Questionable truth

My first memory was of my dad standing over my autistic brother and hitting him while he flailed back on the floor. They were in the kitchen and on that day I remember my brother screaming and the cupboard doors rattling. He must’ve been 3 because I was around 4. My mom stood in the doorway a few rooms away holding back my brother Mark while I stood by her and watched.

That’s how my life started out. Many well meaning people who would rather not get involved told me things such as God is in control and God will never give you more than you can handle. No one prayed more fervently than me. God if you are in control, please make it stop. But my dad never became the loving father I wanted him to be. My brother never became normal. Did I do something wrong? Did I pray wrong? I couldn’t understand why things didn’t change when I so badly wanted them to. I tried my best to be perfect but still nothing changed.

There were many times I felt like I couldn’t take anymore. I wondered what would happen when I finally broke. But that didn’t happen either. I became angry at God. If he wasn’t going to control things, I sure was going to try to. I became pretty good at controlling myself, others not so much.

For a long time I carried the burden of over responsibility. I can clearly remember when that started. I was 6 when I watched my younger brothers swim in the lake by myself. That was the day my baby brother almost drowned. I always thought that it was my fault until many years later when I realized how young I was. Maybe it even started before then, but I can’t remember. I always felt like I was responsible for things I didn’t have control over.

It became my job to try to fix things. I became a pretty good problem solver and counselor, but that should never be the responsibility of a child. In essence, I took the place of my dad because he only reacted with anger over issues and never stepped up. Still I prayed every night that things would change, but they never did.

If God wasn’t going to change things I was going to try to. But that didn’t really work so well for me either.

Then I thought maybe I’m looking at this all wrong. It’s time to throw away the childish coping mechanisms that I clung to. It’s not very realistic to think God is going to force my dad to become the father I’ve always wanted him to be. He had that choice and he threw it away.

The last post I talked about how strongly I felt about the freedom of choice. But maybe I don’t really want that. Maybe I just want God to sweep down and take control of my dad so he loves me.

Just because I want something to be good or perfect doesn’t mean it’s going to be that way. My idea of God being in control and taking all my problems away when I can’t handle them anymore is incorrect.

Lately I was looking at my new 2022 pocket calendar. Inside there were little fun things to write about. One was to write down your favorite memory you had with your dad. I was stumped. I thought and thought for a long time. Nothing.

But for the first time, I didn’t blame it on God. I blamed it on my dad. I shouldn’t feel guilty for not wanting to continue having a relationship with someone who hurt me. I shouldn’t feel sorry for him either. But I struggle with the thought that I am causing pain and that somehow this is my fault.

I am still confused about my relationship with God. What’s the purpose of prayer if God doesn’t answer them? My husband says that prayer is supposed to make us feel better about the situations we are in versus changing the situation. That is hard for me to understand because for me feeling better means things will change. Apparently I still have a lot to learn.

Maybe I am healing and growing if I am questioning things I always thought were truth.

I want my money back

I heard an ad recently that stated if you’re going to borrow money, borrow it from a pessimist because they won’t expect you to pay them back.

Recently my daughter Angel called me a pessimist.

That makes me question…Are all depressed people considered pessimists? Why are pessimists viewed so negatively? Why is it such a bad thing that most people resist being labeled a pessimist?

I admit I have been rather depressed lately. I haven’t felt much like writing. Tis the season. It’s not uncommon for me to feel this way at the end of summer. I’m going through warm summer sunshine withdrawal. My favorite season is coming to an end. It’s starting to get dark at 7 PM and I’m ready to go to bed. I haven’t been sleeping well and have been having nightmares again. We closed down the cabin for the year. The long sailing trips are over. Even the early morning runs before my daughter starts working will be over soon too. I eat, breathe, and live for the summer which is almost gone. I can almost taste the darkness that lies ahead mushed in with this crazy world we live in right now. It tastes a little like pumpkin spice mixed with onions.

