I don’t share a lot of my issues here – well, the things that matter anyway. But today, I’m going to ask your help. This might be a long one – so settle in, folks.
My dad is an alcoholic. He just got out of jail for what I assume is drink driving – which he’s been arrested for more times than I have fingers and toes. Just sad.
My Mom and Dad got a divorce when I was a little Sassypanties. Probably when I was 7 or 8. After that time, it’s been hit or miss as far as when he’d come get my brother and I for a weekend or have any visitation whatsoever. The good things about my dad are unfortunately outweighed by the not-so-hot things and my memories tend to focus on the negative – most of the time. There would be years that passed with no word from him or knowing where he was. Many times – more than I can count – he was supposed to come get us and never showed up. I remember times that I’d be sitting on the couch backwards on my knees, parting the window curtains with my little hands, chin resting on the back of the couch for so long I had fabric burns, just waiting for a car or truck to pull into the driveway. Eagerly waiting for him to come pick us up. There were times he never showed.
I was lucky to have a step-dad that took over and made up for the lack of my dad in many ways – in other ways, he was harder to deal with. Strict and short fused. But he was there, I was supported and loved and given hugs and kisses everyday. Eventually, I began calling my step-dad, my “Dad” when I’d talk to people – but never to him because I always felt that it was almost derogatory, because calling him dad would somehow compare him to MY dad and there just was no comparison. In my mind he was far from being anything like MY dad, so I always called him by his first name. He passed away 2 years ago from cancer – and only then…when he was very sick, did I call him “Daddy”. I wanted him to know at the end of his life that he was the only daddy that I ever truly had. When I was in about 4th grade, I took my step-dads last name. It was just a lot easier at that time – because I felt that I had to explain who my step-dad was so often that it was just easier to change my last name and call him my “dad”. This never went well if we were given the opportunity to go to my “real dads” house for the weekend and if I had homework that needed done. It never failed that he saw me put my step-dads last name on my papers. He didn’t like it – but I honestly think he understood on some level.
I remember one time when my dad was supposed to come get us for the weekend. We had been packed and waited and waited for him to come get us. Taking my position on the couch, waiting for those headlights to turn into the driveway…I waited, for what seemed like several hours – but was probably more like 2. I had gotten sidetracked and started watching TV eventually when I saw headlights cast shadows on the living room walls. My step-dad went out and then came back in and he closed the door. The headlights came back on and faded away. Apparently, my step-dad went outside and my dad was just simply too drunk to take us anywhere that night. We stayed home that weekend. He sat us down and explained that he was too drunk to drive us anywhere. It was the first time I saw my step-dad cry. He didn’t cry for himself – he cried for us.
At times, I feel like my dad has disappointed me on every level at one time or another. Even at my high school graduation when he showed up with his dad – my grandpa – and this was a special night. Not only because I was graduating, but because I was singing the National Anthem that night to kick off the graduation ceremony. I was thrilled that he came and I could see him in the stands. They announced my name to come on stage, the band started the music and I sang. It was great. I looked up when I was done to see my dad as he was getting up to leave with my grandpa. Apparently, I found out later, that my grandpa did not appreciate that I had changed my name and they left. Another disappointment.
There have been times that I have been in his life on a regular basis. There have been times he stopped drinking. There have been times when he picked us up for the weekend and drove straight to a bar – leaving my brother and I in a car full of beer cans – so that he could go in for hours and hours, get drunk, then take us to wherever he was living at the time in the wee hours of the morning. To this day, I cannot drive through those towns without having a panic attack.
When I got married – at the age of 19, my dad came to the wedding, but I did not ask him to walk me down the aisle. My mothers dad walked me down the aisle. My grandpa was the only consistent male figure I had had in my life. I also thought that, politically anyway, it would be safer than choosing between my dad and step-dad. My reception was alcohol-free…on purpose. I mean, I invited him, but I had no idea if he would come, and in the event that he did, I didn’t want him to cause a scene. I’ve always had this “worry” in the pit of my stomach. And it doesn’t always have to do with my dad. Just life in general…things tend to not work out as I picture them all the time – clearly because of an unstable childhood, but to this day I still get that sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach.
When my husband graduated from college, we moved back to our home town. We had a baby while he was in college. After we moved back home, I had some serious doubts about whether or not I wanted my dad to be a part of our lives. To date, I knew that my dad was an alcoholic – I know that he was abusive towards my mother, because when we were all still living under the same roof as a family, as a child I had tried to get in the middle of them to stop him from hitting her on more than one occasion. I had witnessed him beating up almost every girlfriend I ever knew, I had called the police on him at least three times. I have warned new girlfriends about his abusive habits in the hopes that they would run – but why would they listen to a 10 or 12 year old? I had witnessed him driving us around while he was weaving on the road – lucky to make it to our destination. I’ve seen him rummage through my bags to find my wallet and take the $5 my mom had given me to spend while we were with him for the weekend so he could go get beer, I’ve seen the types of people that he hung out with – how there was one particular friend that tried to get in my 13 year old pants – unsuccessfully- on one occasion – which I never told a soul. Taking all of this behavior into account, I wasn’t sure I wanted to expose my child to this type of person. I went to counselling – which honestly didn’t really help all that much. I felt as though it was more of me telling stories about my dad, how it affected me, but ultimately I feel as though I wanted my counselor to help me make the decision if I should or should not introduce my dad to my daughter. Basically what it came down to was, it was my own decision.
