As I move through my life, I realize how very much my father meant to me. There was a long period, when he was still here on this Earth with us, that I ignored his value. I spoke few words, wrote few letters, and called few times. I wasted so many opportunities to be near him. I will regret that loss forever and the regret grows as I age. I moved off to college, life, bills, marriage, and, basically, disconnected from him and his world. And now that I am at an age to appreciate and honor him, he is gone. I never really told him how valuable he was to me. I hope he knew.
I suppose I resented him at first. I blamed him for our family falling apart. I don’t remember all the details of my childhood, but I remember the feelings, the crying, the frustration, the fear when voices were raised in the house, echoing from the living room. He had high expectations. He wanted us to succeed. He wanted results.
“I’ll give you $5 dollars for every ‘A’ on your report card.”
But hypocrisy was there. You know the typical, parental double standard, “Do as I say, but not as I do.” You see, my dad wasn’t perfect and for that he could not expect perfection of us. His weakness was alcohol. How could I respect what he said when he was drunk? How could I control myself, when he couldn’t control himself? I begged him to stop drinking. He did not heed my request. How could his words or his requests mean anything to me? He was an alcoholic. In my young world, I could only see that he chose alcohol over me.
Now I understand. Alcohol and drugs twist the spirit, dampen it, disconnect it from the conscious mind. That’s how users feel relief, they separate themselves from awareness of self. He didn’t love me any less, actually the problem was that he loved himself less. So, I didn’t really know my dad till he was sober and by then most of my siblings had moved on in their lives. I was the youngest. I was ten years old when my dad went through treatment. No, I don’t remember all the moments, they blur together. But I do remember, in spite of everything, his love.
Some of my best qualities actually lead back to him. I am hard working, an over achiever, always struggling to be my best or to better my best. I admire how he pulled himself up from those depths. I learned from his warm and open heart to be warm and open to all. I look at his photo and wish I could touch his hair or lay my head upon his shoulder. Actually, he was so tall that my head fit just beneath the hollow of his rib cage and he would press me there so tightly that I could not breath. But I didn’t want the hug to stop. I preferred to be momentarily breathless to still feel his strong arms around me. A father’s embrace whispers, “you are dear to me, you are so special, you are my heart…”
Now I see my own mistakes and pray that my children take the best of what I have offered and forgive me for my shortcomings. No one is perfect, but that shouldn’t stop us from striving to be. I wish I could have told my father that and thanked him for all the good of me that I see came from him.