Now before you cast me off as a hopeless Eeyore, I want to argue that perhaps I am not a pessimist after all. Maybe, in fact, I am quite the opposite. Maybe I am overly optimistic. I have inside of me this innate perfectionism. I can envision in my mind a flawless utopia. I see the world as it should be. The problem is that it is not that way. There is a difference between my ideal and the way things really are. How can that be fixed? I wish I knew. I kinda somehow think it’s going to take a little more than rose colored glasses.

A couple months back I told you the story of how my elderly friend Harv surprised me by baking me a cake for my birthday. It was a bittersweet moment because my own dad never acknowledged my birthday. No cakes, no cards, no calls, not even one birthday spanking. That one act of kindness from Harv nearly broke my heart. It was a happy day, yet at the same time very painful because my own dad probably didn’t even remember it was my birthday.

A pessimist might say…My dad hates me. I hate myself. Birthdays are stupid anyway. Harv is retired so he had nothing better to do.

A realist might say…Most dads care about their daughters enough to wish them a happy birthday. Harv is a good dad. My dad doesn’t care. It is what it is. How people treat me does not define who I am.

An optimist might say…Isn’t it wonderful that someone cares about me enough to make me a cake? Maybe next year that will be my dad making me that cake because I am fricken awesome. He really does care about me but has a hard time showing it. Blah, blah, blah…

I’ve always aligned myself as a realist instead of a pessimist. But sometimes the truth is too painful. I don’t have control over whether my dad calls me for my birthday or not. I could try to force it by calling him and telling him it is my birthday. But why bother? It’s not going to change things. Sometimes I just want to have a perfect life. Is that so wrong? I see how I want my life to be but I don’t have control over other people’s choices nor should I. Sometimes reality sucks and if that makes me a pessimist so be it then.

I don’t want to be an optimist, but here I am a utopic visionary in a dystopian world. Optimists rather annoy me anyway with their chirpy words of false hope. Things will get better with your dad. Just wait. How much longer do I have to keep waiting? I want to know because I am not getting any younger. I’m getting older. Okay, I’m 47.

Oh by the way I hate the glass half empty half full argument. In all reality, that glass probably shattered a long time ago. And I want my money back.

Spending my birthday with my (fake) dad

It was Paul’s fault really. I told him not to tell anyone that it was going to be my birthday, but he did anyway.

We needed to sail our boat back to her home port after some routine maintenance. We made plans to sail the boat back with Harv and Kate. It was meant to be a fun little trip until we heard about the high chance of severe weather. I was almost happy when Kate cancelled coming on the trip because of back problems. I probably mentioned this quite awhile back, but our good friends are in their upper 80’s. I was afraid if we hit stormy weather that Kate would get hurt as she is rather small and frail.

Harv asked if another buddy of his could go instead which was fine. I dragged myself out of bed at 5 AM on my birthday so we could try to make the trip before the storms hit. It was going to be an adventure everyone was up for. Harv and his buddy were probably sailing before I was born. Along with my husband, I thought there was no group of experienced sailors that I would rather risk a storm with. The weather was perfect that morning. It was warm with a brisk breeze. We caught the wind and were able to sail back with an hour and a half to spare before the storms hit.

We made it back to the marina at lunch time. Harv treated us to lunch. But that wasn’t all. He surprised me by making me a cake. Instead of frosting, he covered it with tapioca pudding. They sang happy birthday to me. Harv only put 8 candles on the cake so it was a little short. But they were trick candles. Every time I blew them out, they relit. After we enjoyed his cake, he pulled confetti poppers out of his bag. When you pulled on the string confetti would pop out. Harv and I had a confetti fight until there was confetti everywhere. We all laughed and had a good time.

Harv (and Paul) worked really hard to make my day special.

I felt happy that Harv took the time to think of me and make me a cake. But underneath it all was a whole mess of hurt and sadness. My own dad didn’t acknowledge my birthday in any way. He didn’t call or send a card. He never did. He never bought me a birthday gift much less bake me a box cake. In that one act of kindness, Harv was more of a dad towards me then my dad will ever be and that hurt.

