Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The past will always follow you, no matter how fast you run...

This isn't saying that you can't move forward in your life. I'm simply stating that there are certain events that occur that are so life altering, that no matter how many years ago they happened, they still follow you every single day. There is not a day that goes by where I don't think about how my father is doing, or what he is doing. Not a day that goes by where I don't wonder what it would be like to meet my little sister and hug her and kiss her and teach her things about life, and watch her grow up before my eyes. Life without my Dad has become the norm now. So normal in fact, that it's difficult to imagine what things would be like if he was still around. Most of my days I can think about my Dad and not shed a tear. Yesterday was NOT one of those days. For some reason my iPod kindly decided to play a song that my father would always sing to me. Billy Joel's Lullaby. Needless to say I pretty much cried for a good 20 minutes after that one. It got me thinking too. It's been 6 years since I last saw him. Our last few days together were pretty horrible. I remember that it was the week of our garage sale. My Mom was selling our beautiful house in Deal and we were pretty much getting rid of all our amazing antiques and items we'd collected over the years. My father had gotten wind of disturbing news about his daughter (she lives in Africa) and since the woman he was dating there was completely out of her gourd, she wouldn't allow him to contact her. My father, being an alcoholic, proceeded to get himself completely sloshed and publicly humiliate himself and my family in front of the huge amount of people that had gathered at our garage sale. He hopped on my bike and drove into tables and people before crashing at the end of the driveway. I remember him screaming "Fuck you!" over and over at my mother and me. I guess someone called the cops, so they came and brought him back to our house and left him in the back yard to cool off. Of course, this was a huge mistake on their part because my Dad turned on me. He started screaming at me that I "wasn't his daughter" and that he "didn't and couldn't love me." I told him how much I hated him for what he had put us through so many years ago when he first left us and that I thought he was pathetic. I remember the look on his face when I said this. He was no longer my father. He was possessed. Whether it was the alcohol that took hold, or his own dementia, something made him hate me, loathe me, even. I could see the fire burning in his eyes and I knew that if I let him come near me, he would kill me. I turned and ran, with him drunkenly chasing after me, screaming God knows what at the top of his lungs. I slammed my door and locked it behind me, to only have him throwing himself against it, screaming that he would kill me if he got his hands on me. It was at this point that a battle began in my brain. Here was a man, who had been as good of a father as one could be as a bipolar alcoholic, who is drunkenly threatening my life. I kept going back and forth over the idea of calling the police as I sat quietly in the comforting blanket of my dark closet, clutching my phone in my hands. At this point, I didn't care if he hated me forever, and I didn't care if my family did either.
I remember hearing that voice on the other side of the line and just completely losing it. I explained to her that my father was drunker than he'd ever been and that he was going to kill me if he broke down my door. She sent the police over immediately and stayed on the phone with me until they arrived. My father was handcuffed and brought outside while a very tall officer came over and hugged me. He asked me if I was afraid of my father and I told him that I was. He asked if I wanted my Dad to be taken to jail.
What went through my mind at that moment was this; my father had put us through years and years of mental torment. I dealt with his drinking my entire life, constantly finding hidden bottles and empty wine glasses placed throughout our homes. I dealt with him paying me off with cash to bribe me not to tell my mother that I caught him drinking. I dealt with him rarely coming to a dance recital or swim meet or football game to see me march. I dealt with him working through dinners when he was supposed to be eating with us at the table, and dealt with his screaming battles with my mother when she found out he was stealing money from her. I dealt with him, running, out of our lives and leaving us behind, $30,000 in debt. His lying, his stories, his dream world that he lived in which kept him separate from us...we dealt with it all, because we loved him. And because I loved him, I sent him to jail. I knew it was the only thing I could do to get him to realize the severity of what he'd put us through. The next morning he was sobbingly apologetic. I didn't come home to see him. I didn't come home to say goodbye. He flew back to Tanzania the next day.
I never thought we'd be a divorced family, but we became one. It took five years of him lying about when he would return home to us, one month, no, five months, no wait, 10 months...turned into five years, but my mom finally divorced him. It was settled on February 26, 2001. Two days after my 21st birthday. Honestly, it's difficult to shake the past, and it's harder to forgive those who've made your past difficult, but it is easy to admit that it shapes you into a different person. I'm a different person because of my father. I've learned that sometimes, even when you think you can't forgive someone, you can when you are ready. I've also learned that sometimes you just have to let go and that every second of your life is important and you shouldn't take anything for granted. Things really do happen for a reason, whether you understand the reason or not. While I don't know the reason why this happened to me, I do know what the outcome was. This experience showed me how strong I really am and that I don't ever want to travel down the path that my father has. I appreciate my mother more than I ever had before and I wouldn't give up what we've shared together for anything. People always ask me if I could change what happened, would I? I wouldn't! While I do want my mom to not be alone, I personally feel that I've managed pretty well without a father. I'm really proud of who I've become and I'm also grateful that things didn't end up worse than they were. I still speak with my Dad. He lives in Tanzania with my little sister, and her sister and brother. We e-mail on and off, and when I get the time to get a calling card I can speak with him and my siblings. Life never works out how you imagine it. Shitty things happen to good people; it's just a matter of how you deal with those things that gets you through them. I never stopped loving my Dad through all this. I was fortunate that I could forgive him, but we both know that I will NEVER forget.