Dad Taught Me This
I wrote this rather quickly due to the moment I was in and didn't want to waste it. I could have gone in more detail but it could have turned into a book called Daddy Dearest.
My father gave me the most important advice that I still use today. And he doesn’t even realize it nor the opportunity to see how I turned out in life. Though many hardships addictions and loneliness he was the most influential person in my life.
Many years before I was born my parents had a very difficult marriage. My father worked with the Department of Transportation building road systems up and down North Carolina along the Interstate 95 Highway connecting many towns and cities to each other. He would drink a lot and vent his frustrations upon my mother and my brother who is 12 years older than me and eventually my sister who is 7 years older than me. Eventually my brother moved in with our grandparents, on our mother’s side, who lived at Surf City, North Carolina.
Our grandfather worked at a local rock quarry and grandmother worked at a diner just before you cross the bridge onto Topsail Island. When he graduated high school my grandfather finally retired and they all moved to be closer to their family. By then my sister moved in with them to keep from being verbally abused by our father. A few years later I was born and my father looked like he was mellowing out a bit. That is until I was four years old.
I don’t remember what was being said or fully understand the situation at the time but my life after that night became different. I was in my parents’ bedroom as they argued and exchanged words back and forth. Many loud and explicit words all the while as my dad were packing a suitcase. They dropped me off at my grandmother’s, on my father side, while they drove away. I looked forward to stay with my grandmother for I had my own chair next to a window where I could watch cars drive by or see the deer walk around the fields.
But that night as they dropped me off there was a huge thunderstorm coming in and as I watched them drive away I could see lots of lightning and heavy rain from the window. My grandmother told me that my dad was moving away and wasn’t coming home again. Later on I learned that he was having an affair and once my mother found out about it pretty much killed the marriage. My mother was carrying him to live with her as she stayed a few days to sort things out for herself.
For many years after that I seldom saw him unless he visited my grandmother. I do remember riding on a motorcycle as we drove through a few fields and on the open road. No helmets at all. But primarily I would hear my mother refer to him as in a very frank and demeaning way. As a child growing up I would honestly take it as fact and viewed him the same way. I did spend a few weekends from time to time with him and his new wife but we never really did anything together.
We watched TV without talking to each other. And if we did go somewhere I was treated as luggage. To paint a better picture of this, his wife, the other woman, had a pug dog that she worship the ground he walked on. The dog ate before I did, he was given toys and spoiled rotten and when we drove around or did anything that resembled a family outing, I had to ride in the back of the enclosed pickup truck that smelled like animal vomit and diesel fuel. All because that dog might hurt himself back there. All the while I was holding back my vomit.
The last time I was with his was a weekend I was more than anxious to be with him. We were going fishing out on a boat. I counted the days until that Saturday morning when he and one of his fishing buddies picked me up and we headed for a lake near Middlesex, North Carolina. We got all the gear out and onto the boat and then all of what love I had for him died moments later. He handed me a fishing pole, bait and a couple of dollars for breakfast when the convenient store opened up. Then they went out onto the lake and out of view
An elementary school kid playing around a bridge by the road as other fishermen were going by inquiring as to why I was all by myself. Only to receive the same warning as to stay clear of the road as they themselves journeyed out unto the lake. The store opened up as I survived on junk food and soda until evening time when they returned from fishing. They caught plenty of fish and in short time I was home in a most grumpy and foul mood. I never saw him again for years after that day.
The years leading up to that fishing trip with my brother and sister, we would visit him every Christmas Eve as we gave him presents and he’ll open them and set them aside. To the best of my memory I never received any form of gifts from him except for some pocket money for me to feed myself. As much as my mother and grandparents pushed me, it became clear that I was never going to see that man again. And it stayed true for many years until one Sunday afternoon I was with my brother and sister as we went to the hospital in Wilson, North Carolina as I was told by my brother, to visit a friend of his.
Once inside the hospital my brother told me the real reason we were there. Our dad was there for surgery on both of his knees. Reluctantly I went with him. In the hospital room the TV was on a basketball game and I didn’t even look at my dad the whole time while many family and friends came in to visit. I just focused on the game on TV and zoned out all the other events going on in the room. And I hate basketball.
