My father never tried to get better or to be better. At any time I can remember in my life, even as a very young child, his goals were only to help himself. What I find so interesting about egocentric people is no matter how old they get, they never lose their level of self-absorption or anger when their continual selfish needs aren’t met.
Some of my earliest memories of him was how shameless he was. When I was seven I had won a $50 saving’s bond as a top prize in a math and science competition at school. I never saw this award until I was 18, when he tried to gift it to me as though he had been holding onto it for years, when in reality he just couldn’t cash it in for booze, since he never took it to the bank to mature in the first place. When I was nine I helped my neighbor with is paper route, worked at a bingo hall, and helped clean for a neighbor. Yes, I had three jobs and my father would ask to borrow money from me so he could go drinking with it. He was so deep into his alcoholism he was totally numb from any shame and only saw opportunity even from his pre-pubescent child who was able to hold down work at nine years old much better than he could as a grown adult. Sadly, his lack of discipline didn’t end with his inability to land and succeed within a career.
My mother had come from an abusive home and in an effort to leave, she married him. Back then women were encouraged to marry and men were encouraged to provide, especially since women weren’t fairly compensated. At the time, my dad worked in a mill with stable employment. Regardless of the sea of red flags, she wanted out of her parent’s house and jumped on the first ship she could. My father was an older man and to my mother this meant he was mature and stable, which, turned out to be very untrue. They married quickly into their relationship and the day of their honeymoon is when the physical abuse started. On that day, he physically kicked her out of bed and told her to make him breakfast.
They were married for 18 years. Not because they loved each other, but, because women had a hard time supporting themselves back then and due to religious reasons, divorce was frowned upon. Additionally, she was so incredibly abused both physically and mentally, I don’t think she had the courage to leave him. I remember my mother telling me there were times she told her mother about her getting beaten hoping her mother would tell her to leave him, but in return, she told her to, ‘deal with it. That’s what wives have to put up with.’ Over the course of their marriage he would: pull chunks of her hair out, punch her, blacken her eyes, slap her, push her down, kick her, and rape her. At various points and stages they would both cheat on each other. This was pretty consistent. For most of my youth I remember them fighting nearly every night. In fact, I had a hard time falling asleep if they didn’t argue while having the TV on.
I didn’t see my father much as a kid. I can’t remember when exactly, but, very early on, he lost his job at the mill and never really seemed to find employment since then. He was a Marine so he received money from that, but his laziness and alcoholism kept him from working and forced my mother to work doubles nearly everyday to make ends meet. Most memories of my father were him: passed out in his car in our driveway drunk when I came home from school, completely drunk, being abusive, or absent. I don’t remember any: pleasant memories of any kind, family dinners, game nights, his attendance to a single one of my events at any point within my life, or trips. I don’t remember laughing, playing games together or doing anything fun together at all, ever. I do have several pictures of us at SeaWorld when I was about three, so I knew we had at least one family vacation within my lifetime. Although, from what my mother says, that was the only place we went. We were really poor so we couldn’t afford those things anyway. Since my mother was scared he would beat me as he beat her, she tried to leave me with a sitter but sadly left me with a guy who would end up molesting me for 5+ years.
Three days before Christmas at 2am when I was 12, he had stumbled in completely drunk and my mother was trying to sleep after working a 16 hour shift. He immediately began beating and trying to rape her. She went running from him in the dark, accidentally running into a glass lamp and breaking it, screaming for me to call the police. By the time the cops arrived it was closer to 4am. That day is the first time they removed him from our home for domestic violence. That day, after 18 very long years of marriage, she finally left him. The only reason was because I asked her to. Unbelievably she asked, ‘are you sure you’ll be ok growing up without a dad?’ ‘I already have,’ I replied. He has never apologized. Instead, he blamed her both for the incident and for me not speaking to him again.
