For the Love of a Dad
My dad was always on the run. I can?t remember a time when he didn?t have at least two jobs. He never slowed down.
Dad grew up in Tampa, Florida, during the Depression. He dropped out of school in the ninth grade. He shined shoes, sold papers, delivered Western Union Telegrams, fished and crabbed to help support his family. His Dad worked part-time off the hiring board on the Seaboard Railroad.
It was an unhealthy home. My dad and his two brothers were beaten by their second generation alcoholic parents. One day, dad delivered a Western Union death notice to the right address on the wrong street. He was fired. His parents told him that without that job, he couldn?t live at home. Lying about his age, the next day they placed their 17-year-old son on a merchant ship.
He eventually found his way to San Francisco and married my mom. As a merchant seaman, he served in the South Pacific through World War II.
I grew up with two brothers and three sisters. My older brother is eleven months older than me. I?m a product of ?you can?t get pregnant while you?re nursing.?
With dad?s drive to work and make ends meet, it was hard to get any of the love a son needed and desired. Dad seemed to never be there for me.
Papa was a multi-talented innovative man with a great imagination. Given different circumstances, education, and direction, there is no telling where life might have taken him.
It should be no surprise that dad and mom (mom also came from an alcoholic home) became alcoholics. Unhealthiness often seems to follow unhealthiness.
There was always fighting. I was embarrassed to bring friends home. There were families who had far less financially, but were bound by nurturing love. Their kids? esteem appeared higher.
I can only remember going on a couple of family trips. They ended in disaster.
Eventually, dad bounced around to several alcoholic programs and hospitals on his downward spiral. He lived for sometime at the Salvation Army. Dad was a survivor.
Mom gave whatever love there was in the family. My dad was cheated out of the love a son needs from his father; I was, too. There was something missing in my life. It felt as if I was carrying excess baggage for a trip I could never take.
I set out to capture the love I didn?t get?the cup of sugar that I needed from my dad.
Papa was on Social Security and renting a room in someone else?s home. I started picking him up to go places so we could spend time together. I was trying to put the pieces of a puzzle together.
It?s almost impossible to grow up in an unhealthy home without being damaged to some degree. For my own mental health, I started going to Al-Anon meetings.
This wonderful fellowship that provides tools and hope for families of alcoholics allowed me to take the focus off my dad and concentrate on living a happier life for myself.
Z Pain is inevitable; misery is optional.
On one of our outings, I was trying to explain what had been missing and the love I needed from my dad. As I looked into my father?s eyes, I realized he didn?t have a clue as to what I was talking about.
My father couldn?t give me what he didn?t have! He had never been given this tool of love from his family. This, in itself, was a great healing moment. If I got nothing else, I would be able to let the pain go. If I had waited expecting this process to start with my father, it would have probably never happened. This was a process that had to begin with myself, then with my dad and me.
I had been anxious, angry and frustrated wanting love from my dad. Now, I was careful not to overwhelm him or beat him up with my emotions for what I expected he should have known or given me. I felt it would only alienate him further.
Coming from where he had been and with his standards, dad might have thought he had done a decent job. It had taken a long time to get to this point and I wasn?t going to resolve the situation quickly.
When I was a toddler, I took ?baby steps? before I could walk; the same applied here with my dad. But as uncomfortable as it was at times to communicate my feelings, I tried not to place myself in the injured child or victim role. This was the only dad I had.
I continued taking dad out during the next few years. Since he never planned to go anywhere during his life, he didn?t know where to go or what to do. We went on day and overnight trips. He liked to go places where he could learn something. I found myself giving my dad the love I had missed, and doing for him what he couldn?t or wouldn?t do for us kids when we were growing up. I still hoped and prayed I?d receive that cup of love.
Papa was staying with one of my brothers until emphysema required him to move to a care facility. I told him it was difficult for me to watch him slowly commit suicide with cigarettes. Although he stopped drinking (only because he would be kicked out of where he lived), he refused to quit smoking.
Eventually, a wheelchair provided the escape to be able to go on our trips. A good meal became a highlight.
When his condition worsened, we moved papa to a convalescent hospital near our home so two of my sisters and their families could also be a part of his life.
The call finally came. Dad was in the hospital again. This survivor was losing the battle. Emphysema was suffocating him. We circled the wagons with all the family members.
Some of us say ?when we go, we want to go fast.? But sometimes the Lord provides this time to provide healing for the family.
Papa had been given morphine for the pain. He was not responding to us. Then the doctor gave us a gift. He gave dad a drug called Narcan that neutralizes opiate drugs.
Within two minutes, papa woke up bright-eyed. He scanned the room, smiled, then looked right at me and said, ?Thanks for everything. I didn?t know how much I loved you until I got to know you.? There was my cup of love.
Our family spent a joyful healing hour with papa.
When I was getting off work the next day, it struck me that it was time for me to forgive my dad for the baggage I had been carrying. He was still alive. What was I going to do, go to his gravesite or write letters to him of my forgiveness after his death? If not now, when? It needed to begin with me.
I rushed to the hospital. I told my dad that I forgave him for all that happened when I was growing up. He acknowledged that he understood. We prayed. As I left the hospital, I had not anticipated the overwhelming relief of the burden that I had finally released. I believe it?s almost never too late.
