seems more than appropriate to write about my dad today. here are some facts & stories about my father & our relationship:
during my childhood my father made enough money to provide for our family without my mother having to bring in an income herself. my mother’s job was providing primary childcare as my father traveled often for work.
when my dad was home, my sister & i would have special outings with just him that usually involved bowling (i didn’t like doing this), arcade (this i did enjoy), or mini golf (didn’t like). we were also enrolled in a “daddy/daughter” sort of program where a bunch of dads and a bunch of daughters would go camping every once in a while. oh & there was an (annual? i assume) formal dance that we’d participate in associated with this daddy/daughter program. (see featured image)
as far as childhood solo activities with just me & my pops: playing “hairdresser” in the pool (me asking my dad why he had hair in so many weird places i.e. ears, nose, between eyebrows, middle of cheek, coming out of the weird mole on his back ..) or we would play a game that i now call “sea lion” but i doubt we had a name for it when i was little .. this game was when i would put on a helmet and my father would throw softballs at me and i’d use my head to return the ball back to him. idk why this was so fun for me. looking back i might have benefited from soccer? also maybe there’s some brain damage from playing such a game at 6/7/8 years old. all i know is my mom wouldn’t usually let us play “sea lion” so we had to do it when she wasn’t looking.
speaking of the rare times my mother wasn’t looking, i have one distinct childhood memory that is probably so prolific in my mind because i’ve been told the story many times. my mother & sister had gone out just them, which again, very rare, leaving just me & my dad home alone. i had & still have an obsession with swinging so i was outside doing just that. our swing set was nestled into a garden area in the back yard. my dad came walking over with a hula hoop and started doing one of his famously mysterious hula hoop rolls where he would whip/roll it over to me with a backspin so it would roll forward towards me a little bit but end up boomeranging back to him. this trick always delighted me so much. i was all “dad roll it over to me” while i was swinging. so he boomeranged the hula hoop towards me, i went to use my feet to pick up the hula hoop as it was approaching me, thinking i was going to do the coolest thing ever by picking up the hula hoop mid-swing (ooo how impressed dad will be!) .. forgetting that it would likely never reach me because of dad’s silly hula hoop antics. the swing went forward, i tried to use my feet to scoop the anticipatory hula hoop, the hoop quickly did an about-face & rolled away from me & back towards my dad .. my feet never made contact with the hoop & since i had momentum & didn’t actually meet a solid object, as the backswing occurred i simultaneously did a back flip off the swing, landing in the garden face first. my poor father rushed over, plucked me up out of the garden & plopped me inside on the kitchen counter. i remember him taking a good look at what had happened, specifically the combination of mulch & blood that was filling my mouth. i had hit the front of my mouth like where your front teeth are on the railroad ties that bordered our garden. think small girl doing a flip off of a swing set and landing mouth first on a wooden block. my mother tells me now that we were lucky because i had just lost my front teeth before this happened & somehow even though i scraped up my gums pretty bad there wasn’t any damage to my adult teeth. i still blame this occurrence if i feel self-conscious about my big front teeth nowadays. i don’t think i was left alone with my father again until i was old enough to know not do backflips while swinging.
my father & i still got into trouble while alone. we would get these sneaky ideas to do things my mother wouldn’t let us do .. as i got older it was more smoking cigarettes instead of swinging backflips. but one thing i remember from being a child is wanting attention from my dad. he was gone a lot & i feel like i never really got to know him. he didn’t do much parenting, he was more of a friend. a distant friend who i know loved and cared about me but who i felt was very mysterious & closed off. my mother tells sad stories about me being young & it taking a while for me to truly recognize my father because he was away so much during my infancy.
i didn’t know it at the time, obviously, but i think i resented both of my parents. i resented my mother for being around too much & my father for not being around enough. i didn’t have a balance of two parents .. sometimes i think my experience more closely resembled that of being raised by a single mother. my time with them was very separate, although they were married. when my father was in town he would take us to do things just us so my mom would get a break .. it was rare we would do things all together.
my father had a hard childhood himself. he was an only child & his parents split up when he was young. his dad was very mentally unwell, in & out of mental hospitals. his mother had primary custody & worked a lot. his mother was very frugal. my father started working at a young age & has not stopped since. as a small boy he had an affinity for soda pop, candy, and pinball, so he would make sure he did enough odd jobs to support his habits. i guess his work ethic & desire to obtain the things he wanted never faded. i think his early life experiences caused him to become a very isolated, shy, reserved, introspective, independent, & private person. he learned to take care of himself because no one else was going to. he learned how to thrive in solidarity. he learned to adapt & survive. he learned that to be happy you must take it upon yourself to create the life you want.
