Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Wanted: closure.

When I was a young kid, I remember my mom having conversations with other moms about "mom stuff". You know, pretty much the same stuff that you and I would talk about if we chatted it up? Since the beginning of time, I'm pretty sure not too much has changed. Well, okay I'm sure some of it has.. we've graduated from "I just have to tell you how Timmy makes me so angry, he just WON'T learn how to make his own fire at bedtime..he just throws stones at me!" to well.. you can probably just fill in your own blank.

One of the things I remember was how everyone thought my mom was single. 

My mom wasn't single. But I can say that my dad never once visited the schools we all attended, not a single time. I remember my mom's reaction to people thinking she was the parent of (at that time) 6 kids. She would sort of pause.. and look away, usually down at me, and then say how my dad was just at home. She would make it sound like my dad was a "stay at home daddy". My dad was at home, never worked, but he didn't care for any of us. I mean that in both ways- he was depressed about being a father and he didn't do anything with us kids when in his care. He was a true hermit.

I love my dad. I mean, I can't say that he was the worst person to walk the earth when he was alive. But he was a sick guy. He was very depressed and battled with alcoholism for years. Years that pretty much took over my whole childhood. I don't remember seeing my dad sober in the late evenings. Early mornings when we would all get up for school, he was usually heading to bed after drinking all night.
And my dad didn't go to the corner bar. He stayed at home and drank, which if I can give him an bonus points at least he didn't drive anyway. We didn't own a car at all growing up so those were easy points I suppose.
I remember after he had his first heart attack, he said that he was going to eat right and take better care of his body. That meant from switching to cans of beer from his usual Peppermint Schnapps.

My dad passed away a few days before James' 2nd birthday from his 2nd heart attack. When his body was found in his apartment it was noted that there was a can of beer on the kitchen counter.
To this day... to this very day I wonder if he relapsed. He was sober for a good 12 years and had a relapse about 3 years after he quit drinking alcohol. I remember him telling me how upset he was with himself with that relapse. But he got right back on track and did everything he had to do to make sure he stayed sober. I was always in awe of him. I saw him in 2000 and in 2002 while he lived in Portland, OR and the first thing I always noticed right from leaving the airplane was his smile.
My dad never smiled when we grew up. He hated his rotting teeth, sure. But he couldn't smile. He didn't have a single feeling in his body to make him smile.

I always go back and forth with being upset about my shitty childhood and with how much my dad changed when he was sober. It was a pleasure to see him sober. It was a life-changing moment for him and for me. I got to know how this person really was instead of an overweight, super-depressed, angry guy that would shoo me away if I asked for homework help. He was a really nice guy.

Now that I'm 33 and I will sometimes go to those memories in my brain and then I feel upset about my dad neglecting us- that moment I saw him truly sober for the first time helps me to cope with it all. A year after my dad started his sober journey, you could tell he was in the middle of a very exhausting war, but he was fucking winning it. And he was feeling a little proud of himself. He didn't feel defeated. He felt hopeful. You could see that in his face and I remind myself of that whenever I get angry at him.

I get angry that he's not around anymore. He can't be a grandpa, a dad-in-law to a man who he would LOVE and never even met. He can't be my dad anymore and it makes me so angry. I wanted him to see how awesome little kids could be when you're sober and he would have loved James and Natalie. He would see how quirky they are and know that some of that comes from his quirky daughter who comes from a quirky father. He would see how beautiful that is and he's missing it.

But someone is definitely watching out for Natalie.. I've been convinced more than once that Natalie was comforted by some of our closest family members who have passed away in the past few years. "They" are also why she gets through her life thriving the way she does. I've had so many dreams where my dad was hugging her and even just typing that makes me tear up. I know that he's around her when she's in the hospital..I've felt it many times.

So it's been 4 years that he's been gone and I still wonder why that can of beer was found in his apartment. Isn't that kind of silly? I wonder what he was going through.. He would never just call me up to tell me that he was having a rough time. And actually, he didn't speak to me for over a year before he death and it took me a long time, but I realized why.. things probably weren't great for him. Here I was, raising a toddling baby and an infant..I know my dad because he would say something like "well I knew you were busy with the kids..."
It's just frustrating. For some reason, today is just one of those days where I miss him like hell. I know it's probably typical for someone like me to have "daddy issues" but most of the issues I have are with how I never really got closure with my dad's death. I don't have a single thing, other than a few photos, that belong to him. It's hard.

But it just makes me hug my husband more because I lucked out in the daddy, husband department.

Big time.


Valerie Eshenbaugh said...

What a beautiful piece of art you wrote here Dawn. You know, I knew very little about your Dad and the situation that was dealt to you. It's a hard and traumatic situation to over-come. I can say I can relate to some degree, but I will not say I fully understand, because that isn't something that's possible.
It's hard to not have the closure that is hoped for in such a situation. It always leaves you wondering. I can say that I feel that your father is looking over all of your family even though some of that isn't exactly a proven fact. The feeling of him being that guardian angel is probably a bittersweet type of feeling, but the entirety of it is heartwarming.
No one can ask for a sweeter gift than a guardian angel, Dawn.

Stefenie said...