I am in the process of undergoing a lot of what I hope are vital transformations. Whether they last only a moment or the rest of my life, only time will tell.
In an effort to transform, or come alive, I am doing a lot of reading and a lot of soul searching. I’m also trying to forgive. I’m forgiving my “self” as well as those whom I feel I need to forgive for perceived wrongdoings to me in my eyes. That’s a very short list, by the way, but an important one.
In my twenties I was a pretty serious drinker under the guise of being a “party girl”. We would go out on weekends and for some reason I thought five drinks in a couple of hours was enough. Of course after five drinks I was no longer capable of remembering whether I had more or not. Anyway, once I married a drinker, I decided for the safety of the child we had together, that I had better make sure one of us was sober. That was not going to be my husband so that left me. In many ways over the past 35+ years since that decision I have been more of a dry drunk than a sober individual even though at the worst I average one or two drinks a year. In my own way I have more or less tried to stumble through the 12 steps of AA.
Being a dry drunk to me doesn’t mean that I walk around being angry all the time. I don’t really think I do, but when I start to do some serious soul searching I can still feel the anger deep inside. But it does mean that I need to get down to some very basic ideas about my “self” while there is still time. These ideas are ones created because of the relationship with my father. I have decided to make amends with him.
This is one of the steps in the AA program.
8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
I think perhaps in my older teens I could have become more compassionate towards him. I perceived around third grade that he withheld love from me so I withheld love from him. He did not manage to spend much time with me so, in retaliation, when we did spend time together it was usually with me being completely indifferent to him.
My purpose today is not to explain how in his life he ended up the broken man that he was. My purpose is to let him know that I understand why he had no more love to give me. I regret that situation but I have finally come to accept it.
He had several heart problems and more than one heart attack and was hospitalized. The first time he was hospitalized I was in school my sophomore year and couldn’t come home for a few weeks because of our schedule. The next time, I came home one weekend from my summer session in college before my junior year to visit him in the hospital. When I walked into the room he was completely astonished that I was there. I don’t remember how long I stayed but I remember the feeling that I wasn’t expected. It kind of hurt. It was an awkward time. We really didn’t have much to say to each other.
Much of his health problems were kept from me because I guess the other members of my family felt I had enough problems of my own…or I wasn’t significant enough to be “in” on such matters.
He lasted another year before he was hospitalized again. By this time I was experiencing my second junior year in college because I had changed majors. It was spring time and I had papers to write and a serious boyfriend. I was now twenty one and probably could be described as taking care of only myself and my needs. By this time I knew little of what was happening in my father’s life. He spent most of his free time with my sister and I never really knew or cared where he was.
I was not even in direct contact with him. We were leading separate lives even though I was still living at home. My aunt reported that the doctor said he was doing well. I remember where I was on campus when the thought crossed my mind that I should go see him. But he was doing OK. I’d go tomorrow. I put off going to the hospital.
There was no tomorrow. He died that night. I called my boyfriend who met me at the hospital. He was the only one whom I could think of who would give me some support. I remember my sister and her husband being there but I honestly don’t know how I got to the hospital or who else was there.
Father’s Day was never anything special in our house. When I was old enough to ride the bus into town for a few years in high school I would buy him some small gift but often the day would come and go with little recognition. I can’t remember how many times I tried to give him gifts that I had personally bought or when I stopped. I really didn’t know what Father’s Day was all about. It was just one of many celebrations we never seemed to have in our household.
He died and went to the grave without me being able to ask him why he couldn’t show me he loved me or if he even did. I try to examine his life through his eyes. He promised my mother that he would not break up the family, even though several couples offered to adopt me. I was only three when she died. He liked a beer once in a while when he and my uncle got together but I don’t ever remember him getting drunk. He never took a vacation after mother died. He went to work every day until he started having health problems. I guess to him that was being a good father and in the 1950s and mid 60s, that was probably right.
He was a good father for those times. But a father I resented because he had nothing emotionally left to give me. So, on this Father’s Day, only forty three years too late, I am sending my father best wishes for a happy day, wherever he may be. I am trying to make amends for my part in our failed relationship. When a tire is flat because it is empty of air, it can’t support the car safely. It causes the whole car to wobble. My father’s emotional tank was flat and it has taken me forever to forgive him for trying to continue to steer the car all those years on four flat tires.
It’s a little late, but I’m sorry, Dad. Maybe if we run across each other again we can have a fresh start. What do you say? Happy Father’s Day. Your loving daughter, Annie.
Namaste. Attic Annie