Sunday, August 30, 2009

Walk On By

My parents separated (and eventually divorced) when I was very young, six or seven. At the very beginning of the separation, the first few days (perhaps weeks) I was very happy as my father was mean. He seemed especially mean to his only daughter for some reason.

He, rather than mom, was the disciplinarian. He delivered discipline by hitting. A leather razor strop was his instrument of choice, but he'd use his hands in the forms of slaps and even a punch at least once.

I caught it often, not only for my own mis-behavior but also for my younger brother's. For it was my job to keep him from mis-behaving, depending on the day. You see, in addition to being mean dad was also erractic.* He'd lay down the law on Tuesday, on Wednesday he'd tell us to, "lighten up" and on Thursday we'd get beat for acting on the "lighten up" cue.

It went on like this for the entire time he was home. No surprise then, that early on I didn't miss him. But, later . . .

Part of me wanted him to be part of my life. Or at least, wanted him to want to be part of my life. I couldn't help but miss him. I couldn't help feeling devastated by his apparent disregard for me and my life.

Throughout the rest of my childhood and until this very day, he was more out than in my life. Years went by where we didn't speak. He was notoriously bad about returning letters and at least once reported that he couldn't afford to call. I've created all kinds of scenarios about our next meeting, when, where, and under what circumstances.

I figured I'd see him on the street somewhere. We'd recognize one another instantly but neither would make a move to acknowledge the other. We would simply, "Walk On By".

Dad will celebrate his 71st birthday in a couple of days. Despite our estrangement, I do wish him the best.

*Upon learning of dad's recreational drug use, I elected to lay the blame for much of his behavior at that door.


  1. OMG, that sounds so familiar. My dad is still the same way, minus the hitting. (Although I suspect he'd still like to) He makes what we call "Monday rules", really laying down the law. And by the end of the week, he is even breaking the rules. It's maddening.

    I'm sorry that you know the pain of dealing with a substance abusing father. Just know that you're not alone. Not by a long shot.

  2. Well, if he's gotten clean & sober now, he is STILL acting like a "dry drunk."

  3. I used to lead a grief class for women many, many years ago.

    One of them just could not shake her grief at her father's death and she was bewildered by it. She said that he had been a horrid father, was mean and abusive, seemed to almost get off at seeing her cry. And yet, when he died, she cried for months.

    She finally came to the conclusion that she wasn't grieving him, she was grieving what she had never had from him.

  4. This makes me so sad. For you, yes. But also for all he has missed out on in knowing the person you are.


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