“I thank you for your part in my journey…”
As the only daughter of my dad, I cherished him. Today, I miss him and his wisdom. I imagine he did not have an easy childhood and one I cannot ever imagine. Born in 1927, he lived until 1998 when he died of lung cancer. He was 70 years old. His struggles were many.
Abandonment, alcoholism, and mental illness. Dad grew up during a time that I was unaware of but heard of; that his mom at 16 gave birth to him and then left him on a stoop at the age of four. That is where his issue with abandonment took off. His father’s sisters raised him. He grew up with hand me down clothes and toys from his cousins! He never felt loved. His dad who worked on the docks of New York City was never there for him.
He told me of working nights at American Beverage Soda Company and how they wanted to give him a 25 cents raise once, but he felt he was not smart enough to be a manager. For 25 cents though, dad could get a can of soda and a sandwich he said. He liked beer at an early age was drunk lots of times but happy at those times, it seemed to me. I had no clue these episodes were what today is called ‘dysfunctional.’
“I thank you for being the reason I smile …”
As a child, I only knew what went on in my house and had no idea of what a normal, happy home life I did not have. Fear was part of daily existence when he was drinking, but the memories I choose to cherish are when he was not drinking. There is ugliness in life, but we can eliminate that which does not serve us today. We can pick what we want to remember. I felt loved by him, and that is the greatest of my memories.
He sang drunk at weddings, and my mom would drag me into the ladies bathroom and hide because she was embarrassed. Alcoholism would be passed down to him from his family. And so the story moves forward. Married young to my mom, they would raise my brother and me to the best of their ability.
I was blessed to have missed the gene of addiction. I feel all through life our connection was about his wisdom and how I decided somehow at a young age to love my dad unconditionally. I felt he was the way he was because of his childhood. Today I know we all have our stories and in sharing them, we may help another. I trust that the Universe waits for our reaction to the experiences during life and how we decide to live our lives. Choosing love or fear is always our free will in all situations.
The mental illness did not arrive until he was forty years old when he heard voices to murder his family. Instead, he slashed his left wrist and neck. Years later, he told me he could not see himself harming me. He would laugh and say if he had murdered all of us, he would have served 25 years in prison and then would have been free. I guess he never felt free in life and that troubled him. He survived his attempt at suicide but was deformed and never worked again.
I was heartbroken to the depths of my soul, my mom was terrified, and my brother started his addiction process. The journey began with him going in and out of mental institutions like Creedmore State Psychiatric Hospital, and different psychiatric wards. I was there for him with my husband for thirty years after my mom finally divorced him. He nicknamed me ‘mom’ and ‘author,’ and we would laugh about this. He always adored me and wished his mom was more like me. The reason he called me ‘author,’ was because he wanted me to tell his story. He was very interested in human behavior and all the people who were ill that he met throughout his life. He believed that there was a reason for everything that happens.
The lung cancer that killed him had started 58 years before he died. Through it all he loved life. He worshiped Mother Nature and her beauty. He was addicted to her ocean, pools, and parks. He never drove a car and walked everywhere or took mass transit. He was wise, fun and wanted to be loved. It was my job to love him, and I did with my entire heart and soul. This Father’s Day he is gone nineteen years, and I think of him often. Individual songs that he sang when he was drinking pop on in the strangest of places at restaurants, and we say, ‘hi!’ I smile in acknowledgment of his presence.
“Dear Past, thank you for all the life lessons you have taught me …”
“Dear Future, I am ready now …”
His life may have been traumatic, but it never allowed him to feel sorry for himself. He loved music; all kinds, playing cards, whistling, worshiping the sun, walking outside and listening to the radio. Movies and Elvis Presley and other stars of his era were his favorites. These are my memories of a man who I had chosen to be my dad, and I would like to thank him for being the best dad ever.
His love of me allowed me to feel cherished and special even though he was scorned by many as a mentally ill person in our society. There is sadness in how his battle in life was to encourage me to be the woman I am today and what a sacrifice he chose for me. I am his proud daughter because of him. I am who I am today because of him.
As a society, we need to accept everyone’s story and embrace one another with kindness and love. It is not difficult to be there for another who you have manifested as a being in your life for a reason. We are born to learn from one another as well as teach one another during our life experiences. Was it easy at times, no! But! He was my dad!
“If the only prayer you ever say in your entire life is “Thank You,” it will be enough …”
Happy Father’s Day to the many fathers with their issues, addictions and unbalanced behaviors. Please know that, you are loved!
Pray! Meditate! Journal!