In His Time

Mon père, mon ami

This hand, it shakes
For it longs to be held
This heart, it aches
For in the darkness, I sit alone
These eyes, they are blind
For my soul has begun to fade….

 

My father was a good man. Strong and steady. As a small child I saw him as a giant among the trees. Ever present, ever abiding. He was the very best of my world. My father gave me joy, laughter, wiped my tears, forgave. As I grew older he became the ephemeral sense of normalcy and a glance of what was. When I went from child to mother, he was the man who loved my son, who taught him to ride. When he grew old, he was the slow fading daylight…

My father was an artist, much like myself. He was a carpenter, painter. My father loved the world around him. The stars, the mountains. He loved calligraphy and use to sit and sketch with me. He created things that were useful, things that were cherished. I imagine that what he created in this world is also what he most longed to feel himself. I remember how much he loved to laugh, and in every way wanted us all to laugh with him. I have yet to meet a man with his work ethic, or his desire to help bring dignity to those no longer able. He saw the worst of humanity and chose to bear the burden of its emotional cost with bravery, but alone.

My father died in a hospital, family by his side. My brother called me to let me say goodbye, holding the phone to my fathers ear. I said a prayer with my father, and he let out a sigh. (In my heart I tell myself that he heard me, and more importantly…God heard him.) I tell myself that he knows it’s me. Like any good daughter I told him I was going to be okay, that I could do it without him, that he could go. Knowing he was suffering, in extreme pain, made his death acceptable, but far from easy. He had died of renal failure, complications after a partial leg amputation…which was secondary to end stage alcoholism.

I continually rehearse in my mind what I will tell my children as the anniversary of his death approaches. (He was never to meet our two youngest.) They hadn’t seen him for several years prior to his passing. The last visit we’d had with him was just too much.

We arrived in the morning, after driving the last 600+ miles, with three kids, our daughter was just starting to walk. We went inside. I wanted to let her roam around on her own, and dads house was less cluttered than most. We walked into the kitchen and I heard this popping, grinding sound beneath the soles of my shoes. I let my daughters feet touch the floor, and looked at what I thought was rice. Maggots. Maggots covered the kitchen floor. Trash piled into corners. Mold and vomit everywhere. The short of it is that my father could care for himself no more than a dog could let itself out to piss. I was livid. As l looked at my father, wasted away, no longer strong and steady, I was broken. I was angry and had a desire for vengeance well up into my throat. I turned to my husband. He knew. He saw it. I remember wondering if he heard my heart breaking.

That night my husband did the one thing for me that means more than all the rest of it. He picked up my father, holding him as if he were a child that was sleeping soundly. My husband carried my father to his bed, and with such love, such tenderness, laid him down, tucking him in. He made sure his legs were just so, body just so, blankets just so. Kissing him goodnight I asked if he needed anything, then I spent all night cleaning, scrubbing, bleaching, repeating until the filth was all gone. I scrubbed until the tears stopped falling, the anger became sadness, sadness to understanding.

In the morning I kissed him on his cheek, and on his forehead. His eyes…so sad, so hollow. I told him I loved his so very much. We drove away and I knew, I knew I would never see him alive again. I lived too far for weekend or even monthly visits, and for the sake of my family, and for the way my father deserved to be remembered, I chose to shield my children from the disease that had taken their grandpa. My heart couldn’t bear for them to see it ever again.

I miss the father of my childhood. I long for the days of watching him prune his flowers, mow, paint. I miss the steady arms, the voice over the phone. I miss hearing him call me ‘honey’ and chatting about the weather. I miss the man that died long before his body figured out he was gone. I prayed for years that he would stop drinking, and he did. For a short while, because he was in a hospital bed, he was sober. He was different. Frail, broken, reserved…but he wasn’t drunk.

I had let go of the anger I felt toward him long before he died. I learned not to take it personally when he would call me up cussing at me, sometimes thinking I was someone else. I do blame people, but not him. I use to blame myself for not doing more, not calling enough, not moving home. I blame the people that bought his fucking vodka. I blame the people that chose his money over his beating heart. I blame the people that set his bottle next to his chair…because he could no longer make it to the kitchen on his own. The chair he pissed and shit in…alone. And yes, I know it was a choice, but there was a line that blurred and it became a disease. It may have taken him, but it does not define him.

And so, as every anniversary draws near, I gaze into the mirror, and remind myself that my pain is for selfish things, that my fathers love doesn’t die with him, and that my children will know the very best of him. I raise my children with love and admiration for my dad, as well as the understanding that his death was preventable. They know the costs and don’t want to pay.

Even in the midst of loss I have learned. And as I look at the stars, I am reminded of all the love he gave, and cherish that little bit of heaven.

