This past Sunday was my father’s birthday. He had been in the hospital for the four days prior, so I was fairly confident that he would be sober (he had just been released the evening before). I was very pleasantly surprised that we had SUCH a nice time. It was just my sister, her 10 month old daughter, my parents and me. It is rare these days that our whole family is together (all five of us lol). It was really cute to see my dad with the baby- she’s their only grandchild. My sister kept telling me to take videos and pictures of our father holding the baby and singing to her. I think we always have the thought in the back of our minds that each time we see him could be the last. I realize that is very morbid, but he is in bad health and still makes really bad choices. Each time we have a day like this, we relish the new memories we made with him and the feeling of having a “normal family”. I know from lots and lots and lots of prior experiences not to take days like this for granted because my dad can easily erase the good feelings with one nasty email.
We have a lot of fun, celebratory events coming up, mostly all revolving around my niece…her Christening, her first birthday, her first birthday party. My dad has always been able to keep it together for big events like this, which is always a relief. However, he also has a tendency to cancel coming at the last minute. I never thought I would say this, but I really hope he comes to everything, because I am pretty sure they will be more good memories for our family, and we definitely could use more of those!
Yesterday was my 39th birthday (how is that even possible?!?!). It made me recollect one of my earlier birthdays…my 19th to be exact. That was probably one of the worst birthdays- no, actual days- of my life. Weeks prior, my father assaulted me and was arrested and the police issued a restraining order against him on my behalf to prevent him from coming near me or to the house. His court date was set afterwards and coincidentally landed on my 19th birthday. I was pressured by my mother and my father’s lawyer to drop the assault charges, which I did, and after going to court, my father was cleared and the restraining order was dropped. After staying in a hotel by his job for several weeks, my father was allowed to come home. I do not remember (or chose not to remember) the exact details of that day. I remember walking into the courthouse with just my mom. I can recollect speaking to my dad’s lawyer, but not having to actually speak to the judge. Most of my memories of that day are fuzzy. I can’t even really remember what happened when we arrived back home as a “family”. Did my mom make my favorite vanilla cake with chocolate frosting and M&Ms? Did my mom, sister and dad stand around the table singing “Happy Birthday” as I blew out the candles? Did my mom sign my birthday card, “Love, Mom and Dad”? I really don’t recall. I just remember it REALLY SUCKING. That is a juvenile way of describing it, but when I think about that day, that’s how I felt…it just sucked. It was awkward and forced and I was conflicted and confused. I loved my dad, but he physically attacked me and most of the time we all just acted like nothing happened.
It is weird to think about that day. Sometimes it feels like it never actually happened…like it was just a very realistic nightmare, yet it was one of the defining moments of my young adult life. It is hard to believe that it was twenty years ago. It is not something I dwell on often, but I do think about it every year on my birthday.
Today someone asked how my father has been since he had a stroke two months ago…I never quite know how to answer this. I have always firmly stated and believed that NOTHING would make my dad stop drinking, yet since he got home from the physical rehabilitation center, he isn’t really drinking. I say “really” because my mom has caught him a couple of times with one beer, but he is not sitting home drinking vodka all day like before. I am not confident that my father has “stopped drinking” and I almost can’t believe that he is maintaining any kind of sobriety (even though it is sort of forced and not really by choice). He also is supposedly not smoking (he smoked almost 2 packs a day pre-stroke). My mother is at work all day, so he is alone a lot, but she hasn’t seen any evidence of him smoking. It is like I keep waiting for things to go back to the way they were (even though how things are now is clearly better). It is kind of like that “pinch me” feeling- I don’t want to believe that my dad actually might stop drinking because I don’t want to be disappointed when it doesn’t happen. But that has left me in this weird in between place- a suspended reality. I don’t want things to go back to how they were, but I don’t really believe that they will stay how they are now. I’m really confused! And part of me is annoyed with myself because I should just be so happy that my dad isn’t drinking in the moment.
Christmas is has always been really low key in our family because it is just my mom, dad, sister and me. And normally there is a lot of anxiety leading up to it because my dad’s behavior was always unpredictable. A family holiday or event where nothing bad happened was considered a success! Even though my dad is depressed and still not always the nicest guy, I am curious to get more of an up close and personal look at what is going on at my parent’s house when I am there for 24 hours. It is hard to see my dad in a diaper, hardly able to walk by himself- I am still definitely getting used to that. But I will take that over how horrible he was to all of us before. For the first time in many, many years, I am not dreading going to my parent’s house for the holidays and that is a nice feeling that I am allowing myself to embrace.