- Books, Literature, and Writing»
Thoughts About My Dad
Thoughts About My Dad
“My child arrived just the other day,
He came to the world in the usual way.
But there were planes to catch, and bills to pay.
He learned to walk while I was away.
But he was talking ‘fore I knew it, and as he grew,
He’d say, “I’m gonna be like you, Dad.
You know I’m gonna be like you.””
From “Cat’s in the Cradle” By Sandy and Harry Chapin
This song has always had a very powerful impact on me. When it was released in 1974 it was at a time when the reality of my parent’s pending divorce was all too real, and not something I was willing or capable of facing. This song has come to represent everything I ever hoped to have out of a relationship with my father, but it never came to be. When he passed away last year has come the realization that it was never intended, that it would be. How do I feel about that? And, ironically what impact will this have on the relationship I now conduct with my own son?
I remember going back to 8th grade coming face to face with the concept of divorce as a part of a discussion we were having in class. I remember thinking, as I heard child after child talk about their family situation that divorce could never happen to me. Yet, the reality was that my parents relationship was getting more volatile the older I got. I knew divorce was coming, and I had fought very hard over the years to keep it from coming. What was unfortunate and very disturbing, was that I would eventually use this as an excuse to stop trying to live my own life.
I remember waking up one morning in April of 1970 to the news that my Dad had just suffered a heart attack in Thailand. I was 15 years old. He had been on a remote assignment for the Air Force. He was a radar tech. His job was to track the skies of any threats coming in from North Vietnam and to track our aircraft on missions over North Vietnam. It was after I had seen the movie “Platoon” that I had felt the need to have this conversation with him.
He had actually been given the opportunity of taking the family to Bangkok with him, but that was not what he wanted. I remember reading a letter he wrote from Thailand that described for me how my parents had argued about getting an abortion instead of bringing me into the world. This was in Japan in 1954, where they had met. Since I am here writing this story, it would appear my father lost the argument.
I remember that I felt numb over the news that my Dad had suffered a heart attack. I remember that I felt indifferent. I also remember that it didn’t bother me very much. Like the possibility of losing someone you care about should bother you. I remember that these feelings did not change until I saw him being carried off of a C-141 Star-lifter. It was a Medvac flight that had come from Clark AFB, in the Philippines. He was being carried off the plane in a bed.
I also saw young men not much older than me, being carried off that plane in various degrees of mangled. One in particular stood out, because he was wired up and basically mummified all in white. He had apparently been some kind of burn victim. I saw men with one arm, no arms, one leg, no legs, or various combinations of all four. It was all that human carnage that challenged my outlook on war and the consequences of combat. I would eventually join the Navy with the thought that I was too easy a target to risk being in the Army or the Marines, and that I would rather drown than have to live with the challenges these men were facing.
To see him vulnerable like that really shook me up, because up to that point I had always kind of seen him as invincible. His vulnerability and warmth was unmistakable. Life had just handed him a very serious challenge. He appeared to be happy just to be home and more to the point, happy to be alive. But this warmth in him would give way to old habits.
A heart attack then is not like it is today. Though having a heart attack is still as dangerous to life as it ever was, in 1970 a heart attack victim spent months in the hospital. Dad was shipped to Clark AFB from Thailand for about three months before it was deemed safe to bring him home. He would spend another three months at Fitzsimmons Army Hospital in Denver before he was allowed to leave the hospital.
All through those months he was nicer than I had ever seen him. For one, he was sober, dried out sober. He was dried out as if he had been through Alcoholics Anonymous. But as surely as I breathe he was dried out against his will.
Drinking had been a constant with him. My mother recently described him as more inclined to spend his pay checks on alcohol than concerning himself with raising four kids. As a result he had become something of a workaholic to pay for his addiction. He was in the Air Force, he was a local radio personality, he attempted to own a bar, and he was going to college. Shortly after he got out of the hospital, my mother had to fish him out of a bar, because he had gone out drinking and was not use to the alcohol consumption.
In December of 1968, my mother had to fish him out of a bar the night his father had passed away. As a family we were on the road that night headed for Alabama. It was the last time I ever heard him say something respectful about my mother that could be described as sincere. I don’t remember the specific comment, but the impact was totally contrary to what he usually had to say about her or any of us.
