Like father, like son

My paternal grandfather passed away in 1990 when I was 12 years old. I adored him and he was a loving, gentle grandpa. Most of my memories of him were either of him on the beach or sitting in his favorite chair reading or writing in his journal. It was not until many years later that I learned the truth about my grandfather…that he was “like my dad”. He was a verbally abusive, belligerent alcoholic. I was stunned. It didn’t change how I felt about him, but I was very surprised and it made me think about how alcoholism seems to permeate families.

Recently, my sister was at my grandparents’ house and brought me back one of my grandfather’s journals (even though they were always in plain sight, everyone seemed to respect his privacy and I had never read any of them growing up). As I was just reading it, one entry really touched me. This is what he wrote in 1989:

“My son said that I have a problem to my wife. I can’t blame him for feeling the way he does. Christ, will I ever learn- I just hurt everyone.”

This, naturally, made me think of my father (although the son my grandfather was referring to was actually my uncle). I wonder in his sober moments if my dad really thinks about what he has done to our family…how he has hurt us physically and emotionally? I wonder if he really understands how his drinking destroyed our family? My father knows he is an alcoholic because he has occasionally said “daddy drinks too much” (my dad speaks in the third person…I know, creeeeppppy- lol). I drink very, very cautiously and if I never had another alcoholic beverage again in my life it wouldn’t faze me at all. So, how did my dad grow up with an alcoholic father and STILL become the way he is? Or is he the way he is BECAUSE my grandfather was an alcoholic? Obviously those are rhetorical questions.

I just don’t get how both my grandpa and my dad could both know how much their drinking was hurting their families and still do it. I know it isn’t that easy and that it is a deep-rooted addiction, but it makes me sad that neither of them tried to stop. My grandfather died at a pretty young age of complications from diabetes, so maybe he would have tried at some point, but my dad has been an alcoholic for almost 23 years (wow.) and as far as I know he has never taken any steps to get help.

It just makes me really sad.

Us and Them.

US and THEM. I’m starting to realize more than ever that regardless of their good intentions, people who did not grow up in an alcoholic family just will NEVER get it. Please note I didn’t write Us versus Them, we aren’t against each other, we just come from different places. I think we can coexist happily in this world, Us and Them, but there are things that can’t be explained or fully understood by someone who did not experience life with an alcoholic.

I have been frustrated lately by my boyfriend and his feelings towards my dad. I know that the things he says and thinks are coming from a good place and that he cares about me so much he can’t stand to see my dad hurt me. That being said, he just does not understand that regardless of what my dad has done (or currently does) that he is still my father. I was talking about this with my therapist last week and she summed it up pretty well…we have more than one friend in our lifetime and usually more than one love, but we only have one mother and one father and there is no choice involved in that selection. My boyfriend thinks that I should just write my dad off…just like that. Looking at it from purely a logical standpoint, I can see why that makes sense. My father says horrible things to me, is drunk more often than he is sober and harasses me endlessly. But it is easier said than done. He’s not an abusive husband, he’s my dad. When I say that aloud, it makes so much sense to me. He’s my dad…period. And I do love him and it’s complicated and I have so many good memories of him from before he became an alcoholic. What I have done over the years is seriously limit the amount of interaction I have with him. I only see him every few months. I rarely talk to him on the phone and I only respond to 1 out of every 100 emails. Those are my choices. And if I ever decide to completely “write him off” it is not going to be to please someone else or because a guy gave me an ultimatum.

I know that my boyfriend just will never understand, through no fault of his own, of course. I am glad he can’t empathize and that he had a pretty normal childhood. But he is one of THEM. And I am one of US.

Well, THAT lasted long…

I went home to my parent’s house for the first time in six months for Father’s Day yesterday. As I have mentioned before, this is one of my least favorite days of the year, so naturally I had some trepidation about the visit. I see my mom all the time because she comes down to where my sister and I live (about an hour away from my hometown), but I have not seen my dad since Christmas Day.

I am happy to report that everything went fine. My friend asked me today how things were and I told her there were no issues and so she said, “oh so he didn’t drink?” Nooooo…my father ALWAYS drinks, it is just a matter of how much and how early he starts. On the rare occasions that he does not drink at all, he literally stays in bed all day. But, it was a nice day. We had lunch, my sister helped my dad with some computer stuff, I helped my mom set up her patio furniture. My dad watched golf while we all just caught up. It was laid back and there was no drama. My dad even seemed grateful for the gift we got him (now we just get him Amazon gift cards- can’t go wrong with that!) I left feeling content and made a mental note to perhaps visit more often.

Until today. My father called my cell phone while I was at work and left me a nasty voicemail. It was about three minutes long and he just rambled on and on about nonsense, but at the end he started screaming into the phone. He ended his message by sarcastically saying, “oh happy Father’s Day…what a JOKE!”

So, I erased my mental note about visiting more. Unfortunately, his behavior on Father’s Day is the exception and the voicemail is the norm. It is like a roller coaster ride and reminded me how negatively I have always been affected by his unpredictable behavior and moods. I finally think I have the guy figured out and he throws me for a loop. I should have known better and I should not be surprised or disappointed. But I am.

Long time, no see…

I just realized recently that I have not seen my father since Christmas. This is the longest I have ever gone without seeing him in my entire life. I was on the phone with my mom the other night and mentioned this to her and I actually asked her if she thought he missed me. She probably thought I was joking because she said, “maybe, but he talks TO you every day through his emails” (she thinks she is funnier than she is- lol).

My parents only live 45 minutes away from me. My hometown is pretty boring and I do not have any other reason to go there because all of my friends have moved away (whereas my sister goes there often because all of her childhood friends still live there and so she stops by my parents’ house occasionally). I am not sure why this bothers me…I should be ecstatically happy that he has been less involved in my life. But, the fact that he doesn’t seem to really care is a little disconcerting. I mean, he is still sending a minimum of three emails daily (especially lately due to my grandmother being ill). I speak to him occasionally when I call their house and he answers the phone. I just feel very disconnected from him and it makes me a little sad. But then I read one of his crazy emails or he is nasty to me on the phone and I remember why I gave up trying to have a normal relationship with him. A couple of months ago I redid my basement and invited him to come to my house to see it. He pretty much blew the idea off. I took it personally for a while until I realized that I can’t remember the last time my dad actually went somewhere- he has become very reclusive. I think that now I am a little nervous to see him because my sister says that he is in pretty bad shape health wise (no surprise there).

I guess it is just a classic case of “can’t live with him…can’t live without him”. I am sure if I spent time with my dad every single weekend, I would be ready to jump off a bridge, but there is a part of me that feels hurt that he seems to not care whether or not he sees me.