Sunday, November 22, 2009

The Die Was Cast

I was doing some cleaning in our garage this weekend, and I ran across a bunch of my Dad's
paintings from the 1950's. My dad was a commercial artist- and his paintings are breathtaking in their beauty, simplicity,competence. I see through adult eyes how hard it must have been to create spectacular pieces of art for a paycheck- the soul and passion displayed couldn't last long in a commercial world, and it didn't.
As a child, my dad was somewhat withdrawn. I frequently felt like I had to walk on eggshells around him, in addition to this "feeling" that he would warm up if I was ( fill in the blank: nicer, more understanding, accomodating, etc etc -you get it).
Time marched on... he became more withdrawn, was frequently drinking until drunk, and then, when I was in Jr. High he and my Mom divorced. ...if only I was more loving...I would be worth enough to him that he would stay around. Wrong.
The last time I saw him I was 13... he said he was going to New York and he would send me a ticket someday to come back and see him. I waited...and waited...and waited, but the ticket never came. I was to find out later that he died a homeless bum, sleeping on the Streets of New York City, a verifiable drunk.
Now. as an adult male, with 2 young adult children and a beautiful wife of 26 years of my own, I can see where and when his life went, through the experience of my own life.
When I was 8, he started a remodel on my bedroom, which he did not finish. It left me with a drafty,unfinished attic to sleep in until I moved out as a young adult.
I would never do that to my kids, and I do finish my projects, which I had to learn to do out of respect for my family, through lots of ups and downs to get there. But when my Dad did it to me, it was "o.k", because he was "misunderstood".
A friend of my dad's told me he liked to take a thermos full of Martinis with him when he went out to paint pictures recreationally, starting long before I was born. It's "o.k.", because he was stressed out
Today I put it all together, realized that the Die was Cast, that unbeknownst to his friends and family, my dad was already doomed by his hurt, his alchoholism, and his denial of the truth of who he was.
I feel freed of the responsibility that I could as a child influence his behaviour, and that I am, and always was, worth loving just for being me, nothing more, nothing less.
I am proud , through all my angst and trial and error, that my family can feel that
they are worth loving simply because they "are", not because of what they do or not do, and that they can share in the basic right that all children are worth being loved, that they deserve the respect and honesty of Clare and I, and that I would never leave them in dark, scary places, alone, and that somehow I did it.
The Die was Cast long ago, and guess what? I couldn't have changed it in any case, and now I can rest a little easier knowing realizing that it is o.k. being just me. The Die was Cast, and looking
at the arc of life, I can see the seeds planted in youth that manifest later in life, and challenge us to look deeper, feel the hurts, and respond the best we can.
I love you all,

1 comment:

  1. That was beautifully said my friend. I remember those days. Yep it was drafty and spooky up in your room but I loved coming over and watching TV with you night particularly all the sci fi and horror we got to watch, those were some fun times for me.

    Sticking with the pain, with what's true, with our heart, with the love that you can find and make, with the people you have deep connection and commitment, is a challenge that if accepted and lived through all the ups, downs, and confusion will grow you up into an honorable, loving and lovable person.

    Alcoholism is a nasty, deadly disease and no kid can protect their parents from it if they are in the grips of it. All kids do feel responsible for what they could never be responsible for, the deep hurts their parents bring with them into their relationships with their kids, and this is particularly true of kids of alcoholic parents. You have come through this in a deep way, it rings true.

    My daughter Heather, soon to turn 21, went through a bad spate of addiction in her teens. It was an awful time for her and for everyone else who loved her. We all stuck with the pain although we were a pretty crazy bunch and it was hard. Heather just celebrated her 4 year clean and sober birthday and I consider it an honor to know her and love her just the way she is. She has seen 4 or 5 kids, adults actually to give them the respect they deserve, she was close to in Narcotics Anonymous (NA) die over the last two years.

    Your dad had a deadly disease, it took him down like it does so many. My addictions nearly took me down and I'm glad I made it through. One of the factors was that I got married and had kids, another was that I realized it was killing me, another was that I realized life was worth feeling the painful parts and sticking with them. Without the drugs and alcohol I had a fair amount of pain and confusion but I learned from it. At first I learned how to live with it and not let it overwhelm me and that it was OK to not drink and to feel bad sometimes a little and sometimes a lot. As I grew up in ways the booze and drugs had prevented I got to a stage where the pain became more of a guide than an demon to fight, that is the point at which I started to become the real person I am still becoming.

    It isn't your fault your dad didn't make it through, it isn't Heather's fault that she couldn't prevent the deaths of her friends. It is real hard to make it through an addiction once your have it and it has you, it is the exception rather than the rule that a person survives.

    Alcohol abuse was a huge part of the culture we grew up in as kids, it seemed like all the parents got pretty drunk off and on and some of them mostly on. I heard Sam Shepard, the play write, describe the role of alcohol in this period as the medicine the men took after coming back broken from WWII. He said that the women didn't know how to fix their men and the men didn't know how to fix themselves and they basically papered the whole thing over with the medicine of alcohol.

    I'm sorry your dad went down to the disease. I saw how much hurt it put on you and Jeff. It is a terrible disease for everyone.

    I have a lot more to say about how much I resonate with what you wrote but I have to start work on a project early so I get it in on time.

    I love you just the way you are, I will write back to finish up when I get a chance.