Sunday, January 23, 2005
Tiger In The House
"Hey Mum.. How's Dad doing? "
I'm making obligatory conversation with The Stepmother on the telephone. It's easier. I can hear the television blaring in the background and it still sounds lonely for some reason. Ever since we grew up, it just gets quieter in that house.
It's the family code isn't it? It's the secret language for "How's Dad's drinking habits this week?"
The stepmother sighs audibly into the phone as she covers the mouthpiece and whispers;
"He's better - he's really trying. He works really hard love" she makes excuses for another ten minutes as if I'm hearing it all for the first time. Unfortunately it's not the first time I have heard the lines. I've know them and use them myself sometimes, less now that I'm not an addict like he is. I'm going to keep hearing "I like to drink and I don't have a problem" or "You're my child - don't tell me what I need". I will have to tolerate the emotional brush-off for maybe a few more years. Maybe it will be all of my life. Why ?
Because my Dad's a drunk. A really bad one.
We all cover for him. We all pretend that we never hoped for more. The Big Secret is that no-one knows how to make Daddy take control of himself. I guess asking him to look after us is considered a parental pipe dream. It was unspoken lore inside our home, that Daddy always had to drink, that was how he would cope as he was very stressed and tired. Sometimes he was "better". I know what "better" means. Better doesn't mean that he has stopped drinking. Better means not punching walls, not harassing everyone. "Better" will never mean sober.
The Stepmother and I have this exchange every time we talk. It's my way of easing my sense of guilt since I gave up on Dad getting sober when I was sixteen. She's still hoping though. Since leaving home around the same time, my parents haven't been sincerely interested in my accomplishments or much of the details that actually make me - me. I feel the same way about them, so it's even. True, this ignorance always serves for awkward moments and creates gaps in the fairytale that make the whole family thing an almighty fable. Maybe when I was a little girl it was easier to believe that I was difficult to love , naughty or just "wrong". I tried to believe in that rather than stomaching the truth. I could no longer trust my Parents. That I actually needed to be my own parent - with no shining example to imitate it wasn't easy. But it was still something that I had to do in order to be who I am today. I still want to make them proud.
Sad but true.
Apparently your father is a 'protector' - what a joke. I feel ashamed saying that aloud. But at times it seems that my Father has become a joke to me.
However, I don't suppose you could tell me - why am I crying then?
Tell me why my father can't handle midday without a beer but he can waste three childhoods in the same bar, with the same shrug of the shoulders. I must mean more than this - I must believe this. No matter how I remember it. Release the pain - but will it save my Dad?
Even though I want to write my story in all it's sordid detail - it will unearth many family secrets that have bound our family together in pain and shame. I wonder if we will all drift apart forever? When my truth is spoken I'm certain that telling my parents exactly how I view them will fracture the feelings of loss and pain , all over again. I may break many hearts as with no real foundation of love to hold our hands together, I take a gigantic risk of being shut out of my family forever. It's how we keep the secret alive - it's not supposed to be painful. (not only for me, but for others I care about and love.)
Sometimes I want to forget about my past completely. I have even moved on lately and ceased contact with my parents. I was a shell, commuting to the nine to five job to catch the shuttle and watch reality TV and try not to think too much about who I really am.
Maybe by miracle (or by curse) I am fortunate to know my bigger plan. I 've been aware of my special talent from a very young age. I'm a healer in a way that is endless and totally natural to me. Last year I had an amazing insight on my survival spirit. I remembered that I made it. The sun on the horizon was there all along - It was me.
There comes a turning point in one's life that you finally accept that parents are people just like you and me. I have crossed that road yet I still don't exactly know where they "fit" in my life. I love them so dearly and so passionately - yet they play endless charades and games. I'm always left guessing what's the purpose of playing games ? Where is the joy in playing chance with people you actually want to care about?
Of course, I hope for better relations as we all get older. Dad still refuses to attend counseling or even mention the word "alcohoholic". I know my story of beating Heroin has been called inspiring to some people - but the only person I wish to be inspired by my strength is my Dad. Granted, he's much less grey and frayed now that I'm better but he will never admit that he is also sick. I've been watching him die for a while now. I still cry fresh tears and I also wonder how this is possible, given the tears already shed.
The best thing going for him ? He's my Dad. My silly, weatherbeaten, broken and loving Father.
I've had to accept they will always be poor as they don't know any different. I used to think it would be up to me, 'the educated one with all this wasted talent' to become rich and famous to look after my Parents. Hey - it's written into my life contract. But why? I'm going to call a family meeting and I'm going to take a copy of this blog. I want everyone present and I'm laying it all out for them to see. I am not the one that has ANYTHING to hide. Then I am going to let them know that this is the past and we need to move forward. I'm sick of playing "God" in the family. I've always been the tired little girl in the big man's shoes. It's time for Dad to make a claim for me - I'm sick and I want my Daddy to care. I am ready to face that he might not be able to. But at least I will know that I tried. At least the pain can finally be dealt with and I can let go of some dreams of my Daddy getting old with me and nursing his grandchildren. Because if my Dad doesn't stop smoking and drinking then he risks dying before he ever gets his first grandchild. It's his choice, his biggest one maybe and I'm not confident he won't screw it up.