it is my perspective & understanding that my father is an alcoholic & addict. i have countless stories around this .. years of ruined holidays & special events .. years of making up lies to tell outsiders in order to downplay his drinking .. years of my parents fighting .. not only one story involving him falling when alone & hurting himself. i have thought my father to be dead on more than one occasion. i have been put in fucked up situations involving being expected to keep secrets about my father’s drinking from my mother. i have urged my father to get help. i have distanced myself from him. i have even completely stopped all communication for months at a time. i spend a lot of time in therapy talking about my father’s alcoholism. i have established many boundaries that allow me to currently have a speaking relationship with him.
at the time that i write this my father is not living a sober life. this time he has actually told us to our faces that he’s drinking again. which is different than in the past .. but i still get a tightness about it. i’m glad that he’s able to drink openly with my mother & their friends .. i’m happy that he is being honest about it. but i want nothing to do with him when he’s drinking. i don’t want to be around him or talk to him. i honestly don’t want to be involved in it at all anymore. & that’s why on today, father’s day, i am not spending time in person with my father. i have made the deliberate choice to not see him. i sent him a gift already & texted/called, so i have fulfilled my obligations as a daughter. but i do not want to spend time with him. i do not want to see him. i am too fragile to be a part if his new openly-drinking-lifestyle. he’s an alcoholic. his pattern of behavior has taught me to be cautious of him in his current state. history has taught me that a drunk father means something bad will happen. it always has meant that. why should it be different now?
so instead of me spending time with my parents i avoid their house aka my childhood home like the plague. a big part of my PTSD traces back to that house. i had a lot of emotional problems when i was a teenager & tried to run away multiple times. from 15 to 17 years-old i would regularly sneak out at night, illegally taking the new car that my father bought for my spoiled ass. i would steal my parents’ (dad’s) alcohol often, never getting in trouble for that. my father even vouched for me one time when my mom found forgotten empty mike’s hards stashed under a sink.
once i wasn’t a minor anymore i would call the cops on my mother for “kidnapping me” .. i have vivid memories of them showing up & telling 18 year-old me & my packed duffel bag that we were free to go & my mother could not keep me there legally, which i would respond with an “i told you so” & returning to my bedroom. things reached an explosive boiling point the day when my father dropped me off to therapy & i went into the office building, waited for my father to drive away, & walked out the doors & to my boyfriend’s conveniently-close-by new apartment/total drug den. when i got there i turned off my blackberry, knowing i would get blown up with calls & texts inquiring of my whereabouts. i’ll skip a lot of the details for this post, but this was when, while still in high school, i moved out of my parents’ house. this marked the first time i put up a boundary with my parents & told them i didn’t want them in my life.
fast forward to 2016 when i overdosed on klonopin & booze .. my father was in switzerland on business when i poured those pills down my drunk throat. i think he had to come home early from his trip because of me. i know he visited me in the hospital at least once, and that’s when i found out that my father’s childhood was spent visiting his father in mental institutions. when my dad had to come see me at a psychiatric hospital it nearly broke him completely. i could see the PTSD flashing over his eyes. i had only seen my father cry maybe one time before this .. he could not contain his emotions when seeing me in the same position that he had witnessed his father in many, many times before.
i did not have a lot information or knowledge about my family before my overdose. i did not know my grandfather was afflicted in such an extreme way. i knew he struggled but not that he was enduring rounds of lithium & likely ECT & other forms of archaic treatments. i did not know that as a very young child my father had to go visit his father in hospitals. and then when my father got older his mother was diagnosed with parkinson’s therefore my father had to again endure watching a parent struggle & fight under medical care.
when i myself ended up in an institution, a lot of things about my family, specifically my father, came to light. my father experienced so much trauma in his life .. most of which was swept under the rug & never spoken about .. my father wasn’t given the tools the communicate his feelings around the high levels of stress that made up his early life. but i know one thing: the look on my father’s face & the tears coming from his stoic eyes .. those mental images keep me clean & sober. knowing that my father likely would not survive seeing me in the hospital again .. knowing that my addiction would probably be the thing to set my father over his tipping point .. those are the thoughts that keep me good.
my father has done the best he could do. he has provided for me, my mom, & my sister. he clothed us, put a roof over our heads, took us on vacations, offered guidance, & showed us love in all the ways he knew how. a lot has gone unspoken, and a lot of things will never be said out loud between me & him .. boundaries & walls have been put up .. but at the end of the day my father is one of my most favorite people. he is the smartest, most dedicated, hardworking person i’ve ever met. he pushes me to be successful and to do whatever makes me happy in life. i spare him most of the details about my life, but the things i do share he is over-the-moon proud & happy for me.
so even though my automatic feelings towards my father are a mixed bag of disappointment, fear, worry, love, respect, & empathy .. i fucking love him with all my heart. & i’m gonna be real pissed when he does die. cuz i’ll miss him a lot. & i’m sure when that time comes i will probably second guess my decisions of boundaries & distance .. but i do think that at the end of it all i will be happy that i can take away more positive recent memories rather than negative ones.
happy father’s day, steve.