Posted by: Dennie | August 20, 2012

Happy Birthday To My Father

Today is my father’s birthday. Sadly, I don’t know how old he is-either seventy-seven or eight. I’ll give him a call later this morning to wish him a good day. We’ll talk about the weather, and then he’ll hand the phone over to my mother, who will also make superficial small talk with me. Sometimes I question myself as to why I bother trying to maintain contact as I’m usually the one to make the phone calls. But I know in my heart it’s the right thing to do. I used to call with the motive to soften them, make them come around and accept me and the choices I have made. It took me a while to figure out what I was doing, and then it took even more time to determine that I was hurting myself because my hopes were never going to come true.

This all came about in 1999, when I left my husband and marriage of almost twenty years, for another man. It shouldn’t have come as a surprise to my parents, as they were well aware of my decade long unhappiness, our various attempts at marriage counseling and my loneliness. It was also during that time that I sought the help of AA. The program was my last resort.  Anti depressants and personal counseling weren’t helping, and when one of my therapists suggested I try AA, I listened. Twenty plus years of drinking with my former spouse had eroded my emotional being, and I was miserable and ready to try anything. Thankfully, it was the answer for me. Ironically, though, while my parents had frequently commented on the amount and regularity of my drinking, when I admitted to them I had a problem and needed help, their reaction was formal and stilted. My father was the very first person I told-it was over the phone- and the inflection in his voice changed from warm and loving dad to stern and serious father. Even after a year had passed, and I invited them to celebrate at my first anniversary, they were so uptight and uncomfortable that I decided then and there never to ask them to participate in my success at sobriety again. Now we don’t discuss it.

The last decade plus has been a series of ups and downs with them. They didn’t approve of my choice of replacement for their son-in law–or should I say, SUN in law…but over the course of those years, after a long period of estrangement, they attempted, on and off, and act of artificial acceptance.  Again, I could write volumes on  this, but I’d be here all day. I suspect, if I can continue to write regularly, the details will begin to seep out. At this point, I have chosen to keep them private-away from my husband–the man for whom I left the first and have been happily married for the last ten years–and my two children. It would only cause them all undue angst. For now I’ll suffice it to say that last spring my father made his feelings abundantly clear to me, which, in a way, while shocking and hurtful, freed me from my quest for acceptance. There are still times when I struggle with, times when I am angry and indignant at his callous self-righteousness and narrow mind. He portrays himself as a pillar of the community, and good and respectful man. But in my eyes, he is weak and afraid, a sick and sad person who has forsaken his oldest daughter on pretense and moral appearance. I sometimes wonder if he ever drops the shroud of mental deception and takes an honest look at himself and his decisions. If he does, is the reality too harsh for him to accept or too frightening for him to examine? Either way, it’s very sad. Sometimes I miss him and what we had all those years ago. But if I look a little deeper, I remind myself that the daughter I was then was the “good” girl, there to please and seek approval at all costs. Today I know that as long as I can look at myself and know that I am doing my best and being the best grown woman I can be, then I can accept myself and that’s all that matters.

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