A little over a year ago, I made the decision to cut off contact with my father. This was not something I did lightly.
There’s way too much to catch you up on so I won’t even try. There was one conversation that took place, though, that solidified the need to cut ties. You see, my dad is an alcoholic. And co-dependent. He has been spinning out of control since Mami died and there’s nothing and no one that can help. It’s not for lack of trying.
My father has done his best to try to build his family up with one hand while bringing the bricks of that same structure down with the other.
People that have dealt with his emotional and verbal abuse and are used to (and in many ways condone) the cycle will tell you that’s just how he is. Or they will bring up his childhood as proof that not only am I supposed to be completely understanding (and forgiving) of the damage that he has done but I am to continue to let him do damage under the guise of being his kid and due to what he has lived through.
I recently even had a family friend tell me (not even 24 hours after I’d been home from the hospital) that I had not really forgiven my father because I refused to have him in my life. She continued to try to explain to ME what my lived experiences look like and how I am supposed to allow someone who continues to destroy in his life and the life of others into my space. This Christian person who lives stewed in bitterness and bias coated in religious piety at the way her life has turned out has zero understanding of the difference between forgiveness and allowance. I know that it was a projection of her own feelings. An indictment at her lack of forgiveness in her life and how she uses the word but never lets a person forget it. That knowledge didn’t bring me solace. Just a bad taste in my mouth at the reminder that so many women get sold a bag of goods and then don’t have the good ghatdamb sense to throw the bag in the garbage but instead, put it in a pretty box and gift it to the next generation.
I know a good portion of my father’s story. Know how he came to be, so to speak. He has endured so much in his life and I am conscious of it. I grieve for the 6-year old that lost his mom. For the kid that dealt with a much older father that was labeled as “ignorant” in raising his youngest son (he had about a dozen kids total) but was really an abusive and neglectful parent. I would hear stories of this man growing up and, being groomed to be co-dependent, I internalized all the excuses for his behavior even before I knew what that was.
A Roadmap to My Relationships
Years later, off I went to find myself a man with a good heart and good intentions but…never quite living up to his potential. Or to mine. It’s the blueprint for a lot of heartache and I often wonder if Mami would do it over again if given the chance. Dad brought her well over a lifetime of heartaches and some days, it feels like those wounds knitted together to form a picture in a frame hung for us to see that was never quite in focus, which left us with the wrong impression of what that image held.
I walked away from my relationship with the Frog Princess’s dad when I realized I would be teaching my daughter to put up with things that I didn’t think she’d deserve. That I’d let her see an out-of-focus picture of what love was instead of experiencing the real-life, moving bodies that lived love every single day in full HD. That I’d pass down that same blueprint of heartache to her that my mother passed down to me. It was the ONE thing that gave me the strength and wherewithal to stand in my truth.
What’s that got to do with your dad?
Everything. After Mami died, I reflected on things she shared with me leading up to her final breath. She had regrets around people. How she dealt them and how they handled her. About how she sometimes put others first over herself and sometimes the comfort of us kids. I go back to the conversation on that bench outside of the house a mere 3 days before her passing.
Dad has managed to continue the streak of harm since Mami died. I think the biggest was the continual giving of his word that he would communicate better with his kids while always planning some other seedy shit behind our backs.
My dad’s cycle has always been sweet man to drinker of vodka to insulting and/or harming those that love him to refusal to acknowledge his wrongdoing to Mary Magdalene full of all the tears that his body could hold and promises that he will do better to loved ones forgiving him without a real explanation of what he did to his “transformation” to a few weeks or months and right back to his verbal and emotional abuse that folks in the family like to pass off as “that’s just how it is”. Rinse and repeat.
Grieving the living…
This is the longest we’ve gone without speaking. I am told “he’s learned his lesson” by relatives who seem to think I was doing some sort of behavioral experiment.
I cannot say that it has been easy. I struggle because I love him. The thing is, at some point in time you have to understand that you can love someone and still refuse to allow them to poison your every breath under the guise of care and the cover of love. At some point, we need to be able to stand up to a person that continually hurts us and say “no mas”.
I miss some of our conversations though if I am truly honest, I think I miss the potential of those convos. I recall a few nuggets from childhood but the last good chat I had with him was after my last surgery 3 years ago when he stayed with me in the hospital. We talked about so much. For those 2 days I had the father I’d always wanted. It’ll always be my favorite memory of him.
I know that it’s not that he does not love me. It is that he does not know how to love me without inflicting his pain upon me.
I know now that I wasn’t meant to take both.
I’ve had to grieve the dad I always wanted. The potential. With that, I’ve also grieved the potential I have looked for in others. The man that needs fixing, the “friend” that needs help. And then I have had to grieve the man with the soft eyes that could turn on me with a razor sharp tongue and hate in his veins mixed in with a half bottle of Smirnoff. Walking on eggshells was the worst. Never knowing who was going to show up.
I have felt an immense amount of peace in my life this past year. The thing that people don’t tell you is that yes, peace sometimes comes with a sprinkle of sorrow. Kind of like rain on a sunny day. The ones that create pretty rainbows in the sky.
I have felt powerful and strong in ways I haven’t before. I no longer mimic those communication freezes and passive aggressive tendencies that were modeled for me.
I think back to Mami and that one time that she was going to leave him but didn’t. I think she was afraid she might not make it without him. She had two kids at home and her mother to care for, and even though I’d offered to help, I think she questioned herself. Living with a person that doesn’t value you for so many years tends to have that effect.
In a sense, I feel as if I have done what she could not do. Different reasons and circumstances, no doubt. This decision was one that took years to get to. That one last hate-filled conversation tipped everything over. It has made me realize that at times, I put up with things unnecessarily and has freed me up to be more honest with myself and with those around me.
Yes, I think of the inevitability of his death. Of regrets. But, I cannot allow the possibility of regrets to keep me from the very real peace I have found. I have told him how much he’s meant to me in the past. And I have explained that I don’t think he will know how much I love him til God shows him this truth.
I have done all I could over the years. But, as the saying goes, I refuse to light myself on fire to keep anyone warm.
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