As we sat and ate our lunch struggling to find our safe topic, the smell of the food and his musky cologne began to have its usual unnerving affect on me. It has always been a struggle for me to spend time with my father. Growing up and being surrounded by alcoholism and denial, a lethal combination if there ever was one, I remember being forced to sit through so many similar forced situations in my youth. I would come home at night and my father would be there perched on the couch, as always, half drunk. He would ask me about my night. I would always say nothing and try to make it to bed as fast as I could before he launched into some nugget of wisdom he seemed compelled to relay to me about life. I would feel the anger in me well up and think to myself how could you know anything about life? You never leave the couch; you sit there in fear with your wine slowly becoming indistinguishable from your precious antique collection.
Here we are thirty plus years later and I still feel this way on some level, trapped with my father in limbo. Though he, to the best of my knowledge doesn’t drink anymore, from my perspective he has yet to move beyond the metaphoric couch. He seems content trapped in the past like one of his antiques he continues to surround himself with.
When I started writing this article I though it was going to be about my relationship with my father and the affects his alcoholism has had on us. As I continued to write I began to realized that I am writing this to all fathers who are dealing with their addictions as a way to give a voice to their sons. Are you really there for your son? Are you the role model that you should be for your son? When are you going to show him what being a man is really all about? It is never to late to be a role model, to show him that being a man is not about being fearless or superhuman, it is about taking action and committing to being the best you can be despite your fears and addictions.
As I handed my father the pepper I asked him to tell me about his father. I never had a chance to really get to know my grandfather. He was simply the stoic old man who sat silently in the kitchen smoking his cigar and drinking his beer. As a child I always felt uneasy around him and wondered if my father felt the same. I soon found out that his father grappled with many of the same demons my father has. It seems that I come from a long line of those afflicted by addictive behaviors. As I munched on my veggie burger, we continued on, stopping only momentarily to address a minor point of clarification.
As we made our way back to the train station after lunch, I continued to listen to my father intently and said nothing. We got to the train station and I thanked him for sharing stories about his father, we hugged goodbye and I made my way toward the platform. As the train pulled up and I waived goodbye to my father I realized over the years I have let my fathers’ issues define me, make excuses for me and I need to leave them behind. In the end you never really control anything in this life, you simply learn to manage it. But first and foremost you need to manage your relationship to yourself. Now I understand that I have a responsibility to not let my father’s issues become my own. In fact I have found his issues have begun to fuel my desire to be the man I know I can be, not to follow in his footsteps and to stop the cycle of addiction in my family line. All I needed to do is listen to my father…
*(the above article was contributed by a member of our online community who requested we not disclose their identity)