My Father was a Monster – With a pretty good sense of Humour – I’m left with PTSD & a handful of happy memories.

Tuesday, June 25th, 2019 – +21˚C / +70˚F – sunny & bright with a deep blue sky @ 11:11 am  –

— “Not a poem” from my friend, Douglas Jay Otterson in the Ithaca, New York area —>

“My Father Was a Monster”


He was everyone’s friend at family gatherings
But two swigs later his eyes could turn glassy
his huge strong arms swung violently through the air.
And his roar was as bad as his bite.We never knew what to expect
He was everybody’s friend at home in the kitchen
singing “Daddy’s little Girl” with a big smile on his face
and one of my sisters on his knee.
One slam of his fist on the kitchen table
rattled all the silverware in the house.I don’t think he physically hurt
any one of his daughters
But the psychological terror was always
one or two seconds away.I might have been thirteen years old
when somebody gave me a lockable diary
for Christmas or my birthday.
I kept it in a bureau drawer
under folded tee shirts
But somehow he found it and picked the lock-
-Got drunk at a family picnic and
called me an asshole in front of everybody,
quoted two lines from one of a hundred pages
-somewhere in the middle of the book, middle of the page –
That kind of betrayal never goes away

I started writing in French. And in code.


I was not the only one-
I had friends who would never want to be there
when their fathers came home.
Our babysitter – whose father worked with mine
surprised us one night when dad was working nights
and her father on another shift had just come home.

She’d run out her back door and across three back yards
then down someone’s driveway, maybe another hundred yards
-across a main road and knocked our door.
She was trembling when she asked my mother
if she could hide out with us
until her father simmered down.

We didn’t ask why her father might have been crazy mad-
maybe even not mad at her.
We let her in. And I got sent upstairs to mind my own business.
And her mother called several hours later and said her father had passed out drunk
and it was safe to come home.

I was just beginning to realize when my father was drunk
and when he wasn’t
when he gave me a twenty dollar bill one night and told me to get
whatever I needed.
I bought a pair of shoes that fit me better than the ones I had.

The next day he asked me where the new shoes came from
I was confused, I said, “You gave me the money last night -”
How much? Twenty dollars.
“You took advantage of me, pal-” he began
and he went on a verbal warpath that evening-
demanded the seven dollars change I gave my mother
-terrorized every one of his five kids and his wife.

He raised his hand to strike one of us several times,
but never did – not that evening –
One sister went upstairs crying and he ran up after her
We were terrified
Every nerve on edge
we listened and were ready to jump
and try to subdue a monster bigger than all of us together
if it sounded like he was about to slap or punch a girl-
not even half his size
We heard him using his soft, friendly voice –
“I would never do anything to hurt you-”

He hit my mother twice.
Both times she packed us up and spirited us out of the house.
The first time she had my aunt pick us up and drive us to Vermont,
to her mother and father.
Where my grandfather groped all three of my sisters
and spouted the strictest, straight-arrow, black and white
moralistic b.s. I ever heard.

A couple details are scrambled lately
but I think my uncle came and got me and brought me back home
where we sat with my father and he looked broken and lost
my father looked broken and lost.
I thought he was genuinely remorseful. (I was fifteen or sixteen years old)
He promised to be a better person.
He promised all kinds of things.
My uncle drove me back to Vermont.
We packed up and came back home.

His best behavior lasted two weeks.

Another incident. I was already in Vermont
working at my grandparents Motel, Restaurant and gas station
Running the gas station pretty much by myself at the age of nineteen
for ten dollars a week. (and room and board?)
I don’t know what happened
But my mother and the other four kids showed up and dug in to stay
The younger kids were enrolled in local schools
My mother worked as a waitress and sometimes ‘hostess’
at the restaurant where I was designated emergency fill in dishwasher.

I don’t know – maybe it was a month later
my father found out where they were and came up, got a room in the motel
and threatened to charge mom with kidnapping.
The local Congregational Minister sat and talked with mom and dad
and in the end
Mom broke down and believed him
once again,
believed he could change
believed he could be better.

So they went back home
And I went with them,
thinking maybe he’d be more apt to keep his promises
now that I was six foot three and weighed a hundred and thirty pounds
I got a job pumping gas.
That lasted a couple months,
until I came down with hepatitis

My favorite uncle came to see me and his jaw dropped
he later said I looked three quarters dead.

