It’s easy to vilify people in our lives; Ive been doing it to my father almost my entire life. Sure, my dad wasn’t your typical dad. I didn’t have late night sessions in the garage where he explained to me what a carburetor was, or how to clean one; even though he was a mechanic and he worked out of our back yard, and he could have easily done so. He didn’t come to my baseball games or my school plays; we only lived a block away from the school, and it would have been a breeze if he had wanted to. The only time we had a talk about the birds and the bees was when I was much to old to have the conversation and he was far too high to make any sense.
I have very few fond memories of my father, but I have several bad ones. I have a very distinct memory of being led out of my fathers garage—a business he use to own in a town that was about five miles from where we lived, before he lost it and moved his shop to our back yard. I had to have been only four or five at the time, and I was running from my mothers hands and into the car port section of the garage. I wanted to stay with my dad that day. I kept screaming, ‘I wanna stay with dad, I wanna stay with dad and play.’
I burst through the side door, that led to where he worked, and that’s when I saw him standing at the front of the room, at his work station, with a few other guys who’s faces are lost to time. He turned and screamed for me to leave and to go home with my mom. He didn’t want me to stay there with him, he said. On the work station before him, were mountains of greenish and dusty looking leaves; that was the first time I can distinctly remember seeing marijuana. I didn’t stay with my father that day and I never asked to do so again.
My parent’s divorced when I was 15, and I, unlike my two younger brothers, welcomed the divorce. I saw how my mother cried every morning, from all the hurtful things he’d say to her. I saw how he’d write down the odometer on her car so that he would know exactly how many miles she drove that day. I saw how, if any man looked in my mother’s direction, he would call her a cheating whore, because she clearly was sleeping with every man that looked at her. In the fall of 2002, when my mother left my father–something she had done on several occasions before–I made her make me a promise, “Promise me you won’t go back to him.” and she kept that promise.
I always talk about my father like he is some great comic book villain. Everyone of his actions, hurtful words or gestures, are all connected into some greater, mastermind of a plan. The truth is, my father suffers from drug addiction—he’s been abusing every drug known to man, since his early teenage years—and mental illness. Though he’s undiagnosed, he bares every sign of someone who is a manic depressive. Thinking of him as a comic book villain is less painful than thinking about the truth and how he refuses to seek help.
My father has a warped sense of reality. He’s paranoid about everything. We didn’t have a phone in my household until I was almost 13, because my dad thought the government was going to wire tap it. I guess poor, drug addicted, auto mechanics from Southern Missouri, are high on the priority list for the United States Government. Whether his paranoia is from the drugs or the mental illness, I’m not sure. It’s kind of like the chicken or the egg scenario. Did he start using drugs to self medicate or did the drugs warp his mind and make him more susceptible to mental illnesses. I can never be sure.
I do have a lot of bad memories of my father, but I also have some good ones as well. And I hold onto those good memories very tightly.
We were extremely poor growing up, but no matter what, my mother and father always worked hard to make sure we had great Christmases. Whatever we asked for, we almost always got it. I don’t know if every action they took in procuring our gifts were legal, but it didn’t matter, Christmases were good in my household.
Throughout high school, I was in every drama production that the school put on—there were often two a year—and my father only ever came to one. It was the last one of my high school career–I was the Beast from Beauty and the Beast–and he set front and center, wide eyed, as his son danced and sang for two hours. After the performance, my father hugged me tight and told me he was proud of me; there were tears in his eyes. I also cried…
In four days my father will turn 55 years old, and he looks every day of it. I will make the obligatory phone call. I’ll put it off to the very last moment like I always do, because I still don’t find it easy to talk to my dad. I will call him and tell him happy birthday and that I love him and then we won’t speak again until Thanksgiving. But when we do, it will be almost as if no time has passed at all.
My dad has pushed everything and everyone he loves, away. He sits at home, alone, only with his thoughts; I know that has to be a scary and dark place. I will never have the relationship with my father that I’ve always fantasized about, but thats okay. When it’s all said and done—a lifetime of unhealthy habits are catching up to my father—I won’t be mad at him or harbor any grudges. I will continue to hold on to the few good memories I have. I’m almost ready to let all the bad ones fall away.
It’s taken me almost 25 years, but I no longer see my dad as a villain; he’s a tragic character. And he is my father.