That family unit was not a life she should have endured. She deserved far better and I felt really bad for my mother. I had never connected with him at all and to me he was really just some guy who had deep emotional problems that he refused to treat. He choose to ignore them and ruin his family instead of getting the help he so desperately needed, which is the choice he made. My mother made her own bad choices which were placing her value on what men thought of her. Her ‘goodness’ or worth was measured by these drunk, abusive, arrogant, losers who never accomplished anything, never took risks, never went to college, and who had low self-esteems. Vain people and people who choose pride over personal improvement won’t ever grow and you can either leave them and go onto something better or stay stuck with them and miserable. I never understood why she’d let anyone’s opinion cloud her own judgement of herself let alone people like this. People who clearly hated themselves, chose not to better themselves in anyway, would sit back and harshly judge others. It still truly amazed me how much she would lower herself and remain lowered. She built her life around their opinion and fiercely tried to please them. In the end, it alienated her from her family, and led to her death. This was such a tough, cataclysmic lesson for me personally to receive, but one I got very loud and clear.
Early on my father chose to became a destructive, unfit person and it was a million small choices leading up to that. That’s what we have to watch out for. Each time we yell at our kids or our family members, each time we call someone a name, each time we succumb to a bad habit, it becomes easier to build our habits and our addictions. Yes, the first time he hit someone he regretting it, but that faded quickly because it made him feel in control and powerful. His focus was his feelings and needs only. Never hers. Never mine.
I doubt my father really aspired to be borrowing $20 from his 9 year old daughter to get drunk at 1pm on a Sunday, but there we were. I also doubt he wanted to be in jail and losing his family right before Christmas but those were the string of choices he made and he had many many years to change before then. Never once did my father take ownership of his life. He blamed everyone else and felt everything was too hard to change so he didn’t. He would crawl into a bottle, drive home drunk, and pass out in the driveway, only to do it all over again the next day. Not look for a job, not fix his relationship, not get help. He didn’t know how to treat people but felt entitled to how he should be treated by women. His pride was his downfall. He cherished it and held onto it harder and tighter than anything else.
While addiction is a terrible, horrible thing, that wasn’t my father’s only issue. It wasn’t even his main issue. Look at the tornado disaster he became because he chose not to get help with his emotions. Our health and state of mind impact those that love us and those around us regardless if we think they do or not. When we numb ourselves in one area it causes other parts of us to spring leaks that we don’t even realize are there. He believed he could control his feelings by drinking, by ‘blowing off steam,’ and by yelling. Look how that worked out for him. We aren’t naturally good with dealing with our emotions because we are animals so we are inclined to deal with them in harsh, selfish, intense ways. Thats why we need to learn how to properly deal with them so we don’t destroy our lives and the people within our lives. We need help. Everyone does. Everyone.
I truly wished my father got the help he needed at any point within his life. That he understood the value of his needs and feelings. That weakness is ‘poorly acting out’ not ‘learning how to positively react and cope’. I wished he was brave enough to admit he had issues that were beyond his control and that his emotions were a big problem, but he didn’t. I find that society forces men to look at each other as competition and not true friends, and asking for help is considered pathetic instead of honest, as though anyone is truly capable of having all of the answers by themselves. It causes people like my father to force the truth down and numb their pain with poor coping skills. It traps them into making poor choices that ruins their ability to have close relationships.
As a result of his choices he lost his family, had three failed marriages, has been a raging alcoholic for over thirty years, and has not been able to hold onto a job for nearly as long. The stigma that men face to get help and speak out about their emotions is truly crippling for them. Our emotions are an equal part of us. It’s immature to believe you can ignore them or fight them. It’d be like cutting off your legs because you’re tired of putting on your shoes. If he could have realized that no one is responsible for having all of the answers to solve of our problems by ourselves that may have taken some of the burden off of his shoulders and pushed him towards a better quality of life, but instead he built this world of delusion around himself stressing that he ‘had it under control’ when he certainly didn’t, and landed firmly at the bottom of a an empty bottle with a life just as desolate.