When it came time to leave, my brother and sister said their goodbyes as they left the room. I went up to him, noticing the condition he was in and without a thought in my head or for that matter any emotions connecting me to this man, I proceeded to do something I have never done before. Even to this day I still don’t know what came over me and chalked it up to an out of body experience or possession if you will. But looking at him in the hospital bed I leaned over to him and gave him a huge hug.
As my brother and sister were in the hallway waiting we began to leave when my sister forgot her purse and went to retrieve it. Minutes later she came back crying. My brother thought dad had said something to her. She said that when she went back to his room dad was crying his eyes out. And he told her what I had done and it became clear at that moment that this was perhaps the first time we actual hugged each other. It was also the first time I saw my brother in shock but all the while I wanted to simply go home.
Time moves on and eventually dad gets a divorce and another wife. And I find myself living in California and other parts of the world. Eventually my mother who has mellowed a bit towards my dad informed me that he is dying. He had cancer that was eating away at his body and was given a few more months to live. Eventually I called him and we talked for a while. Nothing serious just regular chit chats with once again as we said our goodbyes over the phone I told him that I loved him. After I hung up the phone I just sat puzzled for a long time trying to figure out why I said that and chalked it up to a slip of the tongue. A few weeks later he died.
I felt nothing. My supervisor was going to give me time to go to the funeral but I turned him down. I didn’t cry or get emotional in any way. My friends though that I was grieving in private but in reality I just forgot everything about him and went on with my life with no regrets or feelings towards him. That is until I got married that eventually put my whole life on a collision course back with my dad.
Like in the irony of life or whatever you want to call it, I have the same name as my dad. But I never used that name. Instead I only went by my middle name Doug until my wife forced me to go by my first name. We met through a close personal friend and very quickly we found ourselves getting married in Korea in August 1995 just as a typhoon was getting ready to hit the country. Eventually she went back to Japan and I to America where we proceeded with the immigration paper work. Another adventure in of itself.
Until she could move legally to America we corresponded frequently through letters and occasional phone calls. She always addressed me by my first name as did her entire family. I was being slowly programed by a rather large Okinawan family in getting used to being called by that name. And as we started our family life together she would always call me by that name. And one day as we were together it hit me as to what was happening to me. I was living my life by using my dad as a model.
To be more exact, what my dad did to my mother and his kids I did the opposite. I chose to live my life in being nothing like his. I refused to drink alcohol. I kept manners and helped out whenever I could. I even enjoyed giving gifts to friends and donating money and time to strangers. Becoming nothing like my dad in the way he raised me or my brother and sister. As I became a dad myself, I forced myself to really provide for my family. To take care of their needs and provided a home to where my kids would be proud to call me dad.
And one day as me and my youngest son are walking around Wal Mart looking for the rest of the family, my son casually and openly say that I was a great dad. Needless to say a lot of emotions started bubbling to the surface. I tell my wife what he said and they all agree that I’m doing a good job as a husband and dad. I accomplished this on-the-job task by the way I saw my dad raise us. How he treated us and provided nothing like a father should for his family made me want to be nothing like him.
Many years later I find myself looking towards my dad as being the best teacher in my life. He taught me to be nothing like him. To not make the same mistakes he made. Creating regrets and to die lonely and far removed for your true family. What would my life have been like if I lived a life similar to his? Would I be drunk all the time or have been to bed with lots of women catching who knows what diseases going around today.
I looked to my dad as an example of what not to do throughout my whole life as someone I wanted to be nothing like or have anything to do with a type of person like him. As I am married with kids I see that I did learn a lot from my dad. Who showed me what small mistakes look like when they grow too large. How casual sex can destroy so many people.
Even the woman my dad had an affair with whom he later married left him for someone else. And the next woman he married letted him waste away as he was slowly dying just so she could get his insurance money. My dad was a living example of what not to do. He educated me by example and it only costed him a family. I know there were a lot of things he wanted to sayto me the last time we talked. The cancer had made him very weak and he couldn’t say it but as I look at my own kids I can envision everything he wanted to say.
He died before I got married as he never got a chance to see her or his grandchildren. I doubt he made it to heaven. Hopefully somewhere other than hell but wherever he may be, I hope he know that I now love him.