Was it something about your father, or something about you?

You decided against having children of your own. You felt everyone watching you for signs that you were slowly becoming just like your father. The more you thought about it, the less certain you were. You used to think it would be impossible to do as bad a job as your father had, but now you weren’t as sure. In the end, you looked back on your childhood and decided that a life not lived was the best gift you could give to the children you’d never have.

Many months after your father tried to kill you, when you could no longer stand the surge of adrenaline you felt every time the phone rang or there was a knock at the door, you began to understand why the best defense is a good offense. Slowly, you began plotting your father’s death. You’d wake up early each morning and sit on your basement floor, surrounding yourself with surveillance photos and articles on the latest weaponry, making checklists and schematics for every patricidal scenario you could envision.

You found the work surprisingly facile, and you realized that on some level, you had been planning your father’s death your whole life. It will be good, you thought, to finally get past this. A huge relief, probably, to everyone involved. In the long run, it was good that your father tried to kill you.