I was slowly getting better.
The doctor said it might take a couple more months
my father, working his part time job,
delivering oil in an area close enough so he could stop home
to use the facilities, et cetera,
stopped home mid morning and roared
That if I was still there when he got home from work
he’d pitch me out in the middle of the road
He said he knew I got hepatitis
so I could avoid working
and paying him rent.

Ya know, I know-
A lot of kids had it worse
A lot of kids had broken bones and worse

But what convinced me that I had PTSD
was not just the nightmares.
{ or other weird dreams, like the time
I dreamed he came charging up the stairs
to beat the ‘living cement’ out of me – again –
and I jumped out of my body –
I probably really had an astral projection-
I leaped through the roof and out into a starry winter night,
bare trees, cold wind-
I turned around and saw through the walls and saw my bedroom
in bright sunlight
with the bed made
and nobody in it –
If this wasn’t enough to scare me –
I knew that I had not completed the task
that God or one of the ArchAngels had assigned me –
I hadn’t written my books
and I snapped right back into my body,
it was still night, and nobody had run up the stairs
in a bloodlust
to beat up anybody.

I was amazed at how miraculously relaxed I felt }

I had several dreams in which my father fell asleep or died
while driving a family car
and I tried to climb out of the back seat, over him –
to get into the driver’s seat
and steer us to safety.

Most nightmares had invisible demons coming after me.

but worse than nightmares –
whenever he threatened me – or my mother,
or seemed on the verge of losing control
I had immediate visualizations of anything within reach
that I could use as a weapon
and a felt myself summon the adrenaline I’d need
to smash his skull or drive a knife into his jugular vein,
give him a karate inspired knuckle punch to the adams apple –

I somehow never lost control –
well- one time
a dog followed one of the kids into the house
they were petting him.
My father picked the dog up and
threw the dog down the stairs
didn’t break any bones
but it yelped and ran like crazy to get away –
And as my father started screaming
“Who the Christ Jesus let that dog into the house?”
I jumped out of my room
with blood in my eyes and
was half a heartbeat away
from pushing my father down the stairs
At the last moment
I turned and smashed a hole two feet in diameter
in the sheet rock wall at the top of the stairs.
He didn’t hear the crash
as he was roaring and stomping down the stairs.

The next morning
he discovered the hole in the wall –
Asked my mother about it
she told him he came home drunk and he did it.
He’d already kicked and punched through a couple other walls
he believed her. (I think she only lied in life or death situations.)

Years later, working at the post office
seeing supervisors and managers bullying
powerless employees,
vandalizing post office property and blaming custodians
they wanted to get rid of any way they could-
lying on official documents and when, in the grievance process
they were confronted with evidence that they’d lied, they’d reply
“Management has the right to make comments.”

At the post office-
I never came close to bashing any skulls in-
but I did have to walk away and calm my breath
several times

It took me two years of
delivering newspapers
of an unethical publisher
in New York State –
Out – driving throw-away junkers
on a two hundred and fifty mile loop through three counties
away from supervisors and managers
making peanuts, actually losing money
as they double charged everybody that worked for them
and claimed I owed for more papers they never issued to me-

it took me two years of fresh air and sunshine
and wind and rain and driving snow
before I could think about idiotic post office supervisors
without imagining me in a dark foggy alley with a metal baseball bat
watching them approach, half drunk and bragging about how they
got to the Puerto Rican guy they didn’t like,
and got the African American custodian to resign for health reasons
when I was no longer there to protect them –

I would have loved to see the look on their eyes
when the cop they called to press charges against me
for smashing windshields and slashing tires on post office delivery vehicles
when the officer was a friend of the family and laughed in their faces,
“I know that man – he’s working for a newspaper three hundred miles from here-
and has been for three years now.”
This was somebody who’d listened to me ‘belly aching’ about the nonsense
those supervisors were pulling against innocent employees
And he only half believed me, thought I was exaggerating.
Until they tried to frame me for something
some other stressed out postal worker
or random pissed off customer
or slithering supervisor committed.

It took me at least another decade and a lot of yoga
to calm myself down to where my first thought-
when faced with slimy evil manipulating son of a guns –
was not, “yeah, the world is full of idiots”
wasn’t even, “Let it go – somebody will get even with someone like that –
don’t go to jail because you let him get to you.”
but an actual – “Be patient, God isn’t finished with a lot of us yet.”
or, “There really are two kinds of people on this planet-
Angels in Training and Angels in Trouble. –
And a lot of us have one foot in each camp –
And some of us are centipedes.”

