Eleven Years

I was coming back from my appointment at my psychologist’s this afternoon. Its a fifteen minute drive along Lake Superior in the country, through the changing leaves of fall, sun and shadows flickering on the windshield. I was trying to remain calm, noticing my hand squeezing the seatbelt, the sweaty palms (just ’cause, this always happens, the clenching). I was using my new “tool”–to notice my thoughts, just notice them and see what they are like they’re just a boat passing on the harbor. I always feel very intune when I leave there, I feel, for the first time….ever…understood. Bigger than anyone else has ever understood me-at least the workings of my mind and my deepest most private thoughts. My tears were dry, I was appearing normal for my driver, but I was lost in thought, lost in just looking at the light on the leaves blowing and suddenly out of nowhere my chest hurt. It ached, and tears came down, and I thought of my dad. Out of nowhere. I’d totally forgotten that tomorrow will be eleven years since he died. Just this ache, and it’ll always be there, my old companion in this life. So far anyway. Then I started thinking about how I wasn’t good to him. He was an alcoholic. No one was good to him. He was a little mentally slower. He couldn’t be responsible. He couldn’t quit drinking for us girls though he wanted to so desperately. Our visits went from weekends to nothing at all as he sank deeper and deeper into his illness. We moved, we were abused. We wanted our daddy but eventually gave up that hope, carrying the dream of him with us that didn’t exist. I remember in Green Bay how, at night, I’d cuddle up between my bed and the wall and cry so hard for him. Third grade? I’m beyond crying about things I never got–that’s such a waste of the heart. But I think about how I treated him when we moved back to our hometown on Lake Superior. I knew I had been molested, but by whom? I decided it was him, because he was an easy target. Because he maybe didn’t love me–and if he did I could hurt him. I’d show up (in my teens) at his house and ask him–scream at him–why did he do it to me. He was quiet and hushing and begging me to tell him what I was talking about. He didn’t once raise his voice. He came comin toward me, then back away in fear, his tall lanky figure in the dingy kitchen, wearing the same clothes he had when I was a little girl. I wanted this weak person to hurt, I was beginning to feel nothing and I needed to feel something. Anything. That silent, sleeping beast was just started to very gently stir. I left unsatisfied, as he begged me to stay saying “I love you’s.” I felt guilty, he was this lonely innocent man and didn’t even know it. Another time I broke into his place and went up to his room to sabotage it(ii guessed which room was his) and instead, I saw our pictures of us when we were little on his cracked walls, the cassette of me singing Patsy Cline by his bedside, our letters, the same orange afghan, the uncased pillows and bear mattress on the floor (this was after he’d lived in his car). I just stared and cried and left. And then, years later, I met him at a bar, and for the first time ever I sat with him and said “Hi, dad.” He bought me a beer. He kept saying he loved me. The alcohol had done a number on him, but it was his gentle, quiet voice just the same, and his same strange smell I’ll never forget. He took out his wallet and there were pictures of me and my sisters at the age we were when we moved away from him–no, a year younger. The years in there when my stepdad was molesting me. I look at my face in those pictures a lot, wondering what I was like, feeling a hint of an ache for her that I always shut off right away. Is that really me? Was I ever her? Was I anything. I never saw him again until after he died, in the funeral home laying on a table in the basement. The sweep of his long dark lashes. My aunt says I have his eyes, and that makes me ache and smile at the same time.

I guess I wonder, if he were alive now, and now that we’vechanged so much–would I have let him in my life. Would I have accepted and loved my dad for everything he was and wanted to be? There’s a picture of him when he was maybe ten with his eleven brothers and sisters in a row, and there he is, somewhat slouched and maybe embarrassed, his eyes large and no stranger to dissappointment. I think I would. I would invite him over and erase his guilt. I would tell him I love him, and that I missed him for a long time but it wouldn’t happen anymore. I’d call him dad. I’d smell his shirt when he hugged me and kissed the top of my head saying “I love you’s girls.” I’d have a beer with him. He’d meet his grand daughter when he wasn’t drinking, even if it was just once. He of course couldn’t erase all that’s been done and undone to me, but it’d be someone here, that loved me unconditionally–no matter what I did or who I was–he just loved me, all because he wanted to. Because I was his. Sometimes I just want to be someone’s.

