Sunday, June 20, 2010

Daddy's Hands

Up until the last 5 years, Father's Day was always about my Dad. He was the "Father" in my life. My dad is a great guy. As I grow older, my father and I are forming a bond as friends. Growing up, it was a different story.
Don't get me wrong, my Dad was a very hands on Dad when he was around.I remember him telling us we were beautiful and smart. I remember waking up in the middle of the night with terrible nightmares and my Daddy laying me on his chest until I fell asleep and then gently putting me back into my bed. I was my Daddy's daughter. It was almost impossible for him to do any wrong, in my eyes, for most of my childhood. I remember him taking my brothers and sisters and my cousins to play soccer. I remember endless summer trips to the beach. I remember long bikes rides, running with my Dad, and playing in the park for hours on end. Sounds pretty idealistic, right? It is, if you only get that half of the story.
But there is another half, my Dad was an alcoholic for most all of my childhood.There were times when he would get paid on Friday and we wouldn't see him for a good part of the weekend. We'd usually see him around Sunday evening, when he'd burned through all of his paycheck ( you know the money for our bills, food, etc). Did we complain? Amongst ourselves, of course we did. To him? Never, he never listened and I recall on an occasion my Mom bringing it up and him flipping the breakfast table..with all of our breakfast on it. He did do all  those things I mentioned above, if he was was magical. He was a great dad. He really was. But you never knew if you were going to get the sober or the drunk version. I remember most of my childhood being spent in excruciating stomach pain. I'm sure it was nerves. He made me, as well as my other 5 brothers and sisters, nervous. We'd play soccer, he was on the sidelines with a beer in one hand and cheering or chastising us depending on how many beers he had drank so far that morning. The beach was magical, except for the times when he sat there drinking and then tried to teach one of to swim by having us hang on to the back of his neck while he dived in. Yeah, I pretty much almost drowned. It scared me shitless at 5 years old. My dad was always very physically fit and I remember him taking us on bike rides and for long runs and getting so frustrated with us. No matter what we did, we always came out short by not running fast enough or getting tired too soon. We were kids and he was a drunk who needed a drink and probably wanted to be at a bar rather than being held up by a kid who had peddled their little legs off. Playing in the park for hours on end? Well, that happened for a variety of reasons; sometimes it was because we were all having such a good time, none of us wanted it to end other times it was because he was drinking with some buddies and lost track of time and it usually ended up with one of us whining until he took us home. He'd load us into the car, and drunkenly drive us home. I guess its all perspective. When I compare him to the kind of Father my husband is, I think, holy shit..he was terrible. Yet, my childhood is filled with wonderful memories. I guess when you are a child you can, will ,and do forgive almost anything.
My Dad has since stopped drinking. It happened after I was married and I was home visiting for Christmas. After a couple shots of tequila, he decided to pick a fight with me. I wasn't that quiet little girl anymore. I stood right back up to him and told him the truth about how I felt about him and his drinking and I wasn't backing down. It was the scariest moment of my life. I ended up waking my husband, in the middle of the night, and fleeing my parents tears. I thought it was the end. But then, my Dad joined AA. Before, he would never have thought of doing such a thing.He would never even admit that he had a problem. It's been 10 years now, and he has been sober 100 % of the time. He is an amazing Grandfather and we are developing a renewed relationship. I have always loved him, but I spent a lot of the time being scared of his unpredictability. Sometimes, I see him with my girls and I remember how he behaved the good half of the time and I realize the alcohol is what made him the asshole. My Dad is an amazing man, alcohol robbed me and my brothers and sisters of the childhood that dreams are made of. They say that which doesn't kill us makes us stronger. I do believe that our experience as children of an alcoholic made us stronger but it also made us jaded and untrusting. I am glad alcohol is out of the equation and my children know and adore my Father as the man he was always supposed to be; the sweet, loving, caring, adoring man. Happy Father's Day Daddy!
Love, Your little Girl