Sunday, July 24, 2011

Happy Birthday, Dad...

My father and I never had what you would call a great relationship. Fact is, I grew up with my grandmother, and I only spent the weekends with my parents. Most girls would love to be Daddy's princess, Daddy's little girl. I never had that. As a matter of fact, I don't actually recall calling him "Daddy." It was more "Hey, how you doing?" He and my mom divorced when I was really young, and those weekend visits became more of one weekend every month or so visits. A phone call from my dad was a rarity. Even though, he lived in the same city as we did.

I don't know a whole lot about my dad's side of the family, because we spent most of our time with our Mom's side of the family. Many of my relatives on my father's side had to introduce (and still have to) themselves to us, because we really only knew his mother and his brothers and sister. My father's father died before I was born.

My father remarried an older woman, who immediately took a disliking to my sister and me (I assume they married because we weren't invited to the service). I really never knew what her problem was. She probably took my extreme shyness as being rather snobby. Everybody else did so why shouldn't she. Fact is, I wasn't her biggest fan, but I was taught to be respectful, and I was.

One of the bad things about my father was he was an alcoholic. When he was drunk, he could become abusive. Never to me, but I have heard the stories. Fortunately, my mother was more than capable of taking care of herself. After one episode, he developed a healthy fear of my mom. Shortly, thereafter, they divorced. My mom never spoke badly about my father. She is one of those "experience is the best teacher type moms."

As he grew older, he tried to develop relationships with us. More so with my sister than me; my mother said I was too much like him. *Shrug* Maybe. There was never a bond there. He missed most Christmases. After age maybe 5, I can only remember receiving 2 presents from him. Both were less than spectacular. He was kind of like that uncle that you see every once in a while. That was our relationship. For example, during my high school graduation, there was a wedding reception going on next door because it was moved at the last minute to the convention center. My dad went to the wedding reception rather than make the effort to see his first born graduate. I told him that was a messed up way to celebrate my graduation. He shrugged. He didn't listen.

He developed hypertension and diabetes, but that didn't stop him from drinking or smoking. I can't be around smoke, so he would kind of respect that. I told him I wouldn't deal with him when he would drink. I also would tell him on every occasion that he would have to stop drinking and smoking if he wanted to see 50. He didn't listen.

On September 15, 1999, I had just left work and was screaming Lenny Kravitz's "American Woman" to the top of my lungs. The phone rang, and it was my mom. She told me that my dad had died. I felt like I'd been hit in the gut. My dad had a massive heart attack behind the wheel of one of the trucks he drove at his construction job. He had just gotten the job back after being fired for drinking. One week earlier, he told me he had been in the hospital (they never would tell us until after he was out). I told him that he was killing himself slowly. I told him he needed to let the cigarettes and the beer alone. He didn't listen.

Today would have been my dad's 59th birthday. I don't know what demons he was trying to drink away. I don't know why he didn't want a close relationship with my sister and me. I have, however, found peace with my dad's death. I loved my father. I wish he were still around. The thing I had to do was forgive him and forgive myself. I knew he was proud of me when I became a teacher. He didn't tell me, but he told others. I never knew his favorite color, his favorite singer, or movie. But, he was my dad, and I loved him. Happy Birthday, Dad...I hope you have found the peace you could not have here on earth...

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