It's finally official to me that almost all humans will encounter vain, grasping and manipulating characters who have a inflated sense of status, displaying little regard for others in their lifetime. How sad that these people have been my parents. But it's not everything. I still found the love of my life and he is ten times the man that my Father is. Don't sell out to Daddy replacement syndrome - it's not always true.
My Stepmother and Father are probably the most glorified characters in my life yet I don't know if that sits so well with me anymore. I struggle to place the good memories in a safe spot when the pain stains are so big, almost cancerous to other parts of me that are new and budding. I never kept any bruises or signs of trauma on the outside - but inside me I still hear the screaming. Time has faded most of the marks but you should see the state of my heart. The abuse and manipulation is knitted into a blanket of broken heartstrings, that cover the years of pain underneath. I take a peek underneath the blanket and all I see is monsters.
Living with Dad's drinking was like having a tiger in the house. The whole family was on eggshells and the home just felt dark even when the sun was shining. Most of my childhood, I was too embarassed to have friends over, fearing that all hell would break loose when Dad had a binge weekend. They were the worst.
I always had to monitor Dad's drinking, pouring out rum and cokes since the age of nine for dad's afternoon tea. If I didn't pace him - it would always end in a rough night for everyone. Dad was normally so easy-going when he was tipsy or tired but after the rum - everything we did was wrong. He thought he could hide his drinking from us, from the young kids. We all knew Dad had a drinking problem, before we knew that he was sick. It was the tragedy that was the glue to all the secrets. The stepmother had no idea to help him. She made no attempt to save her children from the Tiger In The House. She loved him and so did we. It was easier to hate each other and hate what life had become. His addiction has robbed him of ever truly knowing his children, all of us are desperately in love with him - but we have no real clue about why he is destroying himself.
We have nothing but tears to explain how he couldn't see what we saw as children - it's really hard to accept he chose his mates and piss over me. Then my sister. Then my brother.
Now it's over and the damage is done. Let the real drinking begin.
Daddy don't die. Stop drinking.
Every single time I see my father he has a drink close by or he is already drunk. I cannot imagine the state of his liver - he has been a heavy drinker since I was born. Sadly, I've watched his mental capacity diminish over the years, his drunken behavior has also started to become more unpredictable. It's not always the same "song and dance anymore".
I remember being in my nightie at night as young as five years old, waiting with my younger siblings in the cramped confines of the car. The Stepmother parked the stationwagon outside the pub, strategically placing the car in the enterance. I looked inside the yellow light of the hotel and saw the animated and flushed face of my Daddy. I felt ashamed. He never has that much fun at home. I started to wonder what was so special about this place that Daddy spent all of his time here. What did it have that I didn't ? Only as an adult, do we find the courage to find the truth.
It was not uncommon to have to sit there for 30 minutes before Dad came staggering out of the hotel. I remember that he always smelt like stale booze but seeing that was all I ever knew , it smelt so good.
Every night we did this, it was my job to run into the hotel and help my Father stagger to the car. I used to feel special when I helped him down the stairs. I felt it was my duty to help my Father get home in one piece. I thought all the other kids did the same thing. The barmaids all looked on and smiled very sadly but the next night they still gave him beer.
It was always his choice.
Other times he would just never come out. In tears, The Stepmother would drive us home and I would stay up all night worrying about my Father. Then the tiger was back and the hair would prickle on my neck as I heard the front door slam and I heard my father bump into the walls and yell for us to all wake up and "do the fucking dishes". Daddy sometimes brought back home a guilty accomplice and a bunch of wilted roses, which Stepmother would hurl into the trash and I would find her fetching them , the very next day. Even though the petals were damaged, she still hoped for the buds to bloom - just like our family.
Us children were often drawn into heated arguments, most of the time I just wanted to be left out of it but I was playing shrink to both parents from the age of seven onwards. I still play referee and I hate it. I agreed with Dad because he was my Dad. I also wanted to be on the Stepmother's side - she already hated me enough and it only made her more bitter towards me if I sided with my Father. I want to love my dad for being a good person I respect - not because he is holds the title. To be honest - he is yet to prove that I know him at all.
When I really think about the time Dad has wasted in bars, instead of taking his little girls to the beach or maybe taking my little brother fishing - I start to realize how grown up we are.
Now I just go on my own and I dream about what never was, but will be with my own children.
For now, it will have to do.
Get well daddy.
I can't wait forever.
Posted by Miss Behaving [badly] at 1/23/2005 09:04:00 PM