Then in November of 1971, when her father passed away, she had become so use to his indifference toward her that she left on her own to go to Kansas to be with her father. She did not care whether we as a family were along or not. Not long ago she told that she had accepted her role as the heavy and was just not as popular as Dad had been. It wasn’t that she could not compete she just didn’t see any point in trying. She chose instead to focus on duty, responsibility, and family. It was an attitude that made her hard to live with at times, because she would feel and express her sense of betrayal. She eventually closed herself off and didn’t feel that she could depend on anybody, except herself.
My sister and I waited up for my Dad, who showed up after having been at the bar again. We read him the riot act, and again, just as in 1968, we were on the road. After we got there he would then claim that he was not wanted there, and subsequently left. I have always believed that he did not want to have to be responsible for us in my mother’s absence. So, he made sure he absolved himself of that responsibility and then found himself an excuse not to stay. He was a champion at making himself into a victim and as I said my mother into the heavy.
When we lived on Lark Drive in 1965, our first home in Colorado Springs, he came in one night drunk, and shouted a comedy bit right out of the “Honeymooner’s” and Jackie Gleason. “I am the king…and you’re nobody….!” He was making it clear that he saw himself as the master of his domain. He was making it clear that he resented the control he felt my mother had over the household. Yet, he told me one time, that for the first seven years of the marriage he was not mature enough to be head of the household. I would think to myself that I was seven years old before he finally decided to grow up.
And by this time, it was evident that he resented the relationship he saw that had developed between my mother and me. A source of resentment he used to create a void in the relationships between my siblings and myself, which to one degree or another still exists to this very day. He had accused her of playing favorites.
My mother explained it to me like this: My father would deliberately not communicate with her, for long periods of time. He was attempting to use silence as a form of manipulation and control. I just happen to be the first one of the siblings who came along who could talk. A bond was formed between us that has suffered much, but still exists.
On the other hand, my uncle, my mother’s brother describes my Dad as a very likable fellow. As a child I remember that he was very amusing and funny and easy to be around when he chose to be. We all, my mother, my siblings and I adored him in those moments. I eventually did everything in my power to be like him. In time it would become evident that I was more like him than I was able or willing to understand or accept.
The next time I had feelings for my father like the ones I had in 1970, was in late 1975. I had come home from work to find out that my father was in the hospital. The way my sister made it sound he was dying. I remember the rush of emotions that went through me as I drove up to the Air Force Academy Hospital. I was thinking this could be the last time I ever see him alive.
I was so intense when I got to the hospital that I was escorted to my father by Air Police. Only to find out that although my father was going in for bypass surgery, he had driven to the hospital himself. Not that his circumstances weren’t serious but it was a far cry from actually being at deaths doorstep. Sadly, it was the last time we would ever be close in any form.
In the beginning of 1974, I was roughly seven months out of high school and had already been kicked out of the Navy. The hope of a future that was to start with “Join the Navy and See the World” had ended before it started. Six weeks into my naval commitment I had called home one night to find out that my mother had taken my siblings to Kansas because my father was moving out. It seems that my mother had discovered a woman’s property in my father’s car.
In that last couple of years before this event, my father had indirectly told me that fidelity was not a big issue with him. He felt that women were to be had, and marriage was something of a by-product of that. “I love your mother, but only on my terms.” I now see that this was an expression of his narcissism. Narcissism, I can only identify with, because in prison I learned how to recognize it in myself. As one with a very strong sense of my own ego, I was all too happy to accept this this thought process as my own. But, I was assuming that this meant that my parents would always be together, regardless.
I knew my mother well enough to know, that come hell or high water she would never willingly have divorced him, no matter how hateful and selfish he chose to be. Though not too long ago she admitted to me, that staying with him as long as she did had been a mistake. He was never physically abusive toward any of us, but we were all treated like second class citizens in his world. “I will do what I want too, when I want too.” “Everybody else confuses themselves with the facts”. In his world what were his perceptions to him constituted facts. His reality was everybody’s reality. If you disagreed with him you were the fool not him. It was more important for him to believe he was right than it was for him to be accountable.
This attitude made him very good at being psychologically abusive. On the one hand, he would say. “You can do anything you set your mind too”. On the other hand, he played chess with me, beat the pants off of me, and then ridiculed me. Then came the point when I finally actually beat him playing chess, and he refused to play me ever again. The one time he took me to a driving range, I hit a golf ball about 250 to 300 yards we never played golf again. I always felt that even if I were to become President of the United States, he would never be impressed or satisfied. So, after the divorce in 1974, I literally gave up trying.
I had been thinking on the very day in