It was Christmas morning, I had made my dad a snow globe. It was little, filled with glitter and plastic confetti. He put it in my mom’s hands, frowning, saying he didn’t deserve it.
“Dammit, take it. She made it for you,” my mother said, trying to stay hushed. I continued unwrapping gifts. I remember feeling bad, tears welling up in my little brown eyes. Why didn’t he like my gift?
I understand his guilt now. As an adult, accepting a gift you don’t deserve can be humiliating.
I was a daddy’s girl through and through. My mother never tried to make me hate him for what he had done to her over and over, the way he lied and chose a life of substance abuse over her. I’ll never know how she was so strong. She loved him dearly and would have gone to the end of the earth to make him feel loved or to get him help.
People like my father tend to feel sorry for their mistakes, rather than make themselves a better person. My father wanted it to be anyone’s fault but his own for landing him in the position he was in. Behind his addiction there was truly a mountain of problems, childhood trauma and abuse. He chose to solve those problems by using.
When my mother was sick with cancer, she fought and fought to keep my father. He was sick too. Except his sickness had no possibility of cure with chemotherapy and radiation. When my mother was dying, he was stealing her pain medication. When she was throwing up in the bathroom, he was drunk. When she was thin and frail and fighting for a marriage, he was robbing a convenience store and going to jail.
I loved my dad. I still love my dad because he is part of the reason I am here. I loved my dad because he did try at one point. I don’t care much for the man that let his addiction become his number one priority.
I sometimes find myself trapped in a hamster wheel of memories. Like when my mother caught my father drinking out of a vinegar bottle that he’d hidden alcohol in. “Why do you keep doing this?!” She yelled. My father mumbled something about “life isn’t easy” and walked out. He was gone for days.
Or when we were watching TV right before my bedtime and he had a seizure in front of me. A withdraw from the drugs he had been on. He had tried to quit cold turkey. I bawled as he came to, disoriented. The next day my mother told me I couldn’t tell anyone about what had happened with my father, she said she was sorry it had happened in front of me. I didn’t see my father for years after that.
When my mother’s battle with cancer finally ended, I was eight. My brothers and I were taken to live with my grandmother. My entire family had nothing positive to say about my dad. I began to hate him. I began to resent him for what he had done to us and to my mother.
When I met my father for the first time as an adult, I knew that I could never have the relationship with him that I had craved so badly. He was a man with children — he was not a father. As I got to know my dad, I saw a lot of him in myself and in my brothers. My youngest brother had his beautiful blue eyes, my middle brother had his thick wavy hair, I had his tree trunk legs. We all had potential to turn out just like him. It’s a terrifying realization.
But once every so often, I think of my dad and I think of him outside of his addiction. I think of how much I loved him as a child. My father was handsome, hysterical and so charismatic. Everyone that met him really liked him. He truly did love me and my siblings. He loved my mother. He didn’t love himself. He was weak. Substance abuse made him weaker.
Stories of addiction aren’t just made for TV movies. I am one of many children who have seen addiction ruin lives. I have been affected, but it won’t rule me the way it did my father.
This piece was originally posted on BlogHer.