On March 12 it will be six months since my first blog post. In September I had just started a new job after losing what I thought was the perfect job for me. I was working hard at surviving and just barely keeping my head above water after two months of feeling angry, lost, and jobless. I only had three grandchildren. I was single.
Here I sit, six months later, tapping words out on my laptop on the same exact couch cushion I did when this whole thing started. Six months and it seems like such a long time ago. Things have changed. I have realized, have witnessed first hand, that the bad things that happen to us in life really do happen for a reason. It puts us where we are supposed to be. It makes us stronger. I still work hard at surviving, but mostly just the crappy New Hampshire winter weather which will hopefully be a distant memory soon. I don’t feel lost, I actually feel like I am on the right path for the first time in a long time. I am not jobless. The anger has dissipated to a dull roar. I have FOUR grandchildren now! Four beautiful, unique little people that are actually amused by my goofiness. I’m still single as a freaking pringle, that one hasn’t changed a bit.
Six months later. The world has turned. Days have gone by. Cute, charming guys have come and gone. Although I still sit in the same exact spot, my perspective has changed. By writing I’ve allowed myself to be vulnerable, which is not something that typically sits well with me. In the past I have pulled up the welcome mat and locked the door like a New Yorker with three locks and two deadbolts in vulnerabilities face. Persona non grata. I’ve run, I’ve hidden under the covers, I’ve tried to scare it away.
I DON’T DO VULNERABILITY.
If you’ve been reading along these last six months you’re sitting there thinking, what?!? She writes about all of this personal stuff and then posts it on the INTERNET. Ahh…..but, the stuff I write about…..to me, it’s history. I’ve dealt with it and tossed it out like yesterday’s garbage. When it seems I am dealing with pain, I am actually just sorting out what’s left like the laundry, whites in this pile and colors in another. I don’t write about what I’m going through present tense. That…..THAT, is vulnerability. That is putting my feelings out there where people can see them and know that there is still shit I haven’t figured out. It’s hard to do.
A friend sent this to me recently. She always reads my posts and often comments. I am truly grateful for her support. I knew this to be all too true…..
So I can honestly say that up until this point that the feelings and stories I’ve shared with you have been real and true, but it has not been present day pain and emotion. Today we are going to venture down that dark and scary road. Buckle up…..
I hadn’t spoken to my father in five and a half years until this fall. If you read “Ghosts” you may remember me talking about seeing him again after all this time. He looked like Charles Manson in a hospital bed. I was terrified of seeing him again, not because I was afraid of him, but because I was afraid of how seeing him may dredge up past feelings. Feelings of inadequacy and downright anger. I saw him and I felt numb and for this I was grateful. This could have easily spurred further anxiety, something which I struggle with greatly at times.
The last few months have contained a few visits with him and difficult decisions made to ensure his care and safety going forward. My relationship with my father has been….interesting. Not one for the record books in either extreme. It’s been there at times and others not. It is something that when I was going to counseling was a topic of discussion on many occasions. I’ve realized I am more like him than I ever thought, which is saying something because I’ve always thought I was his spitting image. I think he has struggled with the same feelings of inadequacy and anger that I have. His childhood was spent shielding his younger brother from his alcoholic father that liked to beat the crap out of their mother. He dealt with his issues by drinking and although he never laid a finger on my own mother there were moments in my childhood that mirrored his. Instead of sneaking my younger sibling out a window to go hide at the neighbors I huddled under a table while words and telephones and chairs were hurled across the room. I’ve realized how easily I could have followed in those same footsteps, but I didn’t. I somehow have managed to break the cycle with my children and their own alcoholic father. I’ve realized that this…..this is my story. This is the story that a month ago I started outlining for a book. The story of how the shockwaves of alcohol and anger and depression and anxiety all mixed together continue on for generations. The story of no matter how much we remove ourselves from this situation those affects are still there lingering under the surface. I thought I knew how the story ended. I hadn’t seen my father in two months at the nursing home. My outline originally ended with anger and even more anger on top of it.
Two weeks ago we began cleaning out the home where my father had been living prior to his last fall. It was my grandparent’s home, the one my grandmother had died in last April. The house I hadn’t stepped foot in for five years. The house that, although held some of my favorite childhood memories it was now just a smelly pit of spoiled food and discontent. We found pictures and records and memories. Sorting through my grandmothers things didn’t change how I felt at all about how things went down with her. I was at peace with it. I brought home a big box containing my father’s record collection. I love vinyl and his collection was pretty impressive. I spent a Sunday afternoon pulling them out of the box and sorting them, switching out Joni Mitchell with the Beatles and Billy Squier and Jethro Tull and my first Donny Osmond record (that he still had). At the bottom of the box were two picture albums. We had been looking all over for them when we were at the house. They stared up at me from the bottom of the box. I made faces at them. I swore a little. WHY did I find these now? I was alone. I was unprepared. I pulled them out and sat cross legged on the floor as the Beatles reminded me to just Imagine.
Unless it involves my children (and now my grandchildren) I am not an overly emotional person. Very few people have seen me cry. I’m not comfortable with the feeling. As I flipped through the pages of the album the tears came quickly. There was my father, younger, grinning from the other side of the camera wearing horrible 80’s white short-shorts and tall tube socks. Many of the pictures he was with my step-mother, whom he adored. I remembered this man. This was a time, a very short time in his life that I had remembered, that he was happy. He tried to be a good father then. He drank less. He gave me boundaries (which as I was a teenager I totally rebelled against, because after all of these years how dare I be given them NOW?!?). He actually tried to be a part of our lives. He smiled. I can only imagine that my step-mother was the one thing that kept the monsters in his head away because this was the only time of his life that he seemed at peace. She made him feel adequate. She made him feel worthy. She made him feel loved. I don’t think he ever felt this way before she came into his life or after she died. I remembered that he was human and very much like me, he just didn’t handle it very well. I cried more tears than I have since my breakdown two years ago.
That afternoon changed things for me.
The outline of the book that I have started writing…..not exactly sure how it ends now. Anger has been replaced by other emotions. Pity. Empathy. Compassion.
I’m still angry, but more so that he let things get to this point.
I’ve been trying to see my father more. I bring him granola bars and sit and watch the History channel with him as he eats his dinner. We don’t talk a lot. It’s not much, but it makes me feel a little less shitty about where we are at.
I have worried about telling my story about me and him and the impact that he, everything, has had on my life. I worry that people will tell me I’m being a Princess and to suck it up, it wasn’t that bad. I worry that people will judge me for how I feel about my own father. I worry that they may have been there, but didn’t see things as I did. It’s been six months since I started writing. It had been five and a half years since I had seen him. Two months since I last saw him. Two weeks since I stepped foot into that little blue house. And everything has changed.
Perspective changes everything.