(un)happy birthday

happy-birthday-chihuahua

Today is my dad’s birthday.  Growing up, his birthday was always a day my sister and I dreaded because it seemed like he was extra nasty on “his day”.  During the two years my father was sober, I actually enjoyed celebrating his birthday- we would BBQ or go out to brunch and he was pleasant and grateful for whatever gifts we gave him.

About 8 months ago, I found my dad the most perfect birthday card.  My family has a joke about chihuahuas and I found a card in the shape of that dog.  Even though it was so many months before his birthday, I bought the card anyway and saved it until now.  (Side note: I LOVE cards and have several card boxes full of cards for any occasion!!)

Now that my father is drinking again, I don’t even want to give the card to him.  I know that sounds very silly and petty, but it is not really about the card at all.  It is about the fact that for the past couple of years I enjoyed having a relationship with my father and throughout that time, I enjoyed family holidays again and looked forward to other occasions to celebrate.  I guess when I look back on myself buying that card eight months ago, I feel dumb for how naive I was.  His sobriety (following a stroke) was so abrupt and so absolute (pun intended) that I just blindly believed it was going to last.  I took that card out of the box today and just felt sad.  The dad that I bought that card for is gone…once again replaced by the alcoholic I am all too familiar with.  And that’s really nothing to celebrate.

A child of marriage

broken-vows-900

Next month it will be two years that my dad has been sober. TWO. YEARS.  I still can’t believe it.  It’s probably the weirdest thing that has ever happened to me!  I would have never imagined him not drinking for a weekend, let alone TWO YEARS.  I read an article today about being a child of divorce and the effects it has.  I have never been able to relate to that because my mother stayed with my father throughout my childhood.  They have now been married over 40 years…I guess she took the “for better or for worse, in sickness and in health vows” very seriously.  It has certainly not been a romantic fairy tale at all.  My mother was a battered wife, for lack of a better term.  Why she stayed, I will never understand, because none of us ever expected him to stop drinking.  I don’t think she ever saw the light at the end of the tunnel and I think she stayed for lots of reasons- fear, security, love?, fear, dependency, money, fear.  I used to pray that my mother would leave and take us out of that abusive family structure.  My little sister would tell my mom she wanted her to divorce my dad as her Christmas present (so sad).  But, my mom stayed.  Through good times (rare) and bad (often).  I am many things that define who I am, but I am not a child of divorce.

And now I wonder…if my mom had left my dad, would I have any relationship with him at all?  Would he even be alive?  I think if she had left when I was a teenager, I would have just cut him out of my life entirely.  I know it is a little cheesy to believe “everything happens for a reason”, but in this case, it kind of does.  My mom never left my dad and I have been forced to figure out how to have some kind of a relationship with him for all of my adult life (thanks, therapy!) and now he is sober and “normal” and we do have a relationship- a pretty decent one, too.  I called my dad today, just to say hi and talk.  If you would have told me that I would have done that two years ago, I would have fallen on the floor laughing, because two years ago I would have had an inbox full of nasty voicemails from him on my phone.  Two years ago, I still had a separate email address dedicated for him because he would send multiple daily harassing emails…now I email him pictures of my dog and cat sleeping together on the dog bed, just because it’s cute.  Two years ago, I had him blocked on all social media…just a couple days ago, I considered friending him on Facebook (still a little hesitant on that one lol).  It is just weird how things can change so abruptly and completely.  I still will never understand why my mother didn’t leave when things were at their worst.  Maybe she was weak, maybe she was scared, maybe there were things that happened between my parents that I don’t even know about.  Perhaps being a child of a divorce would have spared me many years of pain and abuse and fear and anxiety, but perhaps it would have also robbed me out of having a second chance with my dad.

And he probably doesn’t deserve this second chance at all…but I do.