From Hero to History (my daddy issues)
My first hero ever was my dad. He was the fastest, strongest, smartest and funniest man in the world. He could do no wrong in my eyes. I'm sure that's the case with many young children. My case of dad-praise had to have been extreme. I never snapped out of it. I stopped believing in the Tooth Fairy and Santa Clause at about the same time as other kids, but it took me way longer to stop idolizing my dad.
It's weird because the signs were there. I didn't bat an eye when he would flirt with the lady at the fast food window. I even longed for my opportunity to do it one day when I got a car and drove with my sunglasses on, bobbing my head to the latest hot music. I passed no judgement when he had an affair with my older sister's mother while disguising it as an attempt to let us get to know his daughter. After all, he was such a cool guy it was understandable that plenty of women would want him. For years I'd go along with his version of events just to make it easier for HIM whenever we hung out. I was carrying all of the baggage of our past and he was getting off scott free.
If you asked me now what my father does for a living I could not give you an answer. I have no idea. I don't know what he excels at in a professional setting. I don't know what he's done in the past outside of working in the medical field in the Army. It's crazy when you think about it. I'm not saying he's never been gainfully employed or anything. However, that would be more comforting than not even knowing. How was this guy my hero for so long?
I blame/credit my mother for this. She had every right to bad-mouth him to us. He left the burden of raising us on her. The worst she would do is say, "Ask your dad" whenever we asked her for something that she couldn't afford. Most times we wouldn't ask him because it would only lead to a loooong conversation about "material possessions" and whatnot. He wouldn't say "No", but he wouldn't say "Yes" either. At the end of those conversations he'd ask us to "put your mother on the phone" and then he'd give her a hard time about having us ask him for something. At times things got very hard for us, yet Mom never put him on child support. Extra money might have come in handy when her car got repossessed or that time we slept in the dark because she couldn't pay the electric bill on time. Why wasn't SHE my hero then?
Throughout my life I kept going back to the well and coming back with disappointment. I thought he'd come through and prove me right about him when he took Jason and me in. Alisha stayed back with Mom and we went up to Chicago. We made this decision. I could see the pain in Mom's eyes as she packed our things. She had been hurt by this man over and over again and now we were pleading to leave her for him. Maybe she didn't want him to hurt us like he hurt her. I don't know. I had faith that this was going to be fun. A new beginning for me with my hero. We got to Chicago and lived with his mother. He would disappear on us from time to time leaving Granny to bear the burden (hence the toothpaste story from a previous blog entry). The last time he came back he had a bunch of money. He had sold his jeep or something. He dumped the money on the bed and told us to smell it. We thought it was so cool. I remember jumping onto the bed into the pile of money knowing that my hero had done something awesome and I had no more worries. Not long after that he told us that we were too bad and he would be sending us back to our mother. He would down-talk her regularly. If I did something that disappointed him he would quip:
- You're just like your mother.
I would feel such shame. He obviously didn't think highly of her. I needed to be better. Now I wouldn't get the chance to show him that I wasn't just like my mother. He was going to send us back. We cried hysterically. We begged Dad not to send us back. To this day I have never seen my brother so sad. Jason was devastated. It brings tears to my eyes every time I think about it. I still hear him screaming at the top of his lungs. We promised to be better. We begged not to go back to Miami. I'm a father now. This is the point where I, as a father would try to comfort my children. I would explain why this unpopular decision had to be made. My hero did not do that. My hero called my mother so that she could hear us crying in the background. He taunted her about the fact that we didn't want to live with her. Why was he my hero?
That Fresh Prince scene hits home every time. I digress. That should have been it. I should have come to the realization that this guy is nobody's hero. He wasn't prepared or willing to be a father to me. Yet I never lowered my expectations. He came to visit me when I was a senior in high school. I was living with my uncle Moonk (the closest thing to a father that I have). I had a car, job and a girlfriend. Everything was great. There was no pressure at all. We hung out and had a great time. I introduced him to my friends. He met my girlfriend's family. This was the guy I looked up to. Now do you guys get it? He's awesome. Then after a few days I started to wonder what he does with his life. He didn't live in Miami. I was going to school and work and he would just be hanging out at Moonk's house. Was he on vacation? Where was his home? What was his job? The whole thing was weird. Eventually Moonk asked him how long he was going to stay there. I was becoming a man and this stint showed me a man that I didn't want to become. There were chinks in my hero's armor now.
