My Father’s Daughter
Father’s Day card shopping was always stressful. I’d go through dozens of cards. Nothing fit. All I wanted was one that said Happy Father’s Day, period. But those were scarce. Mostly they dripped with sugary sweet sentiments like “Dad, you are the beacon of our family,” “You always had time for me and showed me how things were done,” or “You taught me right from wrong.”
And the clincher: “I hope when I grow up, I’ll be just like you.” That was the last thing I wanted. But, ironically, that’s exactly what happened.
My alcoholism looked different than his, so I managed to maintain a deep denial for decades, and a haughty judgmental arrogance toward him. But one fine day, more than a decade after he was gone, the still, small voice of truth came through loud and clear in my head: “I am an alcoholic.” Just like him.
This is the 20th Father’s Day that he’s been gone. Though I was at his hospital bedside, along with my mother and my sister, when he breathed his last breath, I’m sure I wasn’t fully present. I was inevitably altered by wine or pot––probably both.
I still don’t think they make cards that express what I would like to say today. I would like to say I love you, Dad. I understand things so much more clearly now. I feel your pain and I know your disappointment, your white-knuckled defeat. No judgment here.
I also know your greatness, your kindness, your sincerity, and your efforts.
In the occasional dreams I have of him, it occurs to me I could tell him that I go to AA meetings, and have been able to stay sober for eight plus years now––something he was never able to do. In my dreams, I wonder whether my dad would go to a meeting with me. I wonder if we could talk about this together and have an authentic conversation like two adults, one alcoholic talking to another.
And in my dreams and in my waking hours, I have lost that haughty judgmental vibe altogether. I have compassion. I have a different realization of what is was like for him. I feel more attuned to the inner insanity that goes with the territory he blindly tried to navigate.
So nowadays on Father’s Day, I am no longer on a quest for a Hallmark card that doesn’t exist. I can continually craft my own unique message to my dad and trust that he receives it, however that works.
Happy Father’s Day, period, Bob Kingsley. We share so much more than I realized, and I treasure the lessons learned.
In gratitude, harmony, and support,