Sixty something years into this life
and I need to work on my delivery.
I fought the anger down
I no longer jump at the sound of brakes
I no longer spend half my life expecting a sucker punch
from a huge right hand.

He was six feet, two or three
When I was more like five foot nine
He weighed around three hundred pounds
when I was more like ninety nine pounds with my ribs showing

He’d often drop or misplace a pen
and start an inquisition with a roar –
“Who stole my pen and what did you do with it?”

a teenaged zit was dinner table conversation –
“What the Christ ya got growing out of your head?”
-he’d ask with a leering grin.

We moved from a project duplex
with paper thin walls and neighbors so close
you could spit out a window and hit their outside walls
We moved to a ‘nicer neighborhood’
where we could hear the large man across the street
roar at his wife with ‘f’ words I never heard
in the old ‘not so nice’ neighborhood.

So I figured every one within three hundred yards, maybe more
could hear every tirade – would know we kids could drive a saint to swear
could hear that my mother belonged in a luney bin,
Could probably wonder what the hell it meant to be told,
“You sound like someone with a paper asshole.”

The really scary part was –
He could be warm and affectionate
and even make sense
So there were times when I doubted my own sanity
and thought I might have judged him wrong
judged our whole situation wrong.

But then my middle sister reminded me of the time
He knocked me down in the back yard, knelt on my arms,
removed my glasses and pummeled my head with both fists
screaming, “Give me a knife, I’m gonna kill him. Get me a knife!”

And we never knew what set him off.

If we didn’t have a clue about some evil deed he was accusing us of –
we’d often hear, “Don’t play Mickey the Boo with me, pal-”
and maybe need to duck or get smashed
-so who the hell was Mickey the Boo? None of us knew.

The woman I love probably saved me from an early grave
in more ways than one.
At a critical time in ‘my life’
she fell in love with my voice and one poem I wrote.

I told her I’d drive five hundred miles for a hug
and turn around and drive right back if she took one look and went, “ugh-”

I drove more than twelve hours across New York State Highways,
crossed the bridge – went through customs
remembered what she said, answered all the questions
and appreciated the young customs guy’s smile as he welcomed me to Canada.

I called from a convenience store, apologized for taking, what?
-maybe five hours longer than I’d expected that drive would take me?
We met through a locked and chained door
in a semi-public place.
-On a scale of one to ten – I felt like a three
and the first glimpse of her I got
I thought, ‘Oh my god, she’s at least an eleven -‘
But we hugged and talked and
she didn’t send me right back home.

Now- it’s seventeen years and a couple months later
And I believe we have the best relationship of any couple
I’ve ever known or heard of.
Nobody’s perfect, but maybe our neuroses mesh
without exploding
And there are times when she’s actually said
she wondered why I stuck around
through a couple odd stretches
that I guess she thinks
would have sent anybody else packing –
and – man – I think I wonder how she puts up
with my ‘quirks and idiosyncrasies’ and outright failures –
I think I wonder about that at least twice a week.

But I found something this morning
I thought we’d used up long ago and I felt good about that
I showed it to her and wondered if she’d found it a put it where I’d find it
And when I asked her if she’d known it was there
She nearly lost her temper and said
she didn’t need to face an inquisition while she
was getting ready for work

I was stunned.
I’m not my father.
Do I sound like him
without meaning to?

Good Grief?


— Douglas J Otterson – June 25, 2019 —

From 1993

Christmas Day, 2018 —> -9˚C / +15˚F – quiet with clear skies @ 4:30 pm as the sun is getting ready to set in Atlantic Canada –

Christmas Morning Sun Rise

– Sunrise – A little after 8:45 am this morning –

— Cathi found a notebook of mine from 1993 –

Who Am I ?


I believed

I was the electric silence

that nearly rang inside

and all around my head

-the magnet pull

in my heart

-the questions I held

to the heavens

-the answers I starved

and thirsted for

-the promise to listen

for those answers

-the welling within my


– which reached

through darkness

-and promised to do

the best I could

until I knew

which name

God would call me by –


– december 18, 1993



~~~~~ Jim