I tried to force a relationship with him when I was at my first base in Alaska. I would call him when I got home from the club. It would be early Saturday or Sunday morning for him. He would always answer. We would talk about surface shit until I was too tired to talk. We never dug deep. We never resolved anything from the past. If the past came up (he always sneaks in a jab at Mom for some reason) I would go along with his version of events like always. Things stayed on his terms. It seemed to be the only way to keep a dialog with him. I vividly remember the one time I corrected him on a memory.
- Your sister trying to say I slapped her. I never put my hands on her...
- Actually you did, Dad.
- (confused look) What? You mean I (dramatic pause) hit?
- Yes, Dad. You came in the bathroom, slapped Alisha in the face and then punched Jason and me in the chest.
- (wrinkles forehead and tilts head) I... hit?
- Yes Dad. I remember that.
I even tried to make him feel better by telling him that it wasn't that hard of a slap. As for us, he had knocked the wind out of us. We were six years old. It's a terrifying feeling to have the wind knocked out of you. Sprawling around on the ground; your body not obeying you as you tell it to breathe. It's a fucked up thing to do to a child. He knocked the wind out of me at least twice. We've never talked about it. That's something that can't be discussed on his terms. There's no excuse for that.
He wasn't the physically abusive one towards us, if you compare my two parents. That may have been why I wanted to be with him so much. At least with him I wouldn't get whoopings. He was, however, abusive towards my mother at times. I don't even know if he knows that I heard him slap my mother once. I was five or six and their arguing woke me up. I remained in my bed and listened to the melee. For some reason I was rooting for Mom in this fight even though she was going against my hero. The smack was loud. She stopped yelling and began vomiting. I felt sad for her. She had "lost the fight" in my elementary-aged eyes. He probably doesn't know that I know what went on in that room at my great-grandmother's house when he came back to Miami from out of town and learned that Mom had finally moved on from him and was dating someone. We took turns going to Grandma's room from the living room to plead him to leave Mom alone. He never obliged. I found out later that he raped my mother in that room with his children in the next room. Why was he ever my hero?
I am an adult now. I live far away. I had stopped talking to Dad when he tried to start a conflict between Jason and me. Jason is my best friend in the world. He went through all that shit with me. Why would you try to come between us as I'm trying to create some sort of functioning relationship? I didn't get it and I said I'm done with him. Then Bash came into the world and I thought it was important to let this man meet his grandson. We met up and he talked about me as a baby and how much Bash reminded him of me. We had a good time. He brought his youngest daughter with him. She was living with him. He was taking care of her. Wow, Dad. Things were looking up. We went to a waterfront bar. I wanted to have a beer with my dad. It seemed important to me. We had beers and talked. We did the normal dance. He highlighted the few stories from when he was there for me. I smiled and acted like he's been the hero I wanted him to be. Then he stiffed me with the bill. Of course he did! We didn't talk again. I felt I had done my part. He met Bash and we had a beer. He could get in touch with me if he was interested in me or my family.
I went through therapy. It was great for me. I worked out a lot of issues I had within myself. It has made me a better man, father and husband. I recommend therapy for everyone. Go inside and work it all out. I have a podcast with my two Swedish besties (sometimes that's like therapy too). A listener requested that we talk about domestic violence. In this episode I went into detail about some violent occurrences in my life (my co-host speaks Swedish but it's just him and me so one could follow the conversation despite not knowing Swedish). I said on the episode that I would confront my father about the things he'd done in the past. I would tell him that in order to start over, we'd need to resolve some things. No more playing along with his version of things. It would be a fresh start. Bash had been asking who my father was and I thought it only fair to give him an opportunity to know his grandfather.