I thanked Harv and gave him a hug. Harv’s friend joked and said that Kate would be jealous. I told him that I didn’t need another husband. I already have a wonderful husband. What I really needed was a dad. On that day, Harv was my fake dad and it really was a great birthday.

After Harv and his buddy left, the storms came rolling in. I always love a good (not damaging) storm. It’s the way my birthday is the majority of the time, stormy.

Gratitude week 25

  1. I have one less teenager in my house…actually my son turned 20 this past week. I am grateful for him and the person he is becoming.
  2. My son had a mouse in his room which I am thankful for. It prompted him to clean his room to how it looked before we moved in. Now let’s hope it stays that way. My cat has the bad habit of bringing presents in the pet door.
  3. Although Paul and I really didn’t luck out in the dad department, I am grateful to have a husband who is a wonderful father to our children. That is what I celebrated on Father’s Day. I did send my dad a card though, not because he was a great dad but because I am a good person.
  4. In what can only be described as a God moment, I was able to meet someone who might be a friend and someone we could work with in our new business.
  5. I am thankful for my therapist. She called me to reschedule my appointment so I could have a double appointment for the cost of one. I have a really good team of people working to help me heal my body, mind, and soul.
  6. Summer!! I am enjoying every minute of it. I have yet to turn on the A/C in my house or car.
  7. Thanks to the coronavirus, it made it easier to transition from blonde to gray hair. People now ask if I dye it the silver color it is. It is so in right now and I don’t have to pay a cent.
  8. I went up north for the first time this season and swam in the lake.
  9. My daughter is planning on moving back home at the end of the summer and is able to keep her new job. I think she was only able to come home two or three times this year. Sadly she wasn’t able to make it home as planned this past weekend but it won’t be long until we see each other all the time.
  10. I’m grateful that our new business is doing better than we expected.

Deadbeat Dad Greeting Cards

Today is my dads birthday. I thought of creating a new line of greeting cards as I searched for the perfect card at the grocery store. I know, grocery store. I should’ve went to Hallmark. But that would’ve probably been a bigger waste of time. I could’ve spent hours searching every single card and still go home emptyhanded.

Maybe I should’ve just said the hell with it. My dad never sent a card or called me on my birthday. He never took me out to eat for the said event. He never bought me flowers. Yada, yada, yada. I bet he doesn’t even know when my birthday is. Yes, he was a bad dad and doesn’t deserve recognition.

I am reaching out to him because I am a good person.

The first card I opened had a greeting that said something like this…you are the reason why I am who I am today. Yeah, you are the reason I am in therapy. Nope! Next!

The next card…you are the perfect role model. Yeah, for how not to be. Nope!

Card after card spewed the most ridiculous sap. After I’ve exhausted all the dad cards, I looked at cards for step-dads, like a dad, and grandpa cards. It was all the same over the top scribbled dribble.

I can’t be the only one that feels this way.

After I rejected all the dad related options, I started looking at other cards. The funny cards are no better. Seriously, poop cards never have been funny. They just remind me of all the crap you put me through.

Cards for guys with hot ladies….yeah, why not piss off my mom too.

Cards with a get out of jail free card inside…Might be acceptable for an incarcerated dad.

Cards that make fun of old people…that’s just wrong!

Cards about drinking, sports, or golf…That might work for some dads. But my dad isn’t into any of that.

I ended up getting a birthday card with nothing written on the inside. That’s just as bad. So I wrote something generic in it. Happy birthday Dad! Enjoy your special day.

Now most of you are probably wondering…Why not text? My dad has a flip phone and does not get texts. Darn! Why not call? I haven’t seen or talked to my dad in almost three months. I don’t want to break that streak. (I have valid reasons)! I hate talking on the phone anyway and even more so if it is awkward small talk.

I think the obvious solution here is starting a new business. The Deadbeat Dad Greeting Card Company. There will be various levels of cards. I could color code the envelopes on a scale of one to ten to correspond with the cards. A one would be for the worst dad all the way up to a ten for the perfect dad. Then you wouldn’t have to waste your time reading all the cards. You pick your number and find the envelope with the corresponding color.

