For whatever reason, I felt very compelled to write this post.
If reading a strangers painfully personal truths, is something that makes you uncomfortable, then you might want to wait and read the next bike-y type post…
*hint* The next post is about my Clem Smith Jr. 🙂
So, I’m just warning you…read on at your own risk.
There is a weird social construct where “speaking ill of the dead” is considered a big no-no. Why is that? I am legitimately curious. It probably has something to do with the fact that the dead cannot rebut, or defend themselves. It’s a big reason obituaries tend to lean towards more of a tribute rather than an outpouring of ugly truths. And, I know we all do this, to an extent…make the deceased out to be something better than they were when they were alive. And I know that maybe my father, to some people through his life, was a good friend, and a caring person. I know that is their reality about my dad. And that’s fine. I understand that. I am not trying to make that reality different for them.
My dad could’ve been all things, a good friend, a decent husband and an abusive father…they aren’t mutually exclusive. But it feels like if we recognize only the good, sugar-coat or worse, ignore the bad, that it would invalidate the damage that he had caused to the people he might’ve hurt. That’s how it feels. So, maybe I’m trying to correct the record here, in order to fully respect/acknowledge my experiences and pain.
And please keep in mind, I loved my dad very much, I didn’t like him, but I did love him. And what you will read here are things that have been said to and actually discussed with my dad.
My dad was never the dad I needed him to be for me. He was however, the dad he thought he should be…and the only dad he knew how to be. Which, although may have been the reality of the situation, unfortunately fell way, way short of what I needed.
He admirably endured and overcame a really bad childhood, which I am sorry for. He came out on the other side of that trauma damaged and flawed, but alive, which if you know what he went through, was a feat in it’s own right. He learned how to be a survivor and a fighter because of his experiences. A lot of people would call him successful…and in some ways he was. And considering his severe hardships as a young man, it really is quite amazing where he ended up in life. That being said, I would not call him successful, not by my definition. In my eyes, I think he missed out on some of life’s really important things.
I am sad about losing him.
I’m feeling a lot of anger as well.
That’s also why I am writing this, the anger is a little surprising and something I didn’t anticipate.
It doesn’t feel like the type of anger that would be part of the many stages of grief, I know what that feels like…I felt that when I lost my mom 23 years ago.
This feels a lot different.
It’s not anger at my dad, either. I came to terms with that trauma-induced anger in my late 30’s. No, I think what’s making me feel angry is seeing people put him on a pedestal…calling him a “champion”…people that don’t even know him. Or worse, some people that did know him, are close to his family and still feel the need to say what a “great” man he was. To whom was he “great”? For whom was he a “champion”? His children? His grandchildren? No, he wasn’t. Was he great for himself and the people that he deemed worthy of his time, love, and attention? Yeah, sure, I guess for those people, he was their “great champion”. He might have been great and loving to those people.
But, I have a very different reality. And the pedestaling feels like it invalidates the experience that I had with my dad.
I hated my dad for a very good portion of my young and early adult life…until I finally talked to somebody about it. He did some serious damage to me as a child, that lasted a long time and that I still, to this day, feel residual from. He was both physically and mentally abusive. He was a “functioning” alcoholic. He was absent…even when he was home. His moods were wildly unpredictable, I never knew what “dad” I was dealing with at any given moment of any given day. A child needs to feel safe and secure to develop in a healthy way, so the unpredictability of his behavior toward me was very traumatizing and really damaging. I can remember exactly where I was standing in the house one time after he had hurt me, for what really felt like no reason…feeling so confused, wondering what just happened and saying to myself, “I will NEVER, EVER do that to my kids”. I was 8 years old.
I lived in very, very real fear of my father. Not a “fear out of respect” type of fear, but a fear of “not knowing which way he would hurt me” kind of fear. This fear was an all-encompassing part of my early, everyday life.
It left a mark that shows up even now. I’m 56 years old and the lasting effect is pretty staggering after all of these years.
The one positive thing he taught me, although unintentional, was how to do better. How to be better. To break that circle of abuse and be the dad for my children that I wanted and needed when I was a kid.
And so far, I think I’ve succeeded…until I die and my kids write their blog about me…LOL!
