Thursday, June 30, 2011

Catharsis

My dad... before he was a dad. '66
So my Mother's Day post was something that I wasn't sure I should share... after I posted it, I almost hoped no one would read it but the response from friends and others who'd been in similar situations combined with a giant weight off my chest tells me that it was good decision.
So while I'm at it I may as well tell the other half of the story.
My father is still alive, last I heard. I've barely spoken to him in well over a year, I haven't spoken to him intentionally in over 10, and I'm really not sure I plan to.
I know this seems like a harsh statement, I assure you it is well deserved.
For anyone who thinks you only have one family and I shouldn't shut him out, well, I've heard it before from people who have a knack for debate and they weren't able to sway me, so I doubt you will either. You are welcome to your opinion and I am welcome to mine... but I will attempt to explain. (I'll warn you now, this is very long.)

Growing up with my mom and dad was great. I mean that. My dad worked all day (across the street) and I stayed home with my mother. We lived in a hot third floor apartment with no yard so in the summer we were at the beach after he got out of work almost every weekday and all day most weekends. We went to the closest amusement park a few times a year and the zoo or the circus at least once. I was always allowed to have friends over and encouraged to make new ones but some of my best memories are just of me and my mom, getting ice cream, walking to the park or coloring together. I was an only child until I was 8. I had no idea that I was the only reason my parents were together. I didn't know it was strange that my mom and dad didn't share a bed. The 'daddy snores' excuse seemed well enough for me and most of my friend's parents were divorced so I was already in the minority just by them being together. Maybe it was just because I didn't see him all the time, but I was a Daddy's girl for sure.

We were poor, but I never went without. Wearing the same fancy dress twice didn't bother me because I didn't know there was anything strange about that.
Ignorance really is bliss.
Here's the first time...
Look familiar?




















Flash forward to right before my brother was born...
Now, I can't say for certain that the fighting started at this point. It's possible it was going on all along and I just wasn't aware, or maybe they got less adept at hiding it. Maybe the stress of our expanding family triggered something. Maybe I just didn't understand what was happening until this point. All I know is it seems like the moment I got my 'big girl room' (I had shared with my mother up until then) and we started getting ready for my brother, everything started changing. My dad's mother 'Nana' appeared out of nowhere. I found out much later that they had fought before I was born and my father hadn't been speaking to her the whole time, but then it was just new family and more presents!
I LOVE presents. Must. Tell. Everyone.
My brother was born and took my old crib in my mother's bedroom, I got less attention but was also given more freedom. I wasn't home as much but when I was it seemed like my parents were living two different lives, I rarely saw them speak, the hugs and kisses they used to sneak in when I 'wasn't looking' disappeared. We still went to the beach, but my mom sat in the sand with us while my dad stayed at the picnic tables drinking. Stops to the liquor store were now mandatory before (and sometimes after) every outing. Like I said, maybe I just noticed it more or understood it better, maybe it was coincidence... either way, it was the beginning of a long and painful downward spiral.
My life didn't change significantly until my little sister came along. We moved to a new house because our little two bedroom apartment could no longer contain us. It was exciting and scary all at the same time. The new house was a duplex (two floors!) and much bigger than I had ever been in. We had a yard! I had my own big room that my mom decorated. I had a giant four poster bed. We had a shower instead of just a bathtub! Things should have been great.
But my dad had to get a second job driving taxis. Now we barely saw him, and when we did he was snoring on the couch or irritable. We tried to have family dinners together but he started missing them often to work. Now there was beer in the fridge at all times, and rarely was my dad's hand empty of one. I was 11 years old, convinced our new house was haunted and, never able to sleep right, I started listening to my parents fight every night... when my father bothered to come home that is.
Our landlord lived next door with her family, my mom caught on that there was something wrong in that house (I found out just a few years ago that there were domestic violence issues amongst many other things) and I wasn't allowed to play with their 3 kids who were all around my age. We stayed in the house or were ushered off to the park more often than not. We only went out to play in the yard when they weren't home...
My mother blamed my dad for putting us in an unsafe place.
My dad blamed my mom for his having to work all the time to afford it.
This Guy....
Turned into This Guy.
We went to the beach less and less, I withdrew into my own little world and tried to pretend it would all be okay. I hardly saw my dad anymore because it seemed like he had to work all the time.
Then my mother got sick.
My dad lost his day job.
Weekends became trips to the hospital.
Weekdays became getting my brother and sister ready for school and taking care of them after.
When she came home after a few months and a temporary fix, things never got better. She had to move her bedroom downstairs because the trip up and down to the second floor was too difficult. I still had to watch the kids.
My dad was now a silent ghost, slipping into the house occasionally to sleep or shower. Sometimes in the middle of the night so we'd never see him. Once in awhile we'd catch him for just a few minutes during the day. Hardly ever speaking, always drinking. I saw him driving around town in his cab, sometimes there were women in the front seat with him. I never told my mother because even though I wasn't really sure what it meant, I knew she'd be hurt. We almost never saw him sleeping on the couch at night anymore or waking up with us in the morning, he was always 'working'.
The minute he thought my mother had gotten a little better, he was in the weeds.
We went on welfare, we moved to the projects. I was so angry with her for letting him hurt us that I left too shortly after. About a year later, my mother and I developed a relationship again. We started meeting up at the park with the kids, I'd go over for dinner sometimes. She met my boyfriend. Things were getting a little better. 'Dad' was rarely mentioned and I could tell he was a sore subject for her. There was no child support coming in (at the time) and she was living off meager disability checks. Her quality of life was still on the decline, she was now in a wheelchair whenever we'd go out because she was still so weak and would get too tired if she had to walk more than a few steps. Eventually she got very sick again and I moved back home. We started bonding in earnest, she told me how she grew up in the orphanage, how she had never been drunk. We celebrated New Years with cocktails, she told me how she met my dad, how she sometimes wished she had chosen better. We were friends. She was finally becoming a person to me and not just my mom...
She never got better.
I had never been to a funeral before. But there I was with my brother and sister... three kids with a mother gone and just some fading memories of a father. I looked into that cold satin lined box to look at an unrecognizable version of the woman who had once been my mom, made up like a  life sized doll. My dad showed up (more than 20 minutes late) and interrupted the service, he was drunk and screaming and almost knocked the casket over. It was by far the worst thing we could've ever witnessed and it has been burned into my memory forever.
So, did he come back to take care of us after?
Nope.
I saw him once, two weeks after my birthday because I had to take a cab home from work. He asked if we could stop at a drug store on the way. He picked out a birthday card for me and signed it at the counter.
Then he realized he had no money.
So I had to pay for it.
He left me alone in that shitty little apartment in the projects. Trying to work at a supermarket and get my brother and sister off to school every day, trying to make those disability checks last. Doing laundry and cooking dinner. I was 18 and I was essentially a mother. Not only that, I was a grieving mother to two grieving children. My sister was sad all the time but was too young to understand. My brother understood and was so angry all the time that I couldn't bear it. Needless to say, this arrangement didn't last long. I had to admit that I was in over my head. The kids went to foster care and I was on my own with 30 days to find somewhere to go. During that time my sister ran away and found her way back to me so many times that I was eventually told we couldn't see one another any more until she had 'adjusted' or she was 18. My brother wanted nothing to do with me, thinking I had just given up on them because I was selfish. My dad was nowhere to be found.
Eventually I got on my own two feet again but it was a long and rocky journey and I made quite a few bad decisions on the way. Somehow I survived and when my dad drank himself out of his job and became homeless, he came looking for me. He camped out on the front steps of my house, asking for money. Asking his 21 year old daughter for a couch to sleep on. I moved to Boston and a few other places and when I came back I saw him at a bus station and he yelled at me that I was his daughter and he had the right to see me, he asked me for money again. I avoided him and had occasional sightings for a few years, he was always drunk. I found out he was living at a homeless shelter. I worked very hard to let it go and move on with my life and I was pretty successful.
                                    
