Updated: January 11, 2013 10:40AM
Lorna says she was a “loner” from the age of 4. She was smart and taught herself to read, but she says in her traditional Italian family, “intelligence of females was not valued, especially by the father.”
When she was 7, a cousin convinced her the world would end at the stroke of midnight, 1960. That unleashed a wave of chronic anxiety in her that she hid from everyone. She decided to join a convent to get away from the world. When she acted up, her father called her “a hypocrite.”
When her hormones started to kick in at 9, she developed severe acne. Her father called her Popolee, or Pimple Face. When she wore short skirts, he called her a tramp.
Lorna’s older sister received the same kind of abuse. “She was skinny with a big nose and frizzy hair. My father called her Bones. When she was preparing for a date, he would make sure she was frazzled and upset and in no mood to go out. He wanted us to hate men so that he would be the only man in our lives. It was all about control over everyone in the house.”
By her teen years, Lorna poured her anxiety and depression into her schoolwork. Education was her way to escape. She was determined to get a scholarship, and she did. “My father laughed at my success and called me a parasite because I needed 10 dollars a week for the bus and lunch.”
Her hatred for her father grew and grew. She would talk back to him, and he would hit her. She would hit him back. Her mother would try to get between them, but she wasn’t always successful.
When no one was around, he would walk out of the bathroom, zipping his pants, an act that repulsed her.
“It was symbolic of his lack of respect for me. And there was a hint of perversion in it.”
The other student teachers were eager to get married and have babies. All Lorna wanted was her teaching certificate so she could take care of herself. She moved out three weeks after graduation.
Lorna never had much luck with men. When she was in her 30s, she tried to salvage her relationship with her father, thinking it would help her develop positive relationships with men.
“I thought maybe I could have one last chance to marry and have a family.” It didn’t work. “He found humor in my failed relationships, and I continued to pursue or date men who only liked me up to a certain point. There was always something missing in terms of emotion, and being Catholic limited in physical ways, as well.”
Lorna didn’t speak to her father for 20 years. When he was on dialysis and dying, she visited him. “At his death, I felt sorry for him and prayed for his eternal peace. I’ve told a therapist all of this and more, but the damage had already been done.”
Lorna taught for 40 years and is now retired. “I have no husband, no children, no grandchildren. I live alone. I listen to the John Mayer song ‘Daughters’ with the lyric ‘Fathers be good to your daughters/Daughters will love like you do,’ and I think, Here it is, the 21st century, and someone actually wrote a song about this.”
How did your relationship with your parents influence your relationships? Send your tale, along with your questions, problems and rants to firstname.lastname@example.org.