I have been thinking about my dad a lot lately. I don't know why. Many people when thinking of fathers have this iconic vision of the man that helped in creating their life. I had pain. I say had, because I have long since dismissed from my mind all of this pain and rarely, rarely think of my dad any more. Yet still there are moments,maybe a particular word, or even a vision of someone else, that will make this memory resurface once again. My dad died thirty tears ago. He was an alcoholic.
My earliest memories of my dad did have love in them. I guess they still do. Just not the kind of love that I have always wanted to feel. I was, in my early years, a daddy's girl. I remember my dad bragging about what a good little girl I was and I remember wanting to sit next to my dad and eat the same things that he ate. Hot pepper sandwiches when you are four is a true show of love I believe! That is the extent of the fond memories however.
My dad had family in Illinois and in California. He was a cement contractor, a trade he had picked up in the See Bee's. He would find work in Illinois during the summer season. When it would start to turn cold, off to California we would drive. Each and every year. Sometimes twice a year, quite often staying with relatives. I can't tell you how many different schools that I attended growing up as truly I can not remember them all.
Dad never physically hurt me. Unless you count spankings when I did something wrong. A practice that he halted when I was ten years old saying that if I didn't know right from wrong by then, there was nothing more he could do. He did however hurt my mother. Physically and emotionally. Time after time. Year after year. My mother finally left him after ten years of marriage. I often wonder what took her so long.
I remember one night in particular. I was in my own bed yet it was in the same room as my parents bed where they were to sleep. I have no recollection of where it was geographically as I was only around four or five years old. Dad said that he had a knife and if my mother made a sound or moved that he would kill her. I was too terrified to breathe let alone move. I thought that if I made a sound , my dad would think that it was mom and kill her.
There were many of these nightmarish incidents that were to follow. The last one that I remember took place when I was eight years old. It was shortly after my baby brother was born. We were living on the second floor of a two story apartment in Chicago. My brother was asleep in his bed, just a few months old at the time. My father as usual was drunk and was threatening yet again to kill my mother if she didn't leave the apartment. Her and I left to go outside not wanting to leave my brother behind. Mom was so upset. We stood outside for just a short while and I knew, at eight years old, that my dad would soon be passed out. I instructed my mother to stay outside as I quietly crept upstairs. There was my father, passed out on the sofa as I had suspected. I very quickly and quietly went into the room where my brother lay in his bed. I wrapped him up In a blanket and just as quickly and quietly crept down the stairs to my mother. I don't remember anything after that. I don't remember where we went. I do remember however that it was shortly after that when we moved out on our own. My mother, me and my baby brother. Finally.
Life did get better after that. Still I missed my dad and had all kinds of anger inside of me towards him which I could not understand. He would call me from time to time as I was growing up. Usually he was drunk. My mother did not want me to talk to him. I would talk to him when she was not around. Finally when I was in the sixth grade he wanted to meet with me. And I wanted to see him. We agreed, behind my mothers back that we would meet at a bowling alley in Chicago. He had a job there as a pin setter. I told him that I would meet with him but with the condition that he be sober. I took the bus that evening to the bowling alley. My mother thought that I was going out with friends. When I got there, he of coarse was drunk. I left immediately, very hurt, very angry.
That was to be the last time that I spoke to my dad. It was the last time that I saw my dad until his funeral about ten years later. That was the beginning of my angry period. My son was nine months old when we flew to California to attend my dad's funeral. I was angry that my dad ruined our relationship or so I thought at the time. I was angry that my dad never got to meet his grandson because of his alcoholism. It was easier to blame him for my anger at the time as I didn't know any better. I stayed angry for a long time after that. Very angry. My love for him had now turned to a feeling of hate. Which now, I realize was simply my misunderstanding of the whole situation. I would come to learn those lessons later in my life.
As I grew older and actually learned more about this disease, I was able to see the past with a better perspective. I also learned that pent up anger harms no one but the person feeling it. It took me years to work through it all. I have no feelings of anger anymore. As a matter of fact as I said in the beginning, I rarely even think of my dad anymore. I do feel sad for the man that had so much torment inside of him that he felt helpless in controlling it. And only confident in drowning it.
I do feel somewhat envious at times of people who have or had these wonderfully inspiring parents in there lives. However, I suppose in someways, I have become stronger from living through it all. I think that it has helped me in becoming a better parent. I can't say that I am grateful for having lived through it, but I am stronger ultimately because of it.