Damn! This morning I got up and grabbed the camera to start organizing and posting my pictures from Maggie Island. My digital camera has been killing every battery that I put in it after one picture, so my father-in-law let me borrow his nifty Nikon for the trip. He’s at work, and I’m scouring his junk drawer to find the USB cable so I can transfer the pictures! Aargh!
In the meantime, I bring you an archive from my Bipolar blog, dated May 18, 2010.
So last night I was trying to explain to my husband that the lack of my father in my life isn't really a big deal to me anymore. He retorted, "don't you want to spend time with him? I mean, all that time he was with [name removed to protect the evil monster that is my dad's ex-girlfriend] (update: as of December they are sadly back together, and I haven’t spoken to him since September due to this) you haven't really been able to connect with him". Because of my analogous nature, I explained, "Babe, what if you bought two lottery tickets every day for a year, and ticket A paid out like every other day, and ticket B over the course of a year paid a dollar. If by next year you could only afford one ticket, would you buy ticket A or B? You would totally pick A, and kick yourself for spending all that money on B in the first place!" Yeah that's how I feel for my mother and stepfather versus my father, respectively.
Growing up, as stated in my earlier blog "Blood", my dad was the cool guy. He let me sleep in his giant bed when he would be in his office with friends. I would ask him questions that he would answer speaking to me like I was an adult. He told me about the Donner Party (go Wiki it!), told me the story about how he smoked Opium for the first time and woke up on the airstrip of Edwards Air Force Base three days later, argued with me about politics when I was 8. I would wake up in the middle of the night and my dad would be MIA. I would find him at the end of our property in his shed building something. It was so cool that he was a free spirit, and people would be in and out of his house all the time, just to stop by because my dad was just kick-ass. Of course I didn't know at 8 that all of those events could be considered classic signs of meth-amphetamine addiction.
When I was a little kid, my dad would promise to come pick me up from my moms at a certain time. Both my mother and I remember what I did like it came out of a movie: I would have my hands pressed up against the living room window, looking onto the street and KNOWING that black car was my dad. Or maybe that next black car. Oh, it's definitely the next one. Three or four hours after calling him non-stop, or crying my eyes out, my dad would either call or show up and state that a) he got a flat tire, b) got pulled over for a speeding ticket, c) had to finish a job for someone, or any variation of the three. As soon as I saw my dad the tears would stop and I was in for a fun-filled weekend with my DAD! He would tell me about a museum an hour away that had this really cool exhibit he was going to take me to the next day at 11am. Before he would tuck me in I would ask "okay, so we're going tomorrow? Right? At 11? Can we get McDonalds on the way?" and he would tell me, "yes, yes. Now get some sleep!" 10am would come and I would wake up my dad, and he would tell me, "okay, come back in a half hour, I just need to sleep". 10:30am on the dot I would come back and it would be another half hour. After a while he would get angry because I woke him up so much, so I would just hang out in the living room, watching TV and eating whatever was in the fridge. Sometimes I would get bored and walk a block alone to my mom's parents house or go next door and play with my neighbor. My dad would wake up around 4pm and promised that we could go the next day at 11am. Rinse, and repeat.
I always ended up defending my father to my mother. I was a classic case of "stuck in the middle"-my mom would call dad a loser, or a bum, or make me ask where child support was, and my dad would call my mom a rich bitch and have me tell her the check was in the mail. He owned his own landscaping company when I was younger, and lost it. I never knew why until I was an adult (drugs). I always defended my dad, usually in an argument with my mom more than any other time. The thing was, when my dad would bad mouth my mom, I would usually snicker along or keep quiet. She did ask a lot for money. I mean, sheesh, she worked. She had money! Why would she need any more from my dad? Isn't my dad doing enough already? Looking back, I realize all I ever did was defend my dad, and for nothing. He was a drug addict. He lost his teeth and told me it was from "getting older". He went to jail on more than one occasion, which he always told me was from a parking or speeding ticket he didn't pay. One time he got arrested in front of me, and they handcuffed him and put the both of us in the back of the police car. I had to give them my mother's phone number through terror and sobbing and they dropped me off at a restaurant to wait for my mom to pick me up while they took my dad God knows where. When my mom did pick me up, she tried to rationalize the situation, and I was so mad at her for not caring that they picked my dad up for no reason! And took him away! And didn't tell me where!!!
When I was in fourth grade he had a job as the groundskeeper of a beautiful private university. He would take me with him to work when he was stuck with me on the weekends, and I got to see every bit of the college-the campus kitchen, the alumni house, the dorms. He said that as a part of his benefit package, I got a "free ride" to the university when I graduated high school. When the students would leave for the summer to go back home, he even showed me what "dumpster diving" was-when you hopped into the trash bins and picked up old walkmans, telephones, clothes, etc. I was too girly and grossed-out to ever hop in a dumpster, but I was fascinated by what people threw out, and my dad was pretty much a treasure hunter in my mind. One day I found out he had lost his job. He told me that the morning he had to drop me off at school he was late for work and they fired him. I was devastated for him, and felt just terrible for being the reason he lost his job. I am now 29, with an 11-year-old. If I got fired for any reason pertaining to my son I would never let him know. Ever. Who would put a burden like that on a child? I mean, 20 years later I pass by that university every day and think to myself, I could have gone here. I could have been successful.
In seventh grade my mom remarried and I chose to live with my dad. The year before he let me have a party at his house and let me invite boys. He left us alone and we played spin the bottle. Coolest. Dad. Ever! My thoughts when I packed up my stuff and showed up on his front porch was he's gonna leave me alone and I can just do whatever I want. How right I was. After about a day he dropped me off at his parents house, who I had a history of not getting along with, and they gave me the guest house. I was totally a grown-up. And never felt so alone. Most of the time my dad wasn't around, and my grandparents left me to my own devices. I walked to school, ate what I wanted, and pretty much did what I wanted. (Note: Thank God for Pearl Jam's album "Ten" during this period; I don't know what would have happened if I didn't have that tape.) One day my grandma was taking me to my Saturday sports league-something my dad was supposed to take me to every week, but was too sick to go this week (drugs). Once we got in the car she started yelling at me about how selfish and ungrateful a child I was, and that my dad is sick and needs help and I only cared about myself. She pulled the car over, grabbed my head, and repeatedly slammed it into the passenger side window. I was shocked and stunned. She dropped me off and told me she would pick me up three hours later. I had a friend call my mom, and she picked me up right away and I was not allowed to see my father for a very long time. When I tried to tell him what his mother had done, he told me I was over-exaggerating, and said "I have no choice but to love my mother. You don't have to like your parents, but you have to love them." He or my grandmother never apologized for what they did, and the aftermath ended up with my first therapy sessions at 12 years old.
When I was a tween, my dad told me on more than one occasion, "you are going to become a teenager soon and we won't have these talks anymore. You will be too busy with school, your friends and boys, and hanging with your dad will be lame". I thought he was out of his mind. I would never stop loving my dad or wanting to see him. All these years later I realize the statement was true. I just didn't think it would still hold as an adult.