My father was not around for me after my parents divorced, living at times in a different borough in New York City. To be fair, that’s not his fault since we were the ones moving from place to place before settling down at my grandmother’s apartment for several years. He held solid employment: my mother did not. He held firm roots in a downtown apartment in the city: we moved many times in six years before leaving NYC altogether. And yet, it was my father I only got to see once a week every Sunday.
The father figures in my life to include my father weren’t so great. Dad was probably obsessive-compulsive, constantly slaving away on sports numbers and statistics for gambling. My half brother’s father was an alcoholic, a mean drunk, mentally unsound, had been violent towards my mother my presence at least twice that I can remember and held her at gunpoint when she threatened to leave him, also in my presence. The men in between were trash, in it only for sex.
When we moved to Alaska with my brother’s father, the trend in men continued down the slope. He cheated on my mother and she on him with my youngest brother’s father who in turn cheated on his own wife and family to sleep around with my mother. That promptly stopped when she found out she was pregnant. In the meantime, my father in New York called less and less until the time where I heard from him sporadically. The times we spoke were full of promises unfulfilled. Before long, I’d resigned to not hearing from him, making the erratic contact easier to manage.
I thought I was leaving all of this behind when I left to the Army, but looking back, my childhood and the lack of good men in it permeated the rest of my life. I wept in front of my drill sergeant because I believed myself unworthy of him. I was combat arms and for years worked only with men. There, I latched on to my closest leaders: I know now I was looking for a father. The death of my youngest brother and later my mother threw everything I thought about life out the window (literally in the first case.) As with all the other inadequacies I felt about myself (my height, physique, ability as a soldier) I dealt, stuffing the things I couldn’t deal with into my duffel bag and soldiering on.
My father comes back into the picture when my mother died. He was the one who notified me she had passed and I could remember being so angry at him. My anger persisted as we worked to find her a place to rest: I told him we should get beers, to which he protested and I blew up. I felt as though he were treating me as a child. I never spoke to him again. Years later, December 2010: an apartment manager contacted me to tell me he was gone. He died without family and without a word from his only son in over ten years. When my mother died, I expulsed my father and choose to have no parents at all.
I think about myself now and know I get in trouble when I drink. For years I felt that last night my father was treating me as the 12 year old boy he last saw instead of an adult. For this, I cast him out of my life after years of broken promises and missed calls. I wonder now if he didn’t have some insight into me and alcohol through his own experiences. I believe he was much too conservative to ever share those experiences as that was not the type of man he was, though I will never know now because of my own stubbornness.
My father was shorter than me in height, was meticulous with statistics and was obsessive about the things which interested him. He had relative sucess with women, though I suspect like me, he was clueless of when a woman was pining for his affections. When he was engaged with me, he was a good father. When he wasn’t, when he couldn’t see me, he was simply not there. I didn’t understand it until I went through my own divorce: in the face of not having my children I almost disappeared completely.
I get my father more now than I ever have. I can only hope that he can find it in his heart to forgive the bad behavior of his only son so many years too late.