So, my dad and I got to the other side of all of the shit from the past, for the most part. And he was very different towards me in the last 10 or so years of his life. When we saw each other the few times (sometimes just once) a year, it was mostly good. I will say that he died not really knowing, caring to know, or making the time to learn about his grandchildren, and that, to me, is pretty pathetic and one of the many important things he chose to miss out on. But it was to be expected…and I had dropped my expectations of him to a pretty low point.
Fast forward to present day…we had a really good, although brief last visit a few weeks ago. He got to see his granddaughter, which he hadn’t seen in a long time. That made him very happy. We said our goodbyes, held each other and cried. I told him how much I loved him and that I would miss him terribly. It felt good to hold him. He was a great hugger.
In closing I will say one other thing…it is strangely odd, the feeling of being without parents. It’s something that you always have…your parents. Whether they are good or bad parents, there is a weird, underlying comfort to having them around. To not have them, and knowing that they’re gone forever is a very strange feeling.
So hug your parents today, hold them accountable for bad behavior. Work hard to make it work. Try to love them for who they are and not what you want them to be. Find the good.
Rest in peace dad.
Thanks for reading.
10 thoughts on “Losing something you never had”
Well said, and honest. I loved it and admire you for writing it. Oddly, as close as I think I was to your Mom and Dad, I had no idea. I loved your Mom more than you can imagine, but in those days real conversations were few and far between, if ever. The families your Dad and I came from was dysfunctional beyond imagination in many ways, and I believe he and I brought some of that with us. Again, in those days, there was NO ONE to talk to. I will always love you, Ron. Jim
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Thank you for your kind words Uncle Jim. I was worried about what you might think about this. But, what you said to me means a ton coming from you. I love you deeply.
I am sorry for all you went through as a child. Your Uncle and I really had no clue.
We were shocked when your mom and dad broke up. Your mom was such a dear person to us and we missed her desperately. I was never close to your dad after that so had no idea why he left your mom after all she did for him.
I am glad you worked things out and were able to talk to him and give him that last hug. I will always love him in a special way but I can say I was never close to him or Kathy. Just a distant relative, a brother to my husband, and that is about it. I will always have a special place in my heart for you Ronnie. I love who you are, so much like your mother and every time I see your face on Facebook, it warms my heart and I know how proud your mom would be of you. I wish you only happiness and know you are the best part of your dad and so very much of everything good of your mom. You are a special person, Ron, and this world is blessed to have you❤️
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This is amazing Aunt Gayle! Thank you so much for the message and the amazingly kind words. You and Uncle are two of my favorite people in the world and I love you and miss you so much!
Whilst I don’t know you personally, or your father, I just wanted you to know I’m sending love over the waves and that my thoughts are with you at this difficult time. Our relationship with our parents can be so tricky and fraught with contradictions and seemingly opposing views, and that’s just our own experience, when you factor in the idea that other people outside of the family unit had completely different experiences of them it makes things seem even more confusing. I just wanted you to know that I read this, I see you, and I hope writing and sharing this helps you on your journey of healing.
Wow, thank you Matt! It means a lot that you took the time to read the post and then write these kind words. Thank you so much!
I have reread this now a dozen times and will probably continue to reread. I never could put into words how hurtful it is to yearn for a relationship with your parents that other people have so seemingly easy. It is the most confusing thing I have ever experienced. Your words are brutally true and am so proud of you for being a great Dad in spite of. Wanted to say this here even though I blubbered to you yesterday.
Awww man, thank you so much Kelli! I love you, your support means a lot to me.
As I sit hear with tear filled eyes, this makes me think of 3 things. 1) I’m truly sorry you did not get the love from your the way you needed & deserved but I’m guessing this is what made you one of the most amazing Fathers I have ever known! 2) I’m so scared that 1 of my 3 children could write something very similar when I pass (not that I am an alcoholic but you know, we just don’t see eye to eye) & that breaks my heart. 3) I hate that my Mom doesn’t live close to me anymore & the day that I lose her will be one of the worst days of my life.
This was beautifully written Ron! I love you with all my heart & I miss you!!
Wow, thank you so much for taking the time
to write such kind words, Ayshea! They mean so much coming from you. I absolutely think the world of you and love you so much!