17 Comments

  1. slpmartin says:

    Very difficult emotions to deal with…a sad but poignant post.

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  2. D.G. Kaye says:

    Oh Amy that is so sad yet beautiful. I too lost my dad 22 years ago and I never seem to forget that loss. It was only today when I was in revisions with my memoir that I came across the chapter when he died and I cried all over again as I do every time I read it. Sometimes we heal and move on and sometimes there are just certain poignant moments that are forever etched in our memories, we have to learn to keep them in a place where we can live comfortably with them, not forget them, but not let them hinder our life now. It seems we all have damages of some sort from our past and a lot of that emotional dump seems to stay with us in part. Good for you for getting it out in words! :)

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  3. sorrygnat says:

    Strong, the print was small and light grey, but the thoughts and feelings expressed totally strong.

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  4. Dear Amy,

    I applaud your bravery in writing such a personal account. There are so many ways I want my father back as well. He’s been gone 15 years almost. And it will always be a sad dull ache. I wanted him to see me grown up, and not the bum he always thought I’d be. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross explained that the dying and the deceased know what we are thinking, and even though she couldn’t explain it empirically, I believe it. I know your dad knows your heart now, and is proud of you and is past any disease now… still, I’m sure he’d love to have a beer with you. I know if I could I’d have a beer with you, dear friend.

    I am proud of you and your commitment to getter better. Go get ‘em, Mom! – Love – firm embrace, Mosk

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  5. dgkaye says:

    Hi Amy, I saw this post yesterday and commented and :( I don’t see my long story here. I wrote how beautiful and at the same time how sad it was. Your ability to share these deep feelings in your writing is so commendable. I have also experienced the loss of my father and there are just some things that no matter how much times passes, that do not fade. I admire your candor. :) xo

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  6. Sheila says:

    a great noticing of those thoughts. You are on your way, my dear. God bless you on your journey.

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  7. Anonymous says:

    I started a new blog as a bipolar, alcoholic, foodaholic, complex-PTSD’er child-abuse survivor and I’m trying to connect up with others like me but It’s hard to find them. I really like your blog. If you click on ‘anonymous’ you can get to my blog if you would like.

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  8. Brendan says:

    Great write, Amy, my only suggestion is to break the paragraphs up more, have some mercy on the reader … Carl Jung worked with a desperate alcoholic named Roland (sounds like a song, eh?); he was able to get his patient to understand the pathological workings of his mind, but could not effect the change he felt his patient needed, a spiritual change … Beyond pathology, psychology: But getting beyond the first part, that’s the maddening issue …

    Father-daughter love is old stuff–it’s said that in childhood, the opposite-sex parent is more important, that bond more essential. (When puberty hits, the same-sex parent has more of the vital goods). So the love is deeper, the belief more devout. It makes history more difficult in one sense, but it does vitalize the writing …

    As you know, I almost drank myself to death, have dragged loved ones down into my lifeless vacuum of thirst; there’s nothing anyone can do to get between a drunk and his drink. And what’s heartbreaking is that although the mind is enslaved to drink, the heart is still there, desperate, apologizing, promising to do better, different. All pathology is like that, I think, invisible bonds no one can quite fix, ever, though there is recovery if one surrenders to the truth of the condition and lives accordingly, stays honest, somehow dry of the old death, keeps growing … that’s the psychology beyond the pathology, the limitless possibilities of the word, the next poem, love, journey …

    Your unwrapping of memory here is always delicate, calibrated ever to the difficult degrees of your own heart-work and writing-craft. It’s all part of the same process. Keep it coming, friend. (PS, I’ve been away from online posting for about a year, had a hell-spell with migraines for some months, then wrote a lot down in my rabbit-hole. Tentative about returning online but good to read you as always. Keep up the good work. History is the mask of mystery; gods sing behind our story. Keep digging!

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