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Thursday, March 5, 2015

Twenty Three Years Ago

Today is the day my Father died in 1992. The last few years of his life were the hardest in our relationship. I had married in 1989, not having my Father give me away, not even inviting him to my wedding. He had not met my husband before he passed. He wasn't a bad man, but mental illness had taken over the man I once knew and I was unsure how to deal with him. His words were often hurtful, his behavior was erratic and strange. I tried stopping by his home to check on him a few times before I started dating Mark in December of 1988, but it was too unpredictable and painful. Sometimes he was kind and welcoming, other times he was drunk and nasty. Alcohol was his self medication in those later years. He would have benefited from psychiatric help, but in his mind, he was fine. My love for him was strong and I wished I could help, but after a visit in the late 1980's, I consciously decided "enough was enough." He would have to be well before I could see him again. I walked away not knowing that day would never come. I walked away not knowing I would never see him again, but I walked away knowing I had to walk away. I could not solve his issues, without his wanting to. Today is the anniversary of my Father's death, but he had really been out of my life since that day I left his house crying. My Father was sick and I couldn't talk him into caring enough to get help. I can pretend like it was easy, the day I walked away, but that would be a lie. When I speak of my Dad's mental illness/alcoholism, I probably sound cold and callous. Inside I hurt a great deal, inside I wanted my Dad to care about me more than he cared about alcohol. I wanted him to see the value of our relationship and realize he needed help. I wanted to be important to him. If you are the child of an alcoholic, I'm sure you understand these feelings. It is pretty universal to want to feel loved by your parents, but in my case, mental illness and alcohol took my Dad. I walked away because I knew he had to want to get help. I walked away because I knew I didn't cause his illness and I could not solve it. I walked away and I built a life for me with my husband, always hoping that someday my Father would be well enough to meet him. Mark never met my Father, but that is ok, because if he had, he would have met a man I didn't care for. My Dad died alone, in his favorite chair, with a drink in his hand. The coroner would rule his death a heart attack. The call would come from a stranger, a neighbor of his, I didn't even know. My chance to heal our relationship was gone in that instant. Twenty three years later I still question my actions, could I have helped him by staying in touch? Would I have had him in my life longer, had I tried harder instead of walking away? It is true that a child of an alcoholic takes on much blame for their parents actions. I know I have often wondered "what if?" Twenty three years ago I lost my Father and to this day the pain of that loss still catches me off guard. 

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