My dad has always been a drinker for as long as I can remember. It wasn’t until the past few years, though, that I realized exactly how much. He and my mom were never married and she left him in the early 90s – shortly after my brother was born. She met M, my stepdad, they dated for a while, moved in together, and then he proposed. She didn’t tell me about it, though, I found out because I saw a new ring on her finger and, as a curious 6 year old, I asked about it. Anyway, I always thought my dad was cool because he let me do anything. He let me play with tools, drive his truck, drive the lawn mower, play football in the house, etc. As I got older, though, he kept up with that and would provide cigarettes and alcohol to my 14 year-old-self.
I remember my mom’s lawyer pulling up to the house one day before we moved in with M. I remember her asking me if I wanted my mom’s last name or my dad’s last name (when I was born I had my mom’s because he refused to accept that I, a girl, was his but when my brother came he insisted his name be passed down and my mom said only if I could have his last name, too. So that decision fell into the hands of a child); I chose his last name because I’d be living with my mom so, in my adolescent eyes, it was only fair. Aside from the simplicity of the spelling, I wish I never made that choice.
My mom was granted sole custody and we were supposed to be able to see him every other weekend, plus he was to pay $50/month for two kids in New York state. I think he stopped paying child support when I was around ten or so, and he saw us so infrequently that when my brother was six (the age I was when they split up) he asked our father during a rare visit, “So…you’re my real dad, huh?” To this day my father wonders why there’s a nearly nonexistent relationship with his son.
There were so many times that I’d pack my bags for the weekend and I’d sit on the front stop with my duffel and my black teddy bear (a gift I got from my father for my fourth Christmas…the only gift he’s ever given me) and I’d wait. And wait. And wait. My mom would bring me my lunch on the cold stone steps and tell me that maybe he got stuck in traffic, maybe he had to work, she’d suggest I go play with friends and she’d call me as soon as he got there.
He never came and she never talked bad about him. I’ll respect my mother forever because of that. She let me, and my brother, form our own opinions about the man who fathered us.
I was 18 when I graduated high school and I was proud of myself, I wanted my family there. I invited my dad, too, even though he lived about an hour from the venue. He promised he’d be there. He wasn’t. So I was angry with him, as to be expected, and I distanced myself from him. The distance could only last so long, though, because a month later I was set to travel to Costa Rica with my paternal grandparents and him (they wanted to celebrate their 50th anniversary and paid for their children and their families to visit a fun country). The trip itself was beautiful, the country, food, culture, wildlife, everything was exceptional and I will forever be grateful to my grandparents for providing me with such a memorable experience, but my father ruined a lot of it for me.
We flew out of the Boston and had to drive from our home in Western NY to the Massachusetts coast to get to my grandparents. My father, never without a drink, decided to leave on our eight hour journey in the late evening to drive throughout the night, so we could arrive at breakfast to spend extra time together before the trip. His car broke down before we even got out of the state and the tow truck brought us to the nearest hotel. That hotel, however, wouldn’t let us stay there because my father had no money and I was under 21. Since good ol’ dad was clearly intoxicated the night clerk even locked us out! My father passed out on the bench outside, leaving me and my 12 year-old brother to sit on the gravel, alone, in the middle of the night.
Not a lot of people believed me when I told them about it but I recently found this photo in my Costa Rica photo album – my father passed out on a bench in front of that hotel.
His parents were certain I lied to them about this incident so they told me never to bring it up again. In Costa Rica my father would down bottles each day of vodka, charge drinks to the room I happened to be staying in so that I’d be blamed for the upcharges to the rooms that my grandfather was paying for, then on the flight back he punched me in the side of the head because I told him I wouldn’t smuggle a bottle of vodka from the duty-free shop in my dress. He then told my grandparents that I was, indeed, trying to bring home liquor and that he was trying to prevent me from it.
They believed him.
So years went by and we’d talk on the obligatory holidays, we’d never see each other. I was finally starting to see my father for the man he was – a stupid, rude, careless drunk.
In 2009 a very close friend of mine lost his father to brain cancer. On his deathbed he told me that he wanted me to rekindle a relationship with my father, so after his funeral I did that…I called my father for the first time in almost five years. Guess what happened? He told me he, too, had cancer.
So, because I felt like I owed it to my friend’s father, I stood by my dad’s side through his whole ordeal. His alcoholism hindered much of his recovery and he spent two months in a medically induced coma. By the time he left the hospital he was, for the first time in my life, 100% sober.
That lasted until he got home.
That was six years ago and he’s recently done another two months in the hospital that sobered him up again. He was supposed to go to a rehabilitation center upon discharge but the occupational therapy team deemed he was competent enough to go home. Keep in mind, he had pumped them full of lies and was sober while they were observing him so of course things seemed okay. I warned them that if they discharged him to his apartment that he’d be drunk again before nightfall. They did it anyway and guess what? He’s back to drinking.
His recent adventure is that he was given a DWI. FINALLY!!!! He’s orchestrated this lie that is so detailed that I’m actually amazed by it myself. I hope that his lawyer, the prosecuting lawyer, and the judge all look into said story because he deserves this charge. He deserves to lose his license. I’m honestly surprised he is still alive.
I realize this is way longer than any of my other posts thus far, but it’s something that’s been plaguing me for years. Nobody really talks to me about it except my uncle (who I’ve recently formed a relationship with since my father’s most recent hospital visit and he’s really cool, I’m so glad to have him be a part of my life) and he feels awful for me which isn’t what I want. It’s nice, though, to have somebody else who sees my dad the same way I do.
I think that having an alcoholic father helped me become who I am. I battled my own demons and addictions, but at this point in my life I know who I am and who I don’t want to be. He is a huge reason for my choice in abstaining from alcohol. I don’t ever want to look like him and I don’t want my daughter to see me that way. I hate that she’s going to know her grandfather in that way.
I think that’s a good amount of reality for now. I’ll be back, though 🙂
Happy trails ❤