Dad slipped away the next day, but not without giving a son the love only a dad can give.
If you have an estranged relationship as I had and you are waiting for the other person to take the first step, it may never happen. You?ll never know until you try. Don?t expect miracles. I found out my Dad couldn?t give me what he didn?t have.
Tell those around you that you love them. I know it?s hard for men to do. But get the chicken bone out of your throat and say it. A good way to start is by ending a phone conversation by saying, ?I love you.? Then, see what happens.
From the book Fire Up Your Communications Skills by
Fire Catpain Bob http://www.eatstress.com/barbaraw.htm
In honor of Father's Day
For the Love of a Dad
I'm trying to hold back my tears as I write...
My dad died last month from cirrhosis. He, too, was an alcoholic. I was there with my family when he took his last breath.
I can relate to everything you wrote.
This Father's Day, my dad's ashes will be laid under a tree that he loved. We'll drink a beer in his honor. Sound weird? Probably. But, you see, we came to accept my father for who he was. He taught us how to love without conditions.
I could write more...but, this was difficult enough.
Thank you for sharing, Capt. Bob.
"You can not expect a hunchback to stand up straight."...........Cousin Elizabeth, the wise-old woman
I was the third born out of six. My one sister is a Command Sgt Major. (Whodathunkit?) My oldest brother is a combination cowboy/carpenter working the Sierras. He choose to be away from people as much as possible after returning from Vietnam. My next older brother is on his way out with a failing liver from diabetes much like our mom who died at the end of December 03. My next brother was nearly killed when he was returning to work on his motorcycle after lunch and a car made a blvd. U-turn in front of him. He suffers from tramatic brain syndrome, acts like a 12 year old (even though he is 40 years old) and after almost twenty years, the state is finally getting around to placing him into the appropriate state care facility. The last born brother has his share of problems and is working as a mid level dispatcher/manager for a furniture company.
Through all of the above, my dad did what he could and what he had to do. While I grew up always hungry, I never starved. While I always wore hand-me-downs, I always had clothes. From my dad, I learned to focus.
My dad worked the night shift at USS Steel and beat the living daylights out of us at the sound of a pin dropping. Dad made steel trashcans (The ones that weighed 50 pounds) and was part of the team that installed the steel plating at the Nike missle sites all over the Southland. Dad drank a lot and spend a lot of his early parent hood drunk. From my dad, I leaned to endure.
I also forgave my dad for the beatings (as Captain Bob has said) because he did not have the tools. From my dad, I learned how and when to forgive people, especially when they can not help themselves.
Today, my dad is my hero as he raised all of us under the most dire of all circumstances. Most any other man would have quit long ago and headed for the bottom of a bottle and stayed there. My dad also taught me persistance even though he never set out to teach me anything but a "lesson" with his belt all over my front and backside. From my dad, I learned to stand my ground and NEVER let anyone to push me around.
After working for on the night shift, my dad went to college during the day, did his homework, and earned his degree in Urban planning. He stopped being a drunk. Dad finally went to work for a county agency and slugged out twenty five years before retiring. Wouldn't you know it but I wound up working the grav yard shift and attending college during the day. Today, I have one degree and I am waiting to hear about two/three more degrees being awarded. From my dad, I learned tenacity.
My dad and I just completed installing floor tile in a bathroom and the endurance and persistance was very much a part of the project. Since we worked well together, he has decided that we will re-do the tile on the bathtub walls. I will do the demolition and install the backer board and he will do the tile work. Some how and somewhere along the way through all the years, my dad became a dad. It is said that you can not change anyone. I believe that. I also believe that you can change yourself and changing yourself changes the way others treat you.
My daughter is the only one who can get away with telling "Grandpa" what to do. While I would never tell my dad what to do, I just do what needs to be done and he follows my lead. Who is the parent and who is he child? (And that is as it should be!)
The only thing that drives me nuts is when he cuts lumber for a project. He uses a Black and Decker circular saw with a half horsepower motor and a dull blade he bought back in 1972! "Dad! Let me get out my Skillsaw Mag77 and I can zip right though those 2x4 in a heartbeat." "No Tom, that is ok, I got it." Go figure! How dare my dad do what he wants to do! Who does he think he is??? Oh yeah....that's right.. he is my DAD and we all know dads do what they want to do! ;) (Well, at least they THINK they are gonna do what they want to do until the women get wind of the situation!)
But the greatest "lesson" I have learned from my dad?
What have you learned from YOUR dad?
This message was edited by tomdeltazulu on 6-17-04 @ 12:03 AM
Wow, Tom. Thanks.
I love these insightful posts.
There are no words to express how deeply I am touched by the postings above. May they inspire all of us to live each day as if it were our last, and to always make time to tell the special people in our lives that we love them.
Please no e-mail. Public replies only. Thank you!
Thank you Bob and Tom for posting those stories. We, on the board, are really lucky that you 2 shared your personal family stories with us.
Rob, you are really a fortunate son to have a father like Bob. What a great role model you have !
I hope all of you have a wonderful Fathers Day !
Punk / Lost Batt.
Because I am hard, you will not like me !
Sr. Drill Instructor
Full Metal Jacket
Ok, I have to ask. P. Brady- Are you serious serious or goofing off here?