Now the cards don’t have to be just for dads. They could be for your wife, kids, siblings, teachers, etc… People could even find the perfect card for their ex. Win-win. Now I can still be a good person even if you don’t want to be.

Compassion rages

After I heard the news, I felt both intense compassion and rage towards my father simultaneously. It’s really hard to explain because I can’t remember feeling such extreme polarity before. How can I still feel compassion towards someone who is so easy to justifiably hate?

He was a horrible father. He was the role model of what I didn’t want to be as a partner and parent. He hated us and called us stupid. I never felt like I was good enough. I never felt like I was enough of anything. Smart enough. Brave enough. Happy enough. It’s hard to feel like I was never enough, unlovable, despite my best efforts.

He tormented us. He laughed at our fears. Even worse, he taught us to laugh at our siblings shortcomings and fears. If we laughed, we wouldn’t be targeted next. We were pitted against each other for sport. How could there be unity? Most of the time it was safe to pretend not to care. I’m sorry I did not comfort you, brother, while you cried. I was just a coward trying to survive.

My dad is a depressed man. He lived a life of regrets. I see that now. He wasted his life in front of the TV screen, not playing ball with his kids. But I always felt calm if the TV was blaring when I came into the house. It was the silence I feared most. In the silence, I never knew if I would find him dead. Do you know how scary it is to feel that fear as a child?

He often flew into rages over nothing. He was abusive, but he is still my dad. When I was a child I hated him and wanted him to burn in hell for all of the things he did to hurt us.  But now I feel pity for the mess he has become.

I had to see him one day after it all happened. My mom hasn’t been well and needed me to give her a ride to the doctor for tests. After the appointment, I sat down with my dad. It was mostly small talk, the only real conversations I ever had with my dad.

I felt a lot of stress leading up to our visit. What would I say? Would the rage or compassion come out? I had to be wise with my words, but was coming up blank. Should I tell him what a fool he is? Should I tell him how some of his actions hurt me? Should I scream and yell at him like he did many times to me?

Instead I told him I loved him as tears poured down my cheeks. He told me he loved me too. I said I was sorry. He asked why. I said I was sorry that it had to be this way. This wasn’t what I would have chosen.

He looked sickly, like he lost a lot of weight. He is already in hell. That is what you get when you live a life you regret. What good would heaping a few more coals be for someone who is already burning in hell? I felt pity towards him. I never wanted to see him burn. I just wanted him to be a dad to me.

I don’t have any regrets over how I handled the situation. More than anything, I don’t want to live a life of regrets. I don’t want to be like him.

I don’t want to be his daughter, yet I am. My compassion rages.

 

Cracking open the box

Today I cracked open Pandora’s box. I am afraid to peer into what lies inside.

I spent most of the weekend feeling blah. It rained all weekend with high temps in the lower 60’s. Some of our outdoor plans got cancelled. It has been very frustrating. So far summer break has been cool and rainy. Surprisingly, the best days of the year so far fell on Alex’s graduation day and again for his grad party.

The weather has been making me feel restless and bored. There is nothing I hate more than boredom. I’d rather be way too busy. Not to mention that all my favorite running trails are underwater. Although, thankfully, my ankle is starting to feel better.

Yesterday, on Father’s Day, something exciting happened though. I got a message on Ancestry from a relative on Paul’s dads side. On Father’s Day of all days too. You see, Paul never knew who his dad was. From what I can tell, this man is Paul’s cousin.

I told myself that I wouldn’t go seeking out answers. I was far more curious than Paul. But if someone came to me asking, that was an altogether different story indeed.

Today I reached back to Paul’s cousin and told him what details I knew about Paul’s dad. We’ll see what happens. Paul said he was okay if I did that.

It’s hard, Paul built his whole identity around not having a father. But what if he has a whole new family out there that wants to get to know him?

Why do I feel like I cracked open Pandora’s box? Do I really want to know what’s inside?

I can tell you one thing, life got a little more interesting.

