Sunday, June 17, 2012

306 Days - How Quitting My Dad is Helping Me Raise a Father

I envy you. And you. And yes, you as well. I’ve seen your pictures and read your status updates. I’ve scrolled through your tweets and your many words of thanks. I’ve even sat next to you at brunch, staring in awe at how beautiful you both look and thinking about how different life could have been for me. You’re there – all of you – laughing, drinking, and showing your appreciation to the person who molded you and worked for you and saved for you and gave up a large part of who he was deep down for you… you’re there, with your dad.
If I have to see the acronym YOLO one more time this year, I’m likely going to puke. Not because I don’t get it, mind you. I get it. We get it. And now, especially being on the Eve of Forty, I get it even more. You only live once / You only have one life / You’re life is not a dress rehearsal, and many, many other clich├ęs that will remind you that you should do whatever it is to make you happy because you could be hit by a bus tomorrow. I get it like you’d never in a million years know how much… I guess I just wish people would stop sucking the life out of such statements by shortening them. For me, abbreviating something as substantial as the words YOU ONLY LIVE ONCE means you’re not giving the statement the respect it deserves. If you believe it, then say it, eat it, live it, fart it, screw it, drink it and be it, and fuck the acronym. Save it for your laughs out loud and your questions about what Jesus would do.
A few years back I decided to take the one life I have to a new level by giving up a massive part of it. After years of painful disagreements, arguments, suffering and drama, I decided that it was time to quit my dad. If you read this blog chances are you’ve caught snippets of dad-bashing here and there and I may, at some point, go into more detail about exactly what the man put my brothers and me through growing up, but on a day that so many are so grateful about so much as it pertains to the men who raised them, I’ll spare you, and simply say that it was one of the best decisions of my thirties and that it was one of the outcomes of my realization that yes, I truly only did have one life, and I was not going to let anyone – not him, or anyone else – bring me down, any more. I was ready to move on from his mental abuse, his use of emotional control, and the constant reminder of his failures as it related to thinking about anyone other than himself. Through it all – over three-and-a-half decades – I let him destroy me internally, bit by bit, and still defended him, and still took him back, and still forgave, until he did the one thing anyone could ever do to make me cut all ties with them forever: he messed with my kid.
My son is a beautiful, emotional, bright young boy who I believe is going to make a wonderful father one day. For those who don’t know, my Roman suffered from seizures the first few years of his life, which makes him even more special, and bonds him to me in a way that I never thought existed. I have a level of love for my son that goes beyond motherhood. It spans souls and space and fear, and when I believe someone is going to hurt him, I feel superhuman in my anger, and can easily replace all rationality with rage. This could have been what happened on the day I quit my dad, but instead I felt a peace come over me and take me by the wrists. For the first time ever I had been put in a situation that was making me prove to myself that I wasn’t like him, because he would have acted angrily, and he would have screamed and yelled, and he would have hung up the phone, or cursed or been hurtful. Instead, I felt rejuvenated and, well, adult. I felt the eyes of my son watching me, and decided it was time to show him how to be the father I hope he becomes one day by taking a deep breath, letting my anger go and replacing it with the following four acts:
Patience.
Realization.
Acceptance.
Making peace.
It was those four things (you know, "PRAMp") that let me turn out the light in the room and close the door on that part of my existence. And while I haven’t always been so successful when I’ve gotten angry since, I used those acts when they counted most, which has been beneficial in not reaching out to my father or letting any guilt make me go back one more time. He existed for me and is part of my history, but history is defined as “the past considered as a whole” and that’s exactly what he is. My past doesn’t define my future. I do. The whole “one life” thing, remember?
I hope that when the time comes for me to move on to the big Pearl Jam concert in the sky, Roman will believe that I loved him more than I loved myself, and that I loved his dad, and that I put their happiness often before my own. I hope he’ll see the sacrifices I made and that Todd and I made together, so that he and Beatrice didn’t have to worry or go without. I hope he remembers all of the family trips to places he always wanted to go and I hope that he does the same for his kids when they ask. But mostly I hope he never looks at me when it comes time for him to raise his own children and thinks that I was a terrible role model. That would break my heart. My wish is that I will have instilled in him enough of what my own father wasn’t so that he never has to know what it’s like to have his own kid quit him.
To my son, today, in case I’m not around in the future to tell him:
You’re a wonderful Dad, Roman. Happy Father’s Day. I love you.

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