Friday, March 07, 2008

A time line

I've written so many posts that I have not published that I cannot remember what I have and have not actually put out there. Anyway, I thought I would give a brief summary of the story of me and my father.

Ages 0-7 -- parents married. No good memories of my father.
Ages7-12 -- a strange time in which we saw him once a week, he drank lightly while we were there, and often played with us. I had a sense of un-reality, watchfulness, waiting for the other shoe to drop. You get the idea.
Ages 12-14 Dad has more trouble controlling his drinking around us. Gets mean. At every weekly visit I get picked on. I cry. I get yelled at for being too sensitive.
One day when I was 14: I had been in Alateen for a while and knew I shouldn't be treated this way; hadn't been long enough to realize I really couldn't control him. I told him that I couldn't deal with what was happening. Suggested that we just agree that I was too sensitive and he could stop yelling at me. Finished prepared speech by saying, "Sometimes it feels so bad I think about not coming." Father responds "If that is the way you feel don't come." That is literally the last thing he says to me for the better part of a year.
One day when I was 15: I called my dad and suggested we get together and talk. He says, "Why?" I stumble for words saying that it seems like we should. We meet at a park. Before I can say much of anything he forgives me for walking out on him and breaking his heart.
Ages 15-24: We have polite conversation, sometimes go to plays, I keep myself carefully protected. I get married at 22 (okay, 21, but very close to my birthday) and he doesn't come, according to my sister it is because I don't want to be given away. If I just call and tell him how much I love him and want him to be there, if I just let him give me away (which he has dreamed about ever since I was born), he will come. I inform my shocked sister that I would prefer he not come.
I tell pretty much anyone who will listen how terrible my father is. I bitch until I can't stand to listen to myself anymore. At one point I have a revelation that I just have the father I have and all this whining and yelling and crying won't change that. I feel like I have made peace with who he is.
Age 24: He sobers up. I laughingly tell people that I'm angry about it. First it is about 20 years too late, second why did he have to wait until right after I found peace with him being a drunk? I am not certain exactly how I am supposed to respond. Later I get his "amends" letter in which he tells me he wants to apologize for anything he might have done that hurt me. He cannot apparently think of anything specific but wants to cover his bases. I decide that he is still a jerk and ignore him.
Age 26: We get invited to his wedding. Dad buys tickets for everybody. I really like his wife. She reminds me of my mother.
A few years later: Wife leaves him after he starts drinking. We do not hear from him for several years.
Age 30+: New girlfriend in his life wants to come out to meet us. Andrew adores her. I like her very much. They get married, she wants to be "grandma." I tell her that I don't want Andrew to loose another grandmother. She makes a commitment to him. Did I mention that Andrew adores her? They talk on the phone when he is sad. Dad and new wife bring my family and my sister's out to visit at least one other time. Their marriage lasts about six years, I think. It ends when Dad starts drinking. Ex-wife continues to call Andrew. They stay in touch for about a year and she drifts out of his life. Dad does not talk to us for a year. I learn that he is nearly fired. He goes to rehab again, and reestablishes contact.
Age late 30's - last summer/fall: Dad seems to be holding it together. Visits once a year and is always sober when he gets here. Brian thinks he is the coolest grandad ever, which has everything to do with the money he spends. Andrew never really forgives him for not staying married to the last wife. He, along with me and Roland, are all polite to my father. A visitor would think we got along fine. We talk about nothing in particular. There is no significant sharing. He seems small to me, somehow not connected to the monster of my early childhood memories, but also not someone I want to get close to. I do Alanon, therapy, get a grip on many of my adult-child-of-an-alcoholic issues. Realize I'm not angry at him any more. I sometimes feel sorry for him. I also realize that not being angry at him doesn't replace the work I do in therapy and Alanon.
Spring/Summer/Fall 07: Dad retires, finishes cottages-by-the-lake project he has talked about since forever, and starts drinking again -- not necessarily in that order.
Spring 2008: (um...I'm 44 in case you're wondering) I realize that we are three months away from the vacation and my father is drinking heavily. My sister and I deal with the reality that we are going to be with our father during a time when he is not sober -- something we have not had to deal with in 20 years. I have visions in which my father puts his arm around Brian and says, "You still love me, right Brian? Your mother hates me. I don't know why. I tried to be the best father I could, but she always was a sensitive, moody bitch. But you're still my buddy, right Brian? You still love me." My sister expresses concern that she will arrive at the airport and our father won't pick her up because he is passed out. I worry about whether there will be food. Roland reminds me that we already decided to refuse the offer of plane tickets so that we could leave whenever we wanted and that we can buy the food. I remember my therapist telling me that when I start to have those "little-girl" fears and anxieties I am to hold my car keys and say, "I am not a little girl any more. I am a grown woman and I can drive away if I want to."

I write rambling blog posts and delete most of them. Many of them are about how strange it is that I still go through this, still have to deal with childhood demons, even though I don't feel angry at him. I think a lot about what it means to forgive, and not to forgive and how little it seems to have to do with my own stages of recovery. Not that it doesn't have something to do with it, but just not as much as I thought it would.

And just in case you are wondering, I am actually doing much better than the blog would indicate. I am finally getting healthy, my classes are great, the boys are good, and Roland may be on his way (finally!) to being able to get enough rest.

He joked today that the CPAP made him feel so good when he slept with it that he was going to wear it all day long. Once he finally makes and appointment with the local guy.

8 comments:

  1. Thanks for writing. Your previous post about your dad makes more sense now that I've read this one. Glad to hear you are doing well.

    Maia
    maia-familytimes.blogspot.com

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  2. God. It's just spooky reading your posts. This is so similar to my relationship with my mother and what my daughter is working through with her dad. Unfortunately, it does take time and maturity (for all concerned) to get to a place that is comfortable.

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  3. Thank you for sharing this.

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  4. I have a very similar story, am an adult child of 2 alcoholics, and my dad is drinking again too. He is76 yrs old and has recently been made to retire from Ford Mo co. He has nothing left in life but to drink. We were going to try to visit him this summer, but finances will not allow it now. I'm just afraid he will die before I make it there (5 states away). I also feel resentment at times that he wasnt the father to me that I wished he was. My mom is a member of AA, but is also alone and miserable. I thank Alanon for leading me down a different path. My husband doesn't drink and hopefully I will not be alone and miserable as they are when I am old.

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  5. Thank you. Timing is everything.

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  6. Thank you for being brave enough to hit "publish".

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  7. That had to be hard to write and share. Thank you for doing so. I think you're amazingly strong and you have a good support system and that makes me happy for you.

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  8. I think we do what we do for kids because we had always hoped someone would do that for us. And didn't.
    It's our penance to give to others what we feel we were deprived of. That forgiving and unconditional love.
    I am happy you shared this background. Although our history does not define us, it shapes us and gives meaning to who we have become.
    You are a strong, caring, loving WOMAN.
    And just because you love someone doesn't mean you have to like them.

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