Father’s Day

Father’s Day…it’s always been a difficult day for me.

I see the posts online of you with your dad smiling and happy. I wonder why my dad never cared about me. I don’t think I have any pictures of us like that, dad.

I just remember you laughing at the TV in some distant room while my autistic brother hit me yet again. You could have held me while I cried. Why didn’t you?

I remember the time that I was afraid of weeds up at the lake. You took my tiny little body and planted my feet in the slimy weeds. You laughed at me when I ran back to shore crying. You threw weeds at me and called me names.

I am not afraid anymore, dad. I push myself so hard. I run myself ragged.

This one day of the year, I wish for just one picture…one memory…of us together smiling and happy. It is so painful to see the things I didn’t have.

What is wrong with me? Why didn’t you love me dad?

 

Dark doors

The other day my son asked me why he is so dark.

Immediately I said that it was a part of his personality. Maybe it is something that you could work on. Oh my, did he get that from me??

Then he said, “Not my personality mom, my skin.”

That was a few days after he took the Ancestry DNA test. I told him that we would find out soon. I also heard that the test could match you up with long lost relatives or maybe famous people.

Famous people? Then I got to thinking some more.

Why are my oldest two kids freakishly talented at music? This past weekend my son made it to state as a junior for his graduate level solo and ensemble piece along with 2 other pieces. My daughter was involved in a big singing competition, made it to a difficult level, and earned the opportunity to sing for a big opera star. She was invited to compete at an event in Boston. So far they are the only sibling duo to receive perfect scores at state for music in their high school.

There aren’t any professional musicians in the family. No one had a garage band. Not even one music teacher. Just a haphazard bunch that played an instrument for awhile or sang in the church choir.

Was it because of the early childhood piano lessons? The family involvement in community theater?

This got me thinking some more…

Maybe Paul’s real father is Jim Morrison from The Doors. It makes sense. It was the 60’s and Morrison was alive back then. So it has some face validity. Talking about his face, my son does resemble him a little. They have the exact same scowl.

But, if Paul’s dad is a rock star…why did his mother fail to mention that? This is where my theory gets a little tricky.

I guess we’ll have to wait for the Ancestry DNA results to come back.

What if we find out who Paul’s father is? What do we do with that information? Maybe Paul has siblings? Or a hefty inheritance that no one has claimed?

Or maybe we are cracking open the door to Pandora’s box.

 

Paul’s journey, part 2

He spent his earliest formative years in the projects in the inner city of Chicago.

You might think that the story would’ve ended differently if Martha’s dad survived to see his grandchild arrive. Maybe he would have been a great father figure for this infant fatherless child.

Where we left off yesterday, Martha gave birth alone to a baby boy. I can imagine how frightened she must have been. Childbirth is a terrifying thought during pregnancy…rich or poor…young or old…married or alone. But possibly more so if you are poor, young, and alone.

During childbirth, Martha was in a delirious state and saw her father there watching over her. Martha cherished her father. But from what I heard, he wasn’t a very good man. He was said to be an abusive drunk.

I once heard a story of how Martha’s older brothers teamed up as teenagers and fought their father. I couldn’t tell you why. But I could tell you that it was probably justified.

I heard that he was a crooked cop. Maybe involved somehow with the mob. I also heard that he had a girlfriend and maybe even another family on the side.

I really didn’t hear anything about his character that would make me think that he would be a suitable father or father figure for anyone. If he hadn’t dropped dead of a heart attack when Martha was 12, I might not be telling the same story or this story at all.

For a short period of time, Paul had a ‘dad’.

Martha got married just long enough to change her name when Paul was 3. Martha said she left her new husband after a year because he was abusive to her son. The only thing that Paul remembers about his step-dad was that he had 2 large black dogs.

It has always been a debate in our house which is worse…not having a dad or having a terrible father. If his step-dad was truly a mean man, then perhaps he was better off without a dad. Thankfully his grandpa never was a part of his life either. He didn’t have a dad or grandpa, but some of his uncles were nice.