The Unholy Trinity: Resolution – Dear Ole Dad

Resolving ‘Dear Ole Dad’ took a bit more time and effort…

The last time I saw Dear Ole Dad was in August 1992.  I had gone to San Antonio specifically to confront him about his behavior over the years toward us – toward Mom, my brother and sister, and me…

Dad used to take pride int he fact that he “didn’t drink before 4.”  But when he did drink, Holy Cow!  It wasn’t social!  So, when I went to Texas that year I stayed with Mikey.  Then I headed over to my folks place just after 4.  Dear Ole Dad had just poured his first drink.

I had not told him I was coming so he was somewhat surprised when I showed up.  He offered me a beer, and I took it.  I had had 2-3, maybe 4 before I left Mikey’s.  When I sat down he asked me what I was doing in town.

“Well, I came to talk to you, Dad,” I replied.  “I  just want to know if it made you to feel more like a ‘man’ to beat the shit out of all of us over the years?”  He was shocked.  I had never talked to him anywhere near like that!  But he just sat there, so I continued…

“Did it make you feel good, Dad?”  “Did you enjoy beating the shit out of us?”  “It hurt Dad!  It hurt a lot!”  And he sat there…

“You know Dad, if we ever mentioned the word ‘drunk’ you went into a rage.  Well, guess what.  Your oldest son – me – is a drunk!”  How does that make you feel, Dad?  Are you proud of me now, Dad?”  And he continued to sit there, not saying anything…

“Do you have any idea what it’s like, listening to your Mom get beat up, and not being able to do anything about it Dad?  I will carry that shame for life…

I continued a bit more along this line, and then got up to leave.  He ‘walked me out,’ still not saying anything.  My last memory of him was standing on the sidewalk outside his house – a pathetic, decrepit old man… Yep, Dear Ole Dad…

He died that December, 1992.

I went back down to San Antonio that December, but not to mourn Dear Ole Dad; I went down to drink.  After all, I had just lost my father…

In going through his things, I came across a copy of the Serenity Prayer – in an old footlocker out in the garage.  I had never seen, nor heard of it before.

Such peace in that simple prayer.  And I wondered to myself, “Dad, why couldn’t you ave lived this prayer.”  And, I tossed it back into the footlocker…

When I returned to Whitehouse, I first went to the cemetery before going home.  I had the flag from his coffin and took it to my grandmother’s grave.  I knelt and asked her, “Gram, what more could I have done to have made him love me?”  It was a gut-wrentching ordeal, that evening.  And today I know, there was nothing I could have done…

Eighteen months later I had the occasion to hear this prayer again – just after I entered into treatment for alcoholism.  When I recognized it for what it was, I just stood there and cried.  Damn!

When I got out of treatment, I headed back to San Antonio – to that old footlocker in the garage.  When I found the prayer, I just held it.  And then I turned it over and saw, “Fellowship Group, Westover AFB, Mass.”  We had been at Westover, 1960 – 1962.  Dad had been to AA, but “it” didn’t work!  At that instant I had a totally different appreciation of him.  I came to realize how fortunate I was, and felt empathy for him.  And I prayed that he was at peace.

As I continued to recover I began to develop a different perspective toward Dear Ole Dad.  From Robert Frost’s poem, “The Road Not Taken,” I saw where I would have ended up had I chosen to continue on Dad’s path – that of drinking.

A facet of my recovery is “spirituality.”  In this endeavor I have gravitated toward Native American spirituality.  It is nature based and I seem to be able to relate to it more than religious dogma.  In 1999 I came across this from Chief Joseph, “I love the land of winding waters more than all the rest of the world.  A man who would not love his father’s grave is worse than a wild animal.”  And I knew I had to visit the grave of my father.

So, back to San Antonio I went, to Ft. Sam Houston National Cemetery.  I had to look in the index to find Dad.  I eventually found his grave, sitting peacefully under a young sapling.  It was a warm, sunny day with a light breeze.  I stood there for a bit, then came to attention and saluted.  Then I told him, “Maybe in another Life Dad, things will be different…”  And I left it at that.

That fall, as I raked leaves, I decided to build a fire.  Then I retrieved a letter I had written to Dear Ole Dad in early sobriety.  I rendered a short prayer, then tossed the letter into the fire – with the hope that the smoke would carry my message of forgiveness to Dear Ole Dad… and that was that.

I harbor no animosity toward him today at all.  And while I have forgiven him, I will never forget what he did – to me, and to our family.  Nobody deserves to be treated that way…

In closing here, I look at Dear Ole Dad’s life as having saved mine!  With his drinking and subsequent behavior, he showed me where I was heading.  I traveled the road Dad took for many years myself, then I took the one less travelled – and that has made all the difference.

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