Huffpost Divorce
The Blog

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors

Peggy Nolan Headshot

My Father My Hero

Posted: Updated:

On a cold and dreary November day, just 4 days after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, my father helped bring me into this world. I am my father's first born and his only daughter.

My birth mother, real mother, egg donor, whatever you'd like to call her, was not exactly mentally equipped to raise a child let alone four. My memories of her are clouded with beatings and physical abuse. Not just of me, but of my three younger brothers as well. I also remember the time she slapped my dad in his face then threw his car keys in the field in the back of our house. I remember pushing her away from him and screaming, "YOU. DON'T. HIT. MY. DAD!"

My father was by no means spineless. Towards the end of my parents' eight year marriage, dad secretly gathered evidence of child abuse and mother's mental illness. Evidence he needed to gain full legal and physical custody of four children between the ages of one and seven.

During the summer of 1971, Dad shipped my mother and us kids to live with my mother's parents in Hawaii. I was seven going on eight, between second and third grade. Dad didn't go to Hawaii and it wasn't until I was much older that I understood why Dad wasn't there. My Dad needed more then proof of child abuse. The judge in his divorce and custody case told him that he needed a signed deposition from my mother's parents stating that my mother, their oldest daughter, was unfit to raise her four children.

One hot afternoon while I ate lunch with my brother David I bopped him in the nose like Curly from the Three Stooges. The nose bop happened to peel a layer of sun burned skin off David's nose. Seeing his skin in his five year old hands, David ran screaming to our mother. I knew I was in for a beating. So I ran to the park across the street, hoping she wouldn't find me. She kept hollering my name. Scared, I returned to my grandparents' house.

Peering in through the back door, I saw Mother standing there...waiting...with a brown leather belt in her hands. As she came after me I bolted and ran screaming through the house. My grandmother heard the commotion and as she appeared from the kitchen, she stepped in front of me and pushed me behind her. I'll never forget what Grandma yelled as she held up one arm to stop her daughter, "Stop! You will never hurt this child again."

It was this attempt to harm me that convinced my grandparents that my three younger brothers and I were better off with Dad. It was the hardest thing they've ever done and I will always be grateful to them for making the right decision. In the fall of 1971, my father set precedent in California family law. Based on my grandparents' deposition and the child abuse evidence, the judge awarded my father full physical and legal custody of me and my brothers.

This Father's Day and every Father's Day holds special meaning to me because my dad saved me and my brothers from a horrible life with our biological mother. He did whatever was necessary to ensure we would always be safe. He fought for us and he never gave up. My dad will always be my HERO.