When your TV fantasy dad is probably a serial rapist

My fantasy dad has been in the news lately.  A lot in the news.  And not in the good way that beloved icons are in the news.

My fantasy dad was Bill Cosby, and he has probably raped lots of women, and he’s probably never going to serve a day in jail for it.

My life could be a little dark when I was growing up.  My step-father was a bit of an ass.  And by “a bit” I mean “a lot”.  And he had my mother’s full support.  I actually don’t want it to seem like I dwell on these matters, because I really don’t.  Almost thirty years have passed since I left my mom’s house.  So much has happened in the intervening time that has defined me since then.

But I can still so clearly remember, starting in 1984, tuning in to the Cosby show on the tiny black and white TV in my mother’s bedroom, and for a half an hour being drawn into a world where family meant a mother and a father living in the same house.  With siblings.  And love and humor.  Problems were always addressed with a firm and loving approach.  This family even got mad at each other affectionately.  How I wished to join them on the other side of that glass, just go live forever with Bill Cosby and Phylicia Rashad.  Malcolm-Jamal Warner could be my big brother, and Lisa Bonet and I could share her awesome wardrobe.

I saw Bill Cosby in an old 1970’s movie recently.  The film was 1978’s California Suite.  It was one of those lighthearted films with an ensemble cast – Jane Fonda, Alan Alda, Walter Matthau, etc. – who portray guests at the Beverly Hills Hotel.  Bill’s character was there with his brother-in-law, aka Richard Pryor, and as I watched the two engage in their on-screen shenanigans, I searched for any possible sign of the dark force below that affable surface.  Of course, that darkness evades detection entirely.

I sincerely want to believe that this man, the father of my dreams, is as harmless, gentle, and loving as his public persona has led me to believe for my entire life.  But when evidence piles up as victims and near-victims alike come forward with their stories, my logical self cannot refute that evidence.

In 2007, my step-father passed away.  His body and mind were in ruins and he was a shell of his former self.  Later that year, my mother became very ill with Guillane-Barre syndrome and nearly died.  After extensive rehab in which she relearned how to walk, she sold her Connecticut house and moved to Florida.  She lives five miles from me and helps to care for my children, shuttling them from school to activities, going to soccer games and karate classes.  We talk on the phone and joke and laugh.  We enjoy one another’s company.  She is unrecognizable when compared with the stern disciplinarian of my childhood.

As the demons of my early years have faded away, so too do the heroes, those who my naive young mind placed on a pedestal.  Those have been replaced by real people – by my father-in-law, who photographed Soviet missiles in Cuba and retells the story in a quiet, matter-of-fact manner.  My husband, who took his turn walking the floor with his babies at night and devotes all of his spare time to connecting with his family.  By my former boss, my friend the veteran, my aunt.

Heroes still abound, all within arm’s reach.

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About Joyce

40-year-old university advisor, 10-years married with two small children, trying to do it all and have it all and still manage the occasional social interaction through the wonderful world of blogging.
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6 Responses to When your TV fantasy dad is probably a serial rapist

  1. I feel the similarly to you about Cosby. I really wish it wasn’t true, but it’s hard to believe so many people are lying.

  2. Karen says:

    I don’t have a hard time believing it’s true because even Adolf Hitler loved dogs. We want people to be black and white, good or evil, but they’re not: sometimes they’re these funny, affable guys who feel like they’re entitled to your (and every body else’s) body.

    I can’t speak about your childhood, but I will clog up your blog with a comment about my own: My dad was an alcoholic schizophrenic, but he was also an intellectual, a lover of literature, and raised two girls believing they were as good as any boy. I look back on my child and don’t think I became the adult I am in spite of it; I became the adult I am because of it.

    • Karen says:

      Oh, goddammit. That should be “I look back on my childHOOD.”

    • Joyce says:

      While I know that people are not always black or white, being a decades-long serial rapist is so far outside of what I would have ever imagined. This is different from finding out about someone who presented a family man persona but in reality cheated on his wife and was distant from his kids. This is nightmare material.

      I’d like to adopt a similar attitude to my own childhood as you have to yours, but I can’t. I am what I am despite my childhood, or at least despite my step-father. I don’t let it define me, and I have truly forgiven all parties and I swear I don’t dwell. At the same time, some part of me will always wonder what I could have been were it not for what transpired.

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