Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Dad's an asshole- Part 1

I haven't posted most of my vacation nonsense yet, but this post needs to happen first. This post is the bane of my damn existence. This post is why I'm too aggravated all the time to write light, fun vacation posts. This post is about my father.

Back story is going to be necessary here. I'll do you all the favor and not go into every ridiculous detail about why my Dad screwed up my childhood. I'll give you the highlights (lowlights?) though.

Before we get into all that though, I'd like to take a moment here to defend my mother. Because she did marry this loser. And have four of his children. My Mom had an unimaginably horrible childhood. Her mother was an uncaring, raging alcoholic and her dad had a severe stroke when she was just 8 or 9 years old and she spent a lot of her childhood caring for him. She had a brother who overdosed on heroin when she was 10 or 11 (she actually found him in the bathroom the first time he OD'd- the second time he died) and another brother who was addicted to cocaine and physically and verbally abused her on a daily basis. He would constantly tell her how horrible she was, ugly and unlikeable and her mother would send her away from the dinner table when he would say how he couldn't look at her while he was eating. She was also sexually abused from a very young age (5 or 6) by one of her older cousins. Her mother found out about it and simply told her to "try to stay away from him".

To say my mother had a bad childhood would be an incredible understatement. My childhood was nothing like her childhood because, unlike a lot of people who endure this kind of abuse, she was able to say "this is exactly what I don't want for my own children". She married very young, at just 21, because she so desperately wanted a family of her own. She wanted nothing more then to find the love she never had as a child, to be the absolute best mother she could be. But because of all the abuse she took, she also had no self esteem and she was painfully shy. So despite his many flaws, she married my father rather quickly. She was anxious for her life to begin.

Now, back to my father. Let's start with the worst problem; the one problem that has caused all the others. My father has a gambling problem. As a young couple expecting a baby less than a year after they got married, my parents didn't have a lot of money. Gambling was always my father's solution. Besides being unable or unwilling to keep a steady job (to this day, he practically brags about the fact that he's had "at least 10 jobs a year for the last 30 years), when he DID work, instead of doing silly things like PAYING RENT, for example, he would buy lottery tickets. His explanation was that he couldn't make enough money at his job (just a theory, but MAYBE IF YOU STAYED AT ANY JOB FOR MORE THAN A MONTH, EVER, YOU WOULD GET A PAY INCREASE. Just a theory though.) and if he won a few hundred or a few thousand dollars (yeah, it wasn't even like pipe-dream mega-millions type hoping. He was talking about the Pick 3 for chrissake), he would have enough to pay the rent AND the electric bill. And maybe even buy groceries and diapers!

My mom always tells the story of the time she sent dad out with the very last few dollars they had to their name to buy milk and diapers for my older brother, and he came back empty-handed, having decided gambling the money away was a better option because then MAYBE they could have milk and diapers for more than just a day or two. My mother cried a lot when he did stuff like that. She always felt somehow at fault that she couldn't give her children at the very least what we needed.

My father has been repeating this same delusional pattern for 35 years now. The highlights of his inepitude include: the time we lived in a van for several weeks because we had been kicked out of yet another apartment for not paying the rent (in fact, I'm fairly certain we would have spent way more time on the street if it wasn't for the mandatory grace period a landlord has to give a tenant before evicting them). Places I've also lived: every sleezy motel in a 100 mile radius. I wish I was exaggerating this one. Any of you watch Jersey Shore? That little tourist trap, Seaside Heights, is really deserted in the winter. And the motels charge next to nothing for rent in the off season. I can't even tell you how many nights we spent in a sleezy Seaside motel. In fact, we had to ask one of my dad's relatives in a neighboring town with a SCHOOL SYSTEM, to let us use their address so we could actually go to school.

And speaking of schools, boy have I been in a lot of them. Between Kindergarten and 3rd grade, we went to 6 or 7 different schools because we were constantly moving. In case you were wondering, that makes it REALLY hard to make friends when you are just a little kid. It took me years to actually warm up and make friends once my mom took us and left my dad just before I started the 4th grade. I was in that town's school system until I graduated high school, just for the record.

Other places I remember sleeping? In a church's community room, on top of their tables, in homeless shelters and at the homes of countless relatives who let us stay a night or two at a time. As an adult, I don't have anything from that part of my childhood. No special toys or a specific place that takes me back to that time of my life. It was all lost in the chaos. All of the physical reminders were lost in unpaid storage units. The fact that my mother even has pictures is a miracle to me, and a true testament to her strength that she was able to even think about holding onto such things with everything she was dealing with. The interesting part is how it never really bothered me (or my siblings, for that matter) as a kid. I didn't know any other way, so it never really occured to me that it wasn't normal. The hard part came as an adult, and more intensely so when I became a mother myself.

It's easy to say it didn't affect me as a kid. Besides the awkwardness and the trouble fitting in when we did finally settle in one place, I can't say I ever felt particularly affected. My mother has always been so warm and loving and instead of feeling like people should have pitied me, I pity those who didn't have mothers like mine. So the hardest part, really, is to become a mother myself and understand all the things I want for my daughter and to try to think of how my own mother must have felt on the nights she could barely feed us, let alone buy us toys.

I remember little things that meant nothing at the time, and realize she must have been in agony over it. When my youngest sister was born, I was 7. My other siblings were 9 and 6. There was frequently not enough milk to go around, so we had to ask before we had any. It seemed reasonable enough at the time. Milk was for the baby, we could eat other things. But to understand my mother's point of view, to realize that she had to tell her 7 year old that she couldn't have any milk because there just wasn't enough, to think of that wrenches my heart. It makes me realize how lucky I am to be with a man I can count on. Responsible and strong-willed and willing to push me when I won't push myself. It also makes me realize that if I hadn't had such a wonderful mother, with the way my childhood went, I definitely could have ended up on an episode of Maury as a troubled, pregnant teen.

In spite of everything my dad screwed up, my mom was always there to pick up the pieces. She nearly killed herself with the effort it took. She was working 3 or 4 jobs when I was a teenager, and at just 38, she had her first of several heart attacks. It infuriates me to see her sick. She is better now, but still struggles with heart issues every few years. Maybe that part was inevitable, that eventually she would have had a heart attack one day. But at 38? I can't help but feel like my father made her sick.

My point is that my mother is basically a saint, and even more so for never killing my dad in his sleep. And my dad, despite seemingly never getting over the fact that my mom left him, has not changed one bit. He still lives his life by the lottery. He'll occasionally decide to "quit" and he will make it a few weeks before he plays again, but then life will get too hard, he won't have enough money for this thing or that and he will give in and go back to the mistress that ruined his marriage and took away his children's innocence. He always goes back.

This post has gotten quite long, and it makes me think I'll make my actual point in a Part 2 type post. Part 1: My dad fucked up my childhood. Part 2: my dad fucks up my adulthood. Stay tuned.

1 comments:

AKD said...

To say I'm so sorry doesn't even seem appropriate. Like it disrespects what you went through. But I am, I truly am.