A Father’s Legacy

Lindsay Levine
6 min readMay 14, 2023

I’m mostly writing this so I don’t have to think about writing it anymore. That’s not that uncommon for me, really. But this also isn’t for me. It’s for one person. Even though I never want to hurt a soul, I don’t believe in protecting anyone from the truth.

In one other piece I’ve written, I touched on the abuse I experienced at home as a kid.

When I was a kid, my father was physically and emotionally abusive. I was terrorized by this man, spat on, shoved against the wall, thrown out of my chair, chased around our kitchen island, bleeding and sobbing while he and the police I called laughed at my expense. He stole my self-worth as easily as he broke my trust. “Stupid bitch”. “Miserable piece of shit”. “No good worthless fool.” Another day, another tantrum, another night of wishing death on the man who gave me life.

I lived for years as a guest in my own home, creeping around corners, forever on guard, sprinting out of sight whenever I’d hear him approaching. For a long time, I ate dinner alone, separate from the family, and kept to myself. I was alone in every way. No one ever came to save me.

I am now 30. I’d like to say he’s changed in some way, and I’ve often given him credit when I explain to people why I still live at home with him and my mom. In reality, I’m the one who’s changed. My mom has changed. I got older. My mom stopped being neutral. And now he no longer lives in a world where he can freely act the way he once did.

There have been one or two times I received some kind of letter from him — I only remember the one — in which he wrote about how he didn’t realize what he was doing and never meant to hurt me, or something like that.

He acts as though his hands are washed of his wrongdoings. He has absolutely zero comprehension of who he really is and the effect he has. He is an obsessive textbook narcissist and as selfish as they come. Any “selfless” acts are only at his convenience; any inconvenience to him triggers a tantrum. He plays the victim at every turn. According to him, he never provokes; only he is provoked. He must always be in control, or he lashes out like a typical abuser. He feels only what impacts him; he is incapable of real empathy. I don’t believe he understands real love because you don’t destroy the people that you love.

It only affects me so much anymore; I figured out how to navigate his psychological playbook a long time ago. What depresses me most is the quality of life he leaves for my mother. My mom is the single most important thing in my life, and I’m not suicidal anymore, but I still wonder if I’ll end up finally killing myself when she’s no longer around. She is the reason I stay. My love for her is far stronger than the hate he brews in me.

I want this man to understand the legacy he’ll leave behind. You can’t be sorry if you do not truly change. If you do not care to change. If you do not think you have to change. If you do not recognize the shadows you cast on those around you. He is unapologetically miserable. Every day he has the opportunity to try to become well, and each day he passes it up happily.

I know he’s disappointed in himself in some ways. He’s depressed at the moment about some of the financial decisions he’s made in life and where that’s left him and my mom. I know he has felt guilt at times about his behavior, but it’s mostly been when I was away from home and refused to engage, or during the rare spurts of time my mom gave him the cold shoulder.

His brain really isn’t capable of accepting it, but the truth is that he is a negative energy in everyone’s lives, including and especially the people he claims to love most. He doesn’t pretend he’s good and innocent; he genuinely believes he is. To him I say — stop deluding yourself. Stop turning to your wife and begging her to validate your delusions whenever I start to shatter them. She has coddled you for decades because she’s learned it’s exhausting and pointless to try to reason with your unrelenting victim mentality and distorted logic about each series of events.

WAKE UP. YOU ARE NOT THE VICTIM. Of anything. You have never been, in this house.

All the times you’ve felt attacked and ganged up on were merely times you received valid criticism or someone refused to tolerate how you were acting. Just because you feel attacked does not mean you are the victim. The moment you feel rattled is not the guaranteed moment things were instigated.

You can’t process that you can be recklessly harmful for no justifiable reason. Psychologically you experience narcissistic injury when someone objects in any way to your orders or opinions or way of thinking. Neurologically you are so obsessive that a very short fuse is lit past a very low threshold of stress. At times, when you’re calm enough, you appear to listen, or even understand. But because you don’t truly care, and you don’t truly see your flaws, it all fades into the ether behind the lifetime of habits you’ve solidified, and you doom us day after day to the same abusive reality.

It would hurt you too much to know how relieved your family is when you’re not around. Your wife would never be as cruel as I’m being right now because your relationship is way more nuanced, of course, but primarily, she depends on you as much as you depend on her. I don’t. She pities you. I don’t.

And yet, I have more forgiveness for humans than anyone I know. I know what it means to be harmful and make the effort to understand the damage I’ve caused, to take accountability, to feel remorse, and to evolve. I have given you so much grace, and while you don’t throw me out of chairs anymore, you continue to terrorize people in your orbit. Existing around you is a war zone littered with landmines.

I wish you would just accept that you are not well and then do something about it. Instead, you imprison yourself and your loved ones. We all know there is a human heart inside there, but that heart is buried beneath your mental illness, and that heart has never chosen to take true ownership. You will go to lengths to justify your behavior but take zero strides to fix it.

Again, that’s where you and I are not the same. I put in ongoing work to try to make being alive even a fraction more tolerable for myself and the people around me.

Do you understand what your legacy will be? Do you understand the stories that are told about you, the background I have to share with friends and lovers and therapists? The warnings given to folks before they come to the house and interact with you? From the bottom of my heart, I really am sorry that this truth is so vicious. Your wife and other daughter may sugarcoat it to baby you, and I have for a long time myself, but I won’t do it anymore.

Your legacy now is abuser. You will die a man who abused his child. You will go out as the man who set his house on fire whenever his ego was challenged or bruised, letting his wife and family burn in the flames. You will leave this earth as someone I was better off not knowing.

Or, you could read these words and pull your inner self out from under the demons that dominate you. It’s not too late. If only you were brave enough to acknowledge and face them, you might just be able to beat them.

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