I got Dad's number from Jason and called him. I told him I'd be coming to Florida in March and we planned a meeting. It was exciting. I'd talk to him man to man and we'd be able to move forward. After getting past all the fake shit we'd be able to build a real relationship. Bash would get to see know my old hero. He was likely still charming and funny. He'd have that cool vibe that he always has. We talked on the phone for two hours that night. It was comforting to talk to my dad. He still tried to do that revisionist history thing, but I pushed back. He seemed to receive it well. He spoke more personal than usual. He mentioned working a job where he had to drive a forklift. I never knew Dad did any manual labor. He spoke about the ups and downs of his current marriage and his shortcomings as a husband. The facade seemed to be coming down. I had visions of a fruitful relationship forming.
A portion of our trip would be in Tampa where Dad lives. I'd stay with my buddy Marco and his family. Bash could play with Marco's daughter. It was perfect. Catch up with an old friend and start fresh with an old hero. I called Dad from Marco's phone once I got to town. No answer. No voicemail set up (I HATE when people don't set up their damn voicemail). I texted him and then went to sleep. We'd square away a meeting place the next day. My conversation with Marco the next morning went something like this:
- Did you get my screenshot?
- What screenshot?
- Your dad texted back. He said he was going to a surprise party in Myrtle Beach.
- Whatever man. Did he really text?
- Yeah man. I sent you a screenshot.
That was it. That's the last bit of communication sent to me from my former hero. It hurt so bad. No remorse. No apology. No timeframe or question about when we could reschedule. Tampa is only three and a half hours from Miami. He never suggested we meet later in my trip. Those are things one would do if one wanted to see the other person. A bit of effort. Even pretending to want to try and make it happen would have felt better. I won't even delve into the likelihood that he was lying. Was there really a trip to "Goose Creek, S.C.. near Myrtle Beach"? Who knows? I wouldn't be surprised if he was out of shape or something and didn't want me to see him not at his best. For him it would be worth sabotaging my final attempt at trying to build a relationship with him. Regardless, it comes down to him being the same self-centered guy he's always been. No consideration for the fact that I wouldn't even taken time away from my Miami vacation to come to Tampa. I love Marco, but I could have easily caught up with him and his family some other time.
I tried calling him so he could explain to me why he chose this "surprise party" over hanging out with his son and grandson. He never answered. I couldn't even leave a rant message. He once again removed the ability to be held accountable. Why was I surprised? Why did I place expectations on this guy again? When would I realize that he was never heroic?
The answer is: this time. This time I figured it out. My dad is a loser. That's what it comes down to. He's always been a loser and I didn't want to see it because he was my hero. I kept giving him chances to prove he was heroic and he kept proving that he was what he was. Mom never told me directly. My family members never said it outright. The whole time Dad himself was telling me loud and clear. I just didn't want to hear it. This time was different. This time it affected my son. I would never have reached out if Bash hadn't asked me about his grandpa. Bash sadly asked me why he can't meet his grandpa.
- All dads aren't like your dad, Bash.
That's the key for me. Never be like that loser. I'm Bash's hero now. I know how it feels to look up to your live-in hero. Bash thinks I'm big and strong and funny and smart and fast. He thinks I'll be there for him whenever he needs me. He thinks I'll love him enough to make sure he's physically and emotionally okay. And he's right about that. He knows that I love his mother. He sees that love. He knows I would never hurt her. He won't be used to create an opportunity for me to have an affair. He won't ever have to beg me to stop hurting his mother while he feels helpless in the next room. He'll never get a random Facebook message from a stranger detailing how sinister of a person I am.
I'm done trying to forge a relationship with that man. I don't wish ill upon him, but it feels good to know that he'll never hurt me again. We didn't get to start fresh. We never resolved the past. Maybe that's for the best. I likely would have ended up frustrated with him for not taking accountability or making excuses. I guess I'll never know. I'm glad I got to release these feelings on this blog because now he will know. I know he will read this because it's about him and he's a narcissist. He can take solace in the fact that I'm going to be alright. My children are going to have a better father than he ever was and that's partially thanks to the terrible job that he did. My hero is no more. As far as I'm concerned, he's history. Until next time...