Thursday, August 19, 2010


When it comes to my complicated relationship with my father, everything is tangled. Like a ball of yarn, every thread of love, devotion, anger, sadness, disgust, disappointment, hope and longing is all wrapped together in my heart. It cannot be unwound. It has been bound since I was a child.

I have very intense memories of the heat of Vegas. The tar of the road was sour smelling and stuck to my shoes. Tunnels of Oleanders drooped over me as I hid underneath their shiny leaved, drinking too sweet Kool-Aid from a dirty plastic cup. My hands smelled like dirt, my clothes like smoke. And underneath it all was the permeating smell of booze, sharp and thick in my nostrils. It was everywhere- in the air, on my skin, on my father's breath.

Many times, I am still that little lost girl, wishing for a daddy that was a safe warm shelter.

My father always drank, but in spurts. Sometimes he would go months between binges- sometimes years. When he wasn't drinking, he was kind and loving. He was never a stellar father, but he was all I had. And then the drinking would begin again. I remember being afraid of this man I loved when he drank- not because he was mean, but because he became somebody I didn't know. His words would slur, his eyelids droop. He would care less and less about my whereabouts and ignore me more and more. And I would keep reaching out with more and more desperation the farther he pulled away. That dynamic is as much a part of me as my hands.

The hallmark of a child is the need for attachment and love. A fixed point of family like a north star. Consistency. Discipline. It makes you feel safe. And when that safety is abruptly removed or inconsistently displayed, a frantic sort of need sets in. It becomes ingrained to be wanted and to be seen.

The hallmark of an alcoholic is selfishness. The booze is everything. Nothing else matters. My father exemplifies this. It's a disgusting dance. Back and forth, back and forth. Love and sickness in every step.

So, there you have it.

I have many well meaning people in my life who give me advice about my father.

"Love him and forgive him." I do and I have.

"Distance yourself. Don't think about him." Oh God, don't I wish.

"It's about HIM, not YOU." This one is my favorite. Yes, I know it's about him. But it effects me too. And he is my father. And I love him. So it is about me, too.

"It would just be easier if he died." Yes, in some ways. And in others, not so much.

"Just let it go." I have tried. Many times. But it's tangled, you see.

Add my faith into this and you have a mess. I am supposed to forgive. Okay. But at what point does forgiving mean enabling? I am supposed to love. Well that has never been a problem for me. I love him. It would be easier if I didn't. Don't judge. Yeah, okay. That would be easier if he wasn't actively trying to kill himself and hurting all that love him in the process.

So what do I do?

I want to do the right thing. I want to do what God wants me to do. But I also want to preserve my sanity and not fall apart. How do I do both? How do I love and not engage? How do I get past the anger and stop feeling like that little girl, desperately crying out for a daddy that

I cannot unravel all of these threads. I cannot pull them apart now. They are, for better or worse, a part of how I feel about my father. I have no idea how to feel, what to do, or where to go with these feelings.

Tangled and tied. Just trying to put one foot in front of the other.