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14 thoughts on “In His Time

  1. My dad was a drunk, to be truthful I think a lot of his drinking was trying to forget things he had seen. He was a great guy when sober but to be honest I have few memories like that. I was 12, big for my age is probably the only reason the law didn’t bust me but I drove him around to keep him from killing himself driving drunk. He left here and went to Baltimore and driving drunk rolled his car and was blessed to still be here. He had a steel plate in his head from the wreck.
    I could tell you much more but all I’m saying is that he died drunk in a fire. Hard to take when you don’t know if they are saved or not.

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    1. Dallas, first let me say how very sorry I am for your loss. I am just so sorry. It’s very hard to look past the pain when most of our memories are just that…pain. I had to teach myself to realize that my dad was not his disease. It took years.

      I don’t know your faith, but I am a Christian. I know, and have seen miracles. He takes us with him when He knows we will be waiting for him, before it’s too late. Whether in a fire, accident, hospital bed or at our tables…God remains ever watchful. He loves you, and He never gave up on your father. Please feel free to stop by and leave me a message whenever you’d like or need to. 💜

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      1. It’s been 3 years since I made a post here on wordpress but at the urging of the Holy Spirit it is gonna happen again. He died 27 years ago this past Christmas, I still think of him and wish he had been a better dad but him being like he was made me stronger in my faith with the Lord and made me a better witness to my own children.

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        1. Amen. It never ceases to amaze me how we find ourselves lost, but always found. Like you, I know my dads struggle though so painful, has made me a better human being, and a light. I miss my my gi miss my my dad very much, and I try to honor him by keeping his story known, in the hopes that it can save a life or mend a heart 💜

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  2. I guess its a good thing that I accidentally deleted my comment because I can be really long winded. I am the child of an alcoholic mother. I have finally come to terms with it but am still working on my alcoholic pedophile grandfather. My schizophrenic uncle and the alcoholic wife he met in a psyche ward were real challenges. I baby-sat her one day while he went to the vet with their cat and I found the conditions you described almost to a T. I cleaned the maggots from the sink and bagged 2 large garbage sacks of empty coke cans from the floor around her where she lay on a mattress on the floor. I did my best to improve the situation and vowed never to go back and I never did. She also used to call my parent’s house drunk thinking that she was calling someone else. My life has been a circus but not nearly as much fun. I have come to terms with my mother’s alcoholism and now prescription drug addiction. Sadly, I am so happy with the prescription drug addiction that replaced her alcoholism because she is monitored. She is now 87. She has been a real mother in the past 18 years.

    This post was so poignant! I could actually feel your love and your pain.

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    1. Thank you and I’m so sorry your family has been touched by alcohol and drug addiction. It is SO hard to see beyond the disease, but I find as I get older how much more thankful I am to have the moments I do with my dad, and that I am not him. Feel free to share it all on my blog! If not here then where would we find ourselves?!?

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    1. Thank you very much for your kind words. The blessing was mine. I got to love him, and by Gods grace, I was able to say goodbye. I use to be very embarrassed by him, but age is wisdom and it gave me a perspective of acceptance I cherish so very much.

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  3. I so admire that you can separate the addiction from the man. I am still wrestling with this with my own father. Even though he is now “in recovery” (something he’s done off and on during my lifetime), my childhood memories are the reverse of yours. And because he was so frequently inebriated, he does not remember much from that time at all, which hurts and is hard.

    I hope your story helps others to heal, and just know that your bravery in sharing this portion of your life is more appreciated than you’ll ever know. You have moved me and made me think with this post. “Thank you” doesn’t seem strong enough, but there it is. Thank you for sharing this.

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    1. My sweet, there are still days I struggle. I have severe anxiety and started drinking when I was 12. I’m not an alcoholic per say, it’s just what was done at home so I did it too. There are many, many moments I have chosen not to put down and instead let them die with my father, which I suppose is yet another blessing that God has given in his passing. I don’t want the world to know that side of him….I don’t want to know it. He suffered from depression and it left him unable to battle his own demon of addiction. He wanted to be loved but hated himself, and drank to bury his pain. It is never a losing battle so long as your own father tries… Nor is it a weakness in you to draw a line for the sake of your own heart, family. The anguish of watching my father has taught me so much, and never far from my heart is knowing that My father, it whatever way he could, always loved us. I cannot stress enough the power of forgiveness. It is more important than anything else God could teach us. And it is done for ourselves, so that we can move Through it and not by it, allowing it to linger and cause more pain and strife. If I could tell you without the world knowing I would, because I can feel your sadness, your childhood, your deep sense of abandonment. I still long for the father I needed. I still see him sitting by the fire, can of beer in hand. But much like us, our anxiety, our obsessive need to fold the linens just so, etc…that’s not WHO we are but what we struggle to overcome.

      A song from me to you-

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