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.