As those who Twit will know from yesterday's outburst, DUI Dad, ever competitive, has once again decided to imbibe and drive. It's a clever combination really, particularly when one is awaiting trial for the same action from a mere two weeks prior.
My brother got a phone call to say that Dad was in the hospital, though naturally the hospital could not tell C what happened. When he spoke to my Dad, he was still under the influence and couldn't stop apologising. He also couldn't stop apologising to C the first time, all those days ago. C, like me, is getting increasingly fed up.
I was thinking about this situation today on a fairly long walk to a meeting. The sheer clusterfuckedness of it is a bit overwhelming, and as I expressed in my previous DUI Dad post, I don't know where I stand on the issue of a support. This is a man who survived a tour of Vietnam, the unfortunate origin of his life's problems. He has spent the past 40 years trying to overcome those issues with varying success. Formerly a cop, he disappeared with his service pistol about 12-13 years ago. It was all over the news, our unique last name boldly marking his connection to my family. Luckily I was out of high school by that point, but C wasn't. I don't know how much it affected him at the time, but I don't imagine it's the best situation for a 14 year old to be in.
My parents split up after a protracted period of awkward silence and oblique allusions to "meetings" my Dad failed to attend. I forget how old I was, 17 perhaps? My Dad thought the best thing to do was to drop out of our lives completely while he sorted himself out. I supported this decision, more or less, because I thought he was just trying to protect us. In my angry moments, such as the time I ran into him at McDonald's and he blithely asked, "So what are you doing these days - are you in college?", I thought he should be able to put his role as a father before that of a recovering alcoholic, depressed gambling addict. I wanted to be understanding, forgiving, despite his sudden (and eventually quite lengthy) absence from my life. I wanted to be fair even though his addictions led him to drain my college fund completely, stranding me very last minute at a community college when I had planned on going away to school.
In writing this, I wonder why I'm so quick to forgive. Now, as a parent, I can't imagine allowing my personal issues to supercede the well-being as a child. I'm aware that addictions and depression construct an irrational sense of self, but again, when do the excuses stop? When do you have to pull yourself together and get the help that you so obviously require?
I read a post over at Dead Bug's this week that resonated with me to the point that I felt completely raw and exposed. This, this is my fear. The last two paragraphs left me in a teary mess at my desk, and they are having the exact same effect now, re-reading the post. I'm afraid to push him away, because what if he submits to it all? What if, after all these years of fighting back and losing ground in equal measure, he decides that he hasn't the spirit to fight anymore? I am then left with about 16 years of good memories of the Dad I knew then, mixing with the mess that his later life became.
I sometimes struggle to reconcile the two people, as they seem like separate entities entirely. There was the Dad who suffered immensely, but quietly, and there is the one that I have nicknamed DUI Dad to lighten the oppressive tone this sort of subject matter involves. The Dad of my childhood started to dissolve when he left, and re-emerged in the past five years or so as he made a concerted effort to be involved in our lives. Here we find ourselves again, watching the former Dad slip away again.
Not too long ago I posted a Philip Larkin poem entitled "This Be the Verse". At that time I was talking about my influence in my own child's life, wondering if what Larkin said is true:
They fuck you up, your mum and dad.
They may not mean to, but they do.
They fill you with the faults they had
And add some extra, just for you.
I'm consistently worried that I'm not raising P as well as I could be, but I also know that I will never put her in the position that I (and C as well) are in now. It's amazing how quickly you realise what a good parent you are when your own parent is fucked up beyond the point of return. I may pass on to her my love of looking at houses on the internet, or my habit of getting perhaps a bit too emotional in an argument, but she will never have to worry about whether I will drink myself to death, get in an accident which kills innocent people, or go to jail. "They fuck you up" indeed.