“To this day, my father thinks I exaggerate the terror of my childhood. I exaggerate nothing. Mine was a forced march of blood and tears and I was always afraid in my father’s house. But I did it because I had no choice and because I was a military brat conscripted at birth who had a strong sense and unshakeable sense of mission. I was in the middle of a long and honorable service to my country, and part of that service included letting my father practice the art of warfare against me and the rest of the family.“
I think I was always ‘afraid’ in my father’s house, even into adulthood.
I last saw Dear Ole Dad at his house, in August 1992. I had flown down to San Antonio with the sole purpose of seeing him – to kill him…
My ‘plan’ wasn’t to use a gun, or a knife or anything else like that; no, I didn’t want to be that ‘obvious.’ I knew he had a weak heart, so I wanted to add a little “excitement” to his life – to “drive him over the edge.”
I didn’t tell him I was coming – I had made arrangements to stay with Mikey. I got into San Antone around noon that day, then began drinking. May have had ‘one or two’ on the way down; cain’t remember. Around 4, I drove over to Dear Ole Dad’s house.
He was surprised to see me, and offered me a beer. As per his routine, he was about to have his first drink of the evening. When we sat down at the kitchen table, he asked, “So, what brings you to San Antonio?”
“Well Dad,” I began, “I came down to ask you a question?”
“What’s that?” he asked.
I sucked in a deep breath, because even at 46 I was still scared shitless of him! Even though he was “frail,” I was scared shitless of him. And so I asked, “Dad, did it make you feel good to continually beat the shit out of all of us as we were growing up? Did it make you feel more like a man?”
He just sat there, shocked. So, I continued. “You know Dad, it hurt. Not just physically, but emotionally and psychologically. It hurt. But, if it made you feel good, I suppose the beatings served their purpose.”
I was angry when I got to his house, and now I was getting madder. So I continued on…
When I was younger, if anyone ever implied Dear Ole Dad was an alcoholic, or a ‘drunk’ – well, that was a sure way to get pounded. So, I continued, “You know Dad, we could always count on a whipping if we ever implied you were a ‘drunk.’ Well, guess what, I am a drunk! Aren’t you proud of me Dad? I am now ‘just like you;’ a “Drunk!” And he just sat there, staring at his cigarette. (This was in 1992, two years before I got sober.)
When I felt I had him ‘up against the ropes,’ I really bored in. “Do you have any idea how much you hurt Mom, and Billy and Debbie – and me? What was that all about, all those years?
You didn’t even come to my retirement, and I so wanted you to see me fly! But you could sit here and drink! Gawd-damn it, Dad! If you’re not proud of me as an aviator, maybe you can be proud of me as a drunk!” Oh yeah, I fight dirty!
And when I thought of how he treated Susan, Keith and Dana, I got even more pissed! “You can treat me like shit – but you leave my family alone!”
You get the idea – this line of (one-sided) “conversation” went on for perhaps 15 minutes or so, then I walked out – never to see him alive again. I have an image of him, burned in my mind; of him standing on the sidewalk, out in front of his house; decrepit, pathetic and worn.
When I left we were both crying. Perhaps the insane thing is, I still loved him – but I never told him. I never talked to him again…
Today, in sobriety, I know he had “his demons,” and they got the best of him. But you know, he saved my life – he showed me what I would become, if I continued to drink! And I will forever love him for that – and because, he’s my Dad…