Subscribe to The Atlantic and get 2 free issues

My Parents Adopted a Murderer

From Doree Shafrir's Best of Longreads picks: A woman looks back on her father's abuse—and how their relationship changed when her family adopted a teen who had killed his adoptive parents:

"He is sending these virtual photo bombs because I have stopped speaking to him. Three months ago, my sister and I mutually agreed that we were breaking off all contact -- divorcing him, disowning him -- and by extension, our mother, who apparently just doesn’t have it in her to defy him. We did this over email (admittedly, perhaps not the best way to do it, but you try verbally telling a parent it’s over -- it’s hard, y’all) and held our breath. After an initial barrage of angry emails, which devolved into apologetic emails, we’ve arrived at the photo bomb stage. No actual email, just the photos.

"The thing is, though, those happy little children in the photos? They’re nothing but ghosts, tiny spirit-girls haunting old Polaroids. When you are used to pretending that everything is ok, that you are a normal family with loving parents, you develop a really excellent false smile. You can do it on command, like a trained dog. But if we’re going to get real, if we’re to bring any semblance of verisimilitude into this, let’s look at the true pics: my father drunk and vicious, smashing up a bedroom suite, or beating the dog, or whipping my sister and me with a belt, or getting blind drunk and forcing us into the car, where he’d drive and scream at us for hours, or, in a series of nightmarish images, like some flipbook from hell, let’s see my father wrap his hands round my mother’s throat and strangle her. See me and my sister punching and kicking at his legs, trying to stop him? See our little teeth biting ineffectually at his pant cuffs?"
SOURCE:XOJane
PUBLISHED: Dec. 12, 2012
LENGTH: 8 minutes (2153 words)