It does not sting so much anymore. My Dad has been gone eight years. I healed, realized what the heck happened, and forgave. When the whole #MeToo thing happened Sarah Silverman wrote a piece asking if you can love someone who did bad things. I can relate to that. My Dad did some really shitty things. To himself and those he loved. He was a clinically depressed alcoholic whose antics hijacked my early adult life. His repressed, undealt with emotions led to escalating depression, addiction and eventually terminal cancer. Those around him were sucked into the vortex as those who love addicts always are. We wanted to help him, we couldn’t and in the process, we were forced to put our own lives and desires on hold.
Letting go of all that took a while. At first there was relief. Then the anger came. I was also so tired of only hearing the good stuff about him. My Dad was handsome, charismatic and funny and everybody loved him. But at home he was very moody and emotionally unpredictable. He was kind of a dick to my Mom which is never a good thing for a kid to see. And I resented his utter selfishness. But over the years I’ve come to accept and forgive him. He was doing the best he could. He had a crappy young life himself in many regards. He himself dealt with a home life marked by emotional unpredictability –a father with a serious gambling problem who was frequently MIA, and a stoic Irish mother who thought life was something to be endured. Despite all that he managed to be a pretty good Dad when we were little. Fun, loving, virtuous. Teaching me lessons about this and that. Always around, always ready with a joke, a hug and a smile. He loved music and shared his love of it every night playing new vinyl on his Yamaha sound system. The Beatles, Stevie Wonder, Earth Wind and Fire, Michael Jackson, Steely Dan, Paul Simon … the list goes on and on but those stand out. He was funny and had endless jokes and stories.
He was a spiritual guy with real curiosity about metaphysics, which was contrary to his strict cultural identity as an Irish Catholic from Washington Heights. He had a brief stint with Transcendental Meditation, and I remember him reading Dianetics (which was advertised on TV relentlessly in the 80s). Later on when I lived in the city post grad school, he and I would have dinner once a week after he came in for his therapy appointment. We had such fun nights. He was in a good phase – steady, hopeful and sober. He said that he regretted his career choices. That he stuck with the financial advisor gig because he felt he had to give us a stable life. But in his heart of hearts he wished he had pursued something creative – being an actor, singer, performer or even a history professor.
I believe that suppressing his ambitions, desires and feelings led to his deterioration later in life. Once he was no longer needed as a provider he became rootless, remorseful and sought refuge in the bottom of the bottle. Just as our adult lives were beginning and as my parents’ retirements laid ahead of them, my Dad’s drama took over.
For me, it is therapeutic to put it all out there and be honest with myself and others about what happened. It’s a sigh of relief. It’s what allows me to look back with love. He was a good man with good intentions. He was my father, he gave me life and so much more … my sense of fun, my independence, my healthy skepticism and love of family. I cherish him and am grateful he was my Dad.