About two years ago he found me at a bar I was working at. He had been banned from this bar but they allowed him back because he was my family and the owner was convinced I needed to repair our relationship because my dad was 'trying'. He looked like shit, something was wrong with his eyes, they were yellow from all the drinking and smoking, but it wasn't just that. He was gone. The dad I knew at age eight was no longer there. I didn't know him and I couldn't understand a word he said and, big surprise, I never saw him sober. The only thing he was 'trying' to do was get drunk for free and embarrass me. When I left shortly before I got pregnant, I thought I would never see him again.
Well, he's found my address but I think he's lost his mind. About a month ago (right before father's day... coincidence?) he started sending me holiday cards, but for the wrong holiday. First was a blank Christmas card with a note that said 'Just checking that this is your address, no biggie' and the most recent was a Thanksgiving card from a local food bank, also blank, with a SASE.
He doesn't know about Aurora. He doesn't really know anything about me.
A strange side effect of starting my own family was the desire to have mine back. I had been back in touch with my little sister and I wanted to start building our relationship(my brother is a different, long story). I got in touch with a few relatives whom I had cut out of my life for not helping us when my mother died and I let go of all that resentment. I had this pressing need to forgive everyone who had wronged me in the past and to give up on old grudges. I made peace with quite a few people in the days leading up to Aura's birth and a couple more afterwards. I've spoken to just about every 'bad boyfriend' I ever had.
The only loose end was and is him.
I'm not sure it can ever be tied...

5 comments:

Spilled Milkshake said...

Wow, I'm not even sure what to say. After reading your story, I can't blame you for not wanting to have anything to do with your father.

I hope it helped you just to write all this out. I can't imagine going through what you've gone through - but you made it.

Sending you hugs and wishing I knew the right things to say to explain why such shitty things happen to good people.

Christina

Visiting from voiceBoks!

Syed Store said...

Hi, I love your post, it kinda made me cry, I do not know why, but kinda emotional. I really like the way, you describe about your childhood. Very honest about everything. Love it, Loved it and loved it.
Bushra Syed
www.allaboutbabyzee.blogspot.com
www.syedstore.blogspot.com
Thanks for visiting me, send me an email whenever update your blog please.

MsAngelStarr said...

Christina- Thanks for the kind words... I assure you I am okay. "A smooth sea never made for a skilled sailor" Half the reason I started this blog again was because I missed my outlet to vent about these things. Sorry for the the heavy subject matter. I'll be posting another light weekend update soon! Happy 4th!

Bushra- Thank you so much... and thanks for reminding me to put my email alert button back up! Haha!

Columba Lisa said...

Thanks for sharing your story! It's beautiful to see you carrying on with your precious little one. God's peace and love to you,
Lisa, from VoiceBoks

MsAngelStarr said...

Thanks so much Lisa. I appreciate it.

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