Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Dad in Name Only?

I visited David a short while ago, whose father had a mild heart attack. It got me to thinking to the point where I totally vomited in his comments. I cut it off and figured I'd drop it here instead. So, quite on the serious side now, I finish my thought.

My father was, and still is, a wreck of a human being. He was an alcoholic and a substance abuser. He has been off alcohol for 25 years. Off the narcotics too, though after a back injury he struggled with Vicodin and had to be detoxed. Yet he still counts 25 years of sobriety.

It's so strange. Just before I clicked the link to his blog, I was thinking that I was going to read something that really affected me, then I thought I was being silly, and lo and behold.

My father is at least a weekly (almost typed weakly... Freudian slip?) burden to me. Not financially. He's struggling for money, but I won't go there with him. My brother and I are pretty successful, but we won't 'co' him, if you know what I mean.

He turns 64 this year. I was very fortunate that my mother was an incredible woman, who got herself sober (a couple years before Dad), got her act together, finished school, and put a career together to support her two decent, if a little ungrateful, boys.

It's such a contrast. My mother really took responsibility for herself. She worked for the postal service for 27 years, worked her way up, and just retired a couple years ago.

My father is looking for another job. He has an interview at fucking Home Depot. Home Depot.

I mentioned he left when I was seven. He was completely lost to us for seven years. Heard from him maybe three times, maybe four. A couple phone calls and one letter... maybe two.

When I was fourteen I saw him again. During that time he's had somewhere in excess of 50 jobs. I'm not exaggerating. Every one of them is the same. First it's the thing he's been looking for. He's finally landed, finally found IT. Within a week of starting he says the boss really loves him and has him on the fast track. He'll really be moving up fast. Everyone else has to go A-B-C, but he's going straight to Q and maybe right past it. After a month there's some mid-authority person whom everyone knows is a complete fuckwit, but has the boss's ear, and is out to get him. Within another month, despite his stellar performance, he is on the outs because of this evil person, and it's usually over in a matter of days after that phone call.

Fifty fucking times plus.

Did I mention that I have two other half-brothers. One is in his early twenties, from wife #2 (technically a bigamist at that time, since he never bothered to actually divorce my mother before remarrying) and while he called me once and left a message, I've never spoken to him. The other is 13 and is severely autistic. He's from wife #4. Dad's in the process of getting way fucking behind on that child support too.

Wife #3 was a Russian woman he married for $10K and a year's free rent.

He calls me one to five times a week. He asks perfunctorally how we're doing, but it's all one-sided. Why do I do it? In contrast to David, it's because I do still love him, despite everything. I don't know why, because I really understand how David got to where he is. In some ways it makes more sense.

The core issue is that my father is a man who wishes he was better but won't take responsiblity for who he is and how he perpetuates his self-destructive patterns.

I think I feel this way because I see some of him in me. I've been fortunate to have had the people in my life that I have, who saw some of those patterns early and verbally beat them out of me (lovingly, I must stress.) I have been surrounded by immense volumes of love from so many quarters, which makes a potential trainwreck like me into a pretty passable family guy and successful business dude.

Dad didn't have that. He was mentally and physically abused by his father, brutally. His two older brothers and an instructor at a boarding school he went to sexually abused him. He had nobody to love him. His mother was a hopeless codependent and an alcoholic herself and just watched him get steamrolled by the sickness in her house.

He was definitely the saddest of victims.

Now he's stuck there. He's still a victim. When he calls, he often regurgitates all of the blame-shifting he's indulged in this last forty or fifty years that's allowed him to avoid taking responsibility for the momentous failure that his overall life has been. He tells me how awful my mother and her family were, how everyone was out to get him, how he didn't abuse the Vicodin... Oh yeah, got a detailed account of how he sometimes got to the end of a prescription period a couple pills short, realizing that he must have forgotten from time to time that he'd taken his pill and took a second. But he didn't abuse it.

Keep in mind that nobody even mentioned anything about this. He just started in on it out of the blue.

Why am I trashing on my Dad like this right now? I don't know. David's post just brought up all of what I've been thinking but not saying.

I love him. I love him to death and, with only a couple decades left at the most, I want nothing more than for him to end well, to put the past behind him and just go for broke and make a real life for a little while at least.

Long shot? Not even that. No shot.

But who cares? I've been thinking for the last few days that it's time I wrote him a letter that honestly says what I think. If I was a wreck too, there'd be nothing to say, but I think I've managed to build a pretty good life, and I've experienced the blessings of a good and kind God. I don't think we ever have a conversation where I don't try to encourage him to just forget the ugly past and just fucking move forward. But he'd rather weep and cry and tell me how sorry he is about everything and lament not being able to look at one thing in the past that he can be proud of, and wonder why my mother won't forgive him (she has, but that's just another aspect of his lunacy.)

I think I'm going to put it in writing, in hand-writing, and just say what I mean. If I didn't make the attempt, I'd think that I let my own fear of a broken relationship stop me from making every effort to help him. I can't make him do anything. All I can do is tell him the truth as I see it and hope that something gets through to him.

And isn't there some of that sickness right there? Thirty-two years later I'm afraid to tell him what I think because, somehow, in all this mess, I'm afraid he'll leave me again.


It's about me, dummy!!!


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