Truthiness Day 14: Goodbye to you

Day 14 → A hero that has let you down. (letter)

Dear Dad,

Where do I begin?

When I was a child you were the person I looked up to the most.  You were smart, good looking and talented even beyond music, art, and sports.  My world revolved around you; when my mom told me to go to sleep so that I could wake up and see Mr. Sunshine, I thought she was talking about you.

With all that you had going for you, I don’t understand how you could do the things you did.  You seemed to carry so much life, yet you destroyed that light with drugs.  You then left the evidence behind for me to find and I had to ask my mother, “Why is daddy sniffing sugar?”  How could you pack your things and leave my mom while she was 6 months pregnant with your third child together?  Do you know that she had a panic attack when she came home to an empty house?  You then proceeded to max out the credit card buying things for your new girlfriend while my mom worked the night shift at the gas station to make ends meet…while your girlfriend was being swathed in the fur coat you bought for her, my mom was held up at gun point on more than one occasion.

You were neglectful and reckless.  You left me in charge of my younger siblings while you went out to party before I was even 9 years old.  You nearly drove us off the side of the levee into the river in your VW Bug regularly just so you could get a thrill.  I still can’t get anywhere near the side of a cliff without dealing with panic and vertigo.  I also can’t pick up the telephone without suffering severe anxiety thanks to your yelling at me for forgetting phone numbers when calling Information on your behalf.

Recently I learned that you hit me in the stomach because I left the table without asking for permission.  I was 3 or 4 years old.  I can’t even begin to wrap my head around that one.

I’ve heard a lot of excuses for the things you did, and so much blame has been shifted to others.  I think my grandparents still put you up on a pedestal, believing that you were their golden boy who could never do wrong.

I missed you for a long time after you died.  Now I can’t help but think of how much more damage you would have caused in the lives of others if you had lived past 30.  I barely remember the good things because there is just so much bad to eclipse them.  I wish I could still pretend that you were a good dad.  I wish I still had my hero.



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How I Parent

My therapist asked me recently about how I parent.  I didn’t know how to answer at first.  I had just explained that I didn’t have good examples of parenting growing up –  I parented my mom and dad a lot more than they parented me and I spent much of my childhood trying to take care of and shield my siblings.    The idea of *me* being taken care of is pretty much alien to me.  I recognize this and acknowledge it and discuss it in therapy.  So the therapist wondered how, if I don’t know how to be taken care of, did I figure out how to take care of others?

Communication in my family was difficult and not to be trusted most of the time.  The grandmother who babysat us, fed us, clothed us, provided cable TV and video games – she is also the person who in my memory has never hugged us and had violent outbursts at unpredictable times.  Never did we hear that she loved us, but many times we heard that she hated us.  Any good thing she did for us was followed tenfold by something bad and I’ve always had the “audacity” to expect that life should be good enough to be worth living.

My parenting theory is based heavily off of the notion that I should do everything differently than my family did.  My family kept secrets.  They explained away the bad stuff or pretended it didn’t happen.  So my theory is pretty simple, really.  I don’t keep secrets.  I try to acknowledge the bad stuff.  I try to work on problems until they are fixed and I keep working to make sure they don’t return.  Even if I know how to fix something, I don’t want to keep repairing the same issue over and over.  I’d rather avoid it altogether if possible.

While I may not immediately know what goes on the list of “good parenting” many times, my compiled list of bad parenting decisions is massive.  Even if I don’t know how to be good, I am extremely aware of how not to be bad.

Somehow my approach to parenting seems to be working for Jack (and also for me).  We spend a lot of time talking about our days and I make sure that he knows that even if I can’t fix his problems, he doesn’t have to deal with them alone.  A stomach ache is somehow easier to handle when you have someone to snuggle.

So when I was asked how I parent, the only thing I could think to say was, “I listen to my kid.  He tells me what he needs.  If I’m paying attention, if I’m attuned to what is going on with him, it’s not that complicated.”  Listening to my kid and talking about things is a hell of a lot easier than listening to him screaming at me because he doesn’t understand why I won’t do XYZ.  From the day he was born, his only agenda has been to live and learn and thrive.  It’s my job as a parent to make sure he is supported in those endeavors.  And you know what?  If all I went through as a kid has brought me to a point where I can support my own child and help him thrive, then it was worth it.

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The Future

I look at these pictures and I can see Jack at 16. I see that he has already been watching me and figuring out what happens when mom drives.
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I know that this extends to other areas of our life and it takes my breath away. He is growing up so very quickly. In these moments I feel as if a film of the future is rolled out in front of me and I catch only a few frames. It makes me want to wrap my arms around Jack and hold on in the hopes that time will slow down and that he will stay my wonderful little guy for just a little longer.
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Adventure To Do List

There are so many things I want to do with Jack this year!  I’m not sure that I can even keep track but I’m going to try.  If we can’t get to them this year, it’s not a big deal, but I’m hoping to cross at least one of these off the list!

  • Discovery Kingdom – this is an amusement park in Vallejo and they have a TON of kiddie rides.  I haven’t been to an amusement park in a looooong time and I know Jack would totally dig it.  David and I are trying to arrange to go with at least one other adult so that we can ride some of the adult rides, too.
  • Nutcracker Ballet – I absolutely love the Nutcracker.  My grandmother used to take me as a kid and I just thought it was magical.  I totally want to share this experience with Jack and since the SF Ballet has special family nights, I think we can pull it off this year.
  • The Labyrinth – I’m hesitant on this one right now because it (and by it I mean David Bowie) might be a little too freaky for him.  On the other hand, he might totally dig it.  Any experience with this one out there?
  • Board Games – I am a serious board game fanatic.  Jack knows it and wants to play with the games, but so far all we’ve done is used the deck of Target cards as flashcards.  We have Chutes and Ladders, but all he wants to do with that is send his dude down the slide over and over (yet he still wins).  Suggestions?
  • Trick-or-treating – We haven’t yet done the trick-or-treating thing, mostly because I figured a party was just as fun for Jack and didn’t want to deal with a struggle over candy.  I think this may just be the year we start.  I plan to take things slow by just going to a few houses and then going to an event or something.

What’s on your Adventure To Do List?

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