Wednesday, December 26, 2007

My father

When I started this post I intended for it to be all about using our own experiences of pain to be better parents to traumatized children. It didn't really get there though. I will try to write about that eventually. Today this is just me ... dealing.

My sister and I agree. Our father is drinking again.

Now since I live a couple of hundred miles from him and she lives a couple of thousand miles, making these determinations is not simple. Still, there are signs.

The fact that he sent Andrew two separate birthday checks within days of each other could just be a mistake, but I don't think so.

Then there was that strange phone call. He called here and said to Roland, "So I supposed you heard from the hospital in ____." Roland said no and my father said, "Oh. Well, I guess they just called Yondalla's sister." Pause. "I just wanted to say I'm sorry it happened." Click. Yeah. Well, there are multiple possible explanations for that one, but I'm fairly confident that it involved alcohol. Certainly it involved my father being unable to speak for himself for a stretch of time. I called my sister to ask her about it. She had never received a call from any hospital or a call from our father about it.

Recently my sister told me that he has called her crying because he doesn't think I mean it when I say that, yes, we will attend the vacation he has been planning. Now maybe your father cries on the phone with your sister all the time. Mine however only does that sort of thing if he is drunk. And this vacation thing ... well, I'm trying not to think about it too much.

He has owned this piece of land by a lake since forever. Now, he was supposed to sell it right after the divorce and give my mother half of the proceeds, but that is another rant. It is relevant, because I have a certain attitude about this piece of property that makes me less than excited about it as a vacation spot. In fact, normally when I think about it I think, "When my father dies, I'm selling it and sending my mother a check." Okay, so he has this piece of property that I have all these resentful feelings about, and he has finally put two cottages on it. Now he wants for us all to go out and have some sort of idyllic vacation with our children on the lake. At best, there will be a great deal of pressure to have fun in whatever way my father has been imagining us all having fun for the past couple of years.

But I will go. Andrew really has to work next summer and is planning on staying here. He is relieved. He knows how bad it could be. Brian wants to go, and will. Well, he will if any of us do.

As I see it there are three possibilities. The first is that my father is still drinking heavily and cancels the vacation. He could do this by telling us at the last minute that something has happened to the plumbing, or else he could just not buy my sister plane tickets, or never get around to setting a firm date. He will, of course, not admit that he is calling it off because he is not sober.

The second is that he sobers up and we go out there and have a vacation in which the kids often complain about being bored, my sister and and I have fun chatting, and we all attempt to show my father how much we appreciate it all.

The last option is that he sobers up enough to get us there, and yet is still drinking. I regard this as the least likely. My father has managed to avoid any of his grandchildren seeing him when he is drunk. I have actually never seen him genuinely drunk. (Does anyone know if there are words to distinguish between the maintenance-level of inebriation alcoholics can live in and the level of inebriation that results in drunk-seeming behavior? In most of my childhood memories of my father he is holding a glass of some sort of alcoholic beverages, but I have few memories of him seeming drunk. My sister, who lived with him for a year when she was 16, has more.) In any case, I think that he will either manage to get sober or he will cancel the vacation.

So when my father calls me about it and I say that yes, if he gives me firm dates, I will put it on the calendar and I will go, he doesn't feel that I am genuinely committed to the trip. This should not be surprising, because I am not genuinely committed to the trip. So he calls my sister and cries and says that he is afraid that I won't go and will she call me and talk to me about it. And she calls me, or waits for me to call her, and we agree that he is drinking and that there is a good chance that the trip won't happen.

And part of me wants to call him and give him a lecture about how I have never broken a promise to him. I have never agreed to be somewhere and then not been there. I have certainly never agreed to do something, not done it, then accused him of lying when he asked me about it, and then shut him up when he tried to defend himself against the charge by forgiving him.

But I digress.

It's been a long time since I have been in the position of having to deal with my father when he was not sober. He joined AA, for the first time, about 20 years ago. Since then there have been stretches when he is in communication and sober, and times when he has been out of communication and drinking. Some of those stretches of not hearing from him have lasted a couple of years ago. The last one was around 2000 -- I know because I was dealing with it when Carl was moving in. I know that at the beginning of that school year he almost got fired, again, and was given a leave of absence to go to rehab, again. I know that the charge of public drunkenness was dropped because the judge determined that his office on the weekend wasn't a public place, and though his not being fired included a commitment not to be drunk in his office again, weekend, evenings and days.

My father only finally retired this past year. I wondered if he would start drinking again when he did. I also wonder if he will be able to stop drinking. Getting sober in the past has only happened because he was given a leave of absence from work and sent to rehab. He had to get sober in order to go back to work.

And so what will happen this time?

I have such a feeling of tiredness when I think of him.

I have avoided having any sort of relationship with him for decades. When he first got sober, when I was in my 20's, I felt that I somehow was obligated to try to build a relationship with him. I wasn't confident that sobriety was going to make him into a better person. When I got his step nine letter I got over that. I threw it out, but I still remember it. He wanted to apologized for anything he might have done or any way he might have hurt me by what he had not done. I was fairly outraged over all the "might haves." I stomped around for a few days or years mumbling out loud, "might have? Just covering your basis, huh? Because maybe, just maybe your drinking affected me? Can't actually think of anything, but there's always a chance."

And this is why Evan going to rehab sent me to therapy. In my experience there are two kinds of addicts. There is the sort that you meet who have been in recovery for years who tell you that the are recovering addicts or alcoholics. Those of course one believes, because why would they lie? Then there are the sort that you know while they are drinking who maybe attempt recovery, but should not be trusted because they are going to start drinking again.


Anyway, it seemed something important to note on the blog. My father is drinking again and he no longer has a job to sober up for and a boss to tell him to go get sober. He is 68 years old. I don't know if he will sober up, and I though I feel sad, I find that I can't bring myself to hope for anything in particular. I have never had confidence in his ability to remain sober. I have always imagined that his life would end from alcohol poisoning, or liver failure, or from an alcohol-related car accident.

I find myself, sometimes, wishing he would just get it over with.


  1. awww, sweetie, I am sorry. i so relate. my father has been an alchohlic for my entire life (thats 40 years or more). he has numerous medical conditions as a result (liver, dementia, etc.) and its just so draining.

    hugs to you.

    (I often wonder how many first mothers had alcoholic fathers. I did some research on this years ago and the preliminary numbers were staggering)

  2. I'm so sorry to read this. There is nothing worse than not having hope for something. My dad does that non commital "might haves", "you knows", and other assorted words that don't mean much.

    I don't know what else to say, other than it sucks and I wish it wasn't that way.

  3. I can so relate. 'Nuff said.

  4. Ugh, drunk people shouldn't be allowed to TOUCH the phone, should they!
    Just take care of yourself, and remember the four C's!
    (Words of wisdom, from another child of an alcoholic!)

  5. I remember well the drunken crying phone calls from my dad. I am also reminded that he probably did us a favor by walking out and never coming back. Part of me regrets I never saw him again, (I was 10 when he left) and when I read things like what you wrote, I am just relieved. I know it will work out the way it does, but I hope it works out with a minimal amount of heartbreak on your side.

  6. have my sympathies, my friend. Just take care of you, and keep reminding yourself that you can't own your father's behavior. I know that doesn't help in the moment, but you know I'd say it if I was there sipping tea with you in your kitchen, so it's what I'm saying now too. :) *hugs*

  7. Geez I can relate, my dad is drinking again at age 76 after a period of sobriety and was just forced to retire. I dont think he will last much longer without work. He really has nothing else...Just drinking with strangers in bars. No friends, no wife no hobbies. So sad.


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