Wednesday, October 7, 2015

My Shame

Have you ever had one of those life events that just opens up some crazy can of worms that has to change everything?  Ever have to tell one of those stories where you don’t know where you should even start?  A story where even the beginning is a poor choice?  Let me try to start it, even though, no matter where I start it, it loses the point.  Ugh….

Recently, my mother passed away.  As with most parental passings it caused quite a bit of emotional discharge from those closest.  And with all emotional discharge comes the things that you just cannot explain.  The problem with starting the story here is that the issues started months before her passing, it started with her getting sick.

In late fall of 2013, my mother went to the hospital with pneumonia.  It was quite severe and most everyone thought that hospital bed would be her death bed.  Including her husband.  My dad has always been a piece of work, but during that time he truly fell off of his rocker.  He started talking about finding someone young with money to marry, or getting strippers to clean the house.  His wife wasn’t even dead yet and he was telling his son this mess.  I had a very hard time not body checking him into a wall….

Dad always had a way of being wonderfully condescending to me, pretty much my entire life.  But he took it to an extreme without my mother to keep him in some sort of check.  He was quick to point out how my ‘taking charge’ of the situation, mainly him not taking all the right actions, was some kind of rite of passage that turned me into a ‘real man.’  It was something I had done all my life, taking charge of my life, doing what needed to be done.  Only in my late thirties does my dad somehow notice it.  Only after he imparted about how his drug use was okay to my step-daughter did he come to this epiphany. 

As I write this, some two and a half years later, my word still holds true.  I told my amazing step-daughter to collect what she wanted from the house, because she was never coming back.  I don’t know how many times I had to grit my teeth and clench my fists and will myself not to even attempt to beat some sense into his senselessness.  Part of me will always regret that the last time I seen my mother alive, she was on what we all believed to be her deathbed, completely unresponsive.  I never told her goodbye in person, even though she arose from that bed, only to go into a battle with cancer she would eventually lose.  But I refused to take my family back around him, even on the phone he was a tad unhinged.

My mom passed on the day of a major exam.  I reached out to my friends for support at the time, but honestly, I never had the chance to grieve.  My dad has other plans.  His form of grief was…taxing.  He was relieved she was gone, but saddened.  He needed people to talk to, but his talks were beyond disturbing.  He talked to my wife about his sex life with my mother, getting into intimate details, disturbing details….  It was obscene.  For one final time, I had to step in and do something to protect my real family….

Prior in my life, either my wife guilted me into calling him, or I felt like humoring him with a silly project that I knew he’d enjoy hearing about.  It always took a toll to talk to him, but I did it because of some sense of respect for the man.  Maybe it was the long talks with my mother about how much I hated him as a child, maybe it was the fact I wanted to believe that blood does tie a family together.  I’ve learned that to be wrong many times over, watching other people.  Blood is no tie at all.  The only true tie is respect and I cannot recall a single time I had the respect, that wasn’t in some way condescending, of the man who impregnated my mother nine months before I was born.

One final phone call, I told him about half of my grievances with him, and I left it at that.  Thankfully I’ve not spoken to him again, nor do a plan do.  He tried to give me one iota of the respect I gave him by telling the truth by promising me that my childhood things that were stored at my childhood home were mine and always would be.  One final lie from that man was more than one too many….

Recently, he decided that he would rather burn my old stuff than give it back to me, either that or he wanted me to send him a list of the things I wanted (so he could look up those items on ebay to see if they had any value) before he would take them to a location and have me pick them up.  How petty and childish is a man who holds his own son’s childhood memories in such a way?  *sigh*  Such is the man who was more committed to his job (which he was sure would take care of him through retirement, and boy how that’s worked out) than he was to being a father.

I can never fault anyone for being a hard worker, but 12 hours a day, 7 days a week is just pushing yourself into something that is not even a life.  I learned several lessons from my parents, every single one of them was to not be anything like them.  I struggle as hard as I can against the genetic behavior, but other things were completely easy.

For some, this whole thing is about me bashing my dad, but here’s the deal.  I’m chosing to share this story, because hopefully someone out there, somebody, anyone, will take away these last words of wisdom, the things I learned from all of this….

Blood does not make a family, it never has.  Your true family are your true friends, the ones that support you through anything, are there for you when you need them, and are people you truly respect.  That might end up being your parents.  When George Carlin broke down the 10 Commandments he came to Honor thy Father and Mother.  Here’s his exact quote:

“This commandment is about obedience and respect for authority; in other words it's simply a device for controlling people. The truth is, obedience and respect should not be granted automatically. They should be earned. They should be based on the parents' performance. Some parents deserve respect. Most of them don't. Period.”

Another thing I’ve learned about life from my parents is live it how YOU want, not how anyone else wants.  Live it morally, develop your own morals.  Trust me, you know what is right and wrong.  I developed a hard working mentality, when I want something done and I have to get off my butt and do it, I simply get off my butt and do it.  When the economy forced me out of North Carolina, I made the worst mistake I’ve ever made in my life, I moved back in with my parents.  Halfway there my Aunt invited me to move in with her.  I ended up taking her up on it a year later.  I nabbed a job that was just two days a week, just enough to pay the bills, feed me, and drive around a bit.  I used that time to finally rebuild myself, and somehow I met the woman who became my wife.  A handful of hours of work a week and I was honestly living my dream.  I didn’t need some factory job where I gave my entire life to the company hoping to squeak out some happiness at the end of my life.

Finally, I learned, never ever live life for someone else’s approval.  Whether it be a spouse, or a parent, take what they all say with a grain of salt, because that person is not you.  They might actually know what’s best, but in the end, only you can live your life, and only you will get the happiness of living that life.

In the end, after all of this, I had a great childhood, in my own way.  When I look back at it and see that my dad was not really a part of it, that I was raised by my grandmother in an environment that bred creativity and imagination…I can’t help but shed a tear and miss that woman for saving my soul from her son….  I just wish she could have met my wife, so Lisa could have seen that there was more people in my family than just my aunt and her children that were worth a damn at all.  And lastly, I’m happy my mother no longer has to put up with that man anymore.  I never saw my mother unhappier than when my dad retired.  I’m just glad she got to enjoy her son’s wedding and see him make another go at college.  As much as it turned my stomach to hear dad say he was proud, it honestly did make me happy to know that my mother was proud of me and happy for me….

(And just as an FYI, the title, my shame?  Yeah, my shame is that I'm named after my dad.  Luckily, though, I have a different middle name, which is why I've gone by it for most of my life.  Lisa and I have been talking about legally changing my name just to get further away.  But in the end, I might keep it, just to know that someone, somewhere, did something good with the name....)

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