After talking to my dad, and weighing my options, I chose to let him meet her. It was short lived – he fell off the face of the earth again. Didn’t hear from him for several years. I attempted to re-build my relationship with his side of the family. His brother encompasses everything good that my dad possesses and none of the bad. He’s incredible and I’m thankful that he saw the light and chose a cleaner life. It seems as though all the men on my dads side of the family have alcohol issues of one kind or another. All abusive. All have spent time in jail.
My life’s goal has been to break the cycle and to never put my children through anything like what I had gone through in my life. They were going to have a stable home-life with a loving mother and father who shower them with love and attention and know that they are truly accepted and OURS.
I’ll fast–forward to last Thanksgiving when dear old dad had just gotten out of jail for serving 3 years. This was the longest he had ever been in, from what I can tell. He never attempted contact with me during that time, but when my uncles father in law passed away, and I went to the service for him, my dad showed up – uninvited – and I almost shit my pants. After not hearing from him for YEARS, he showed up to this service – which clearly took guts – because he’s burned just about all of his bridges in the family. No one was overly happy to see him. This was the first time I had seen him since my step-dad had passed away and had almost forgotten that I had someone out there that I could call Dad, and I think I just needed to be held by someone – by him. I retreated outside to get some fresh air after I mustered up the strength to go give him a long and lingering hug. Feeling sucker-punched.
While I was outside for a few minutes, he came out as though he was leaving. I said, “hey” – he said, “I didn’t know where you went – so, see ya.” Poof. There he went…as though I owed him something.
My dad has this thing inside him that gets him super pissy, super easily. If he feels as though he’s not the center of attention – which may come from his days of singing on stage, he gets a case of the ass and gets offended and tends to disappear. In the years since he’s been sort of back in my life, he’s come over for a birthday party for one of the kids and just sort of left – because no one was doting over him. It happens a lot. Nevermind that I had a house full of people and about a dozen children I was trying to host.
So when I got two phone calls back to back yesterday and received one voicemail from him, I was certain that he was back out of jail. I have yet to return the call and this morning he called again, but left no message.
I’m proceeding with caution. I don’t want you to think that I’m not supportive of him. I am. If he’s sober. That’s my only requirement. He’s got demons he needs to deal with. I’m not going to subject myself or my children to him unless I’m certain that he’s in a stable place in his life – no matter how short-lived. But there has to come a time where I decide enough is enough. I can only take getting kicked in the gut so much, before I realize that I just can’t deal with him anymore. I’ve told him when he had stopped drinking before that he needs to find different friends, that the same old friends he’s got are going to lead him down the same old path. Nothing will change. He had my support when he stopped drinking before and as an adult we actually had a pretty good relationship starting to form and then he fucked it all up again.
After he had gotten out of jail for the 3 years, he called me on Thanksgiving and then I called him close to Christmas to see if he sounded sober and if he did, I was going to invite him over for a nice dinner to see his grand-daughters again. The day before he was supposed to come, his girlfriend – whoever she is – called me and told me that he was going back to jail because of something that they uncovered from several years back and “wasn’t going to make it to dinner”.
Yet another no show. Yet another disappointment.
The girlfriend called a few times while he was in jail – I answered the first couple times. She said that he wanted her to call me to see if I’d go visit him in jail. Ummmm….
I’ve lived a very respectable, straight life. Never in trouble – I pay my bills, own a home, have two kids, an old yellow dog and a car payment – hell, I was 35 years old before I got drunk for the first time (it didn’t go well…I’ll write about that sometime…it’s hilarious). I had no interest in going to visit a man in jail that I didn’t really even have a relationship with. I was not going to begin reconnecting with him while he’s sitting there, locked up. But I didn’t say I wouldn’t – I had to think about it. Turns out – I’m not really interested in rewarding someone with a visit in jail. I’m not the type of person who belongs in that environment and I didn’t even know if we’d have anything to talk about anyway. What was the point? For him to feel better? For him to think that he can manipulate me? Fuck that. I haven’t really had him around, nor been supported by him in any way for many years. If he wants a relationship with me? He’s going to have to earn it.
So now, I have a voicemail from him and two other missed calls that are hanging over my head. Maybe he just wants to cash in his raincheck from Christmas. Maybe he wants to give me a ration of shit for not coming to visit him in jail. I’m debating on whether I want to call him back.
Sassyfans? I need insight and guidance. Do any of you have any advice for me? If I’m going to do something, I should probably do it after work today. I’m all twisted in knots. I’d be grateful if you blew up my comment area with your words of wisdom and support.
Thanks for reading. I hope I didn’t bounce around too much. Summing up your life in about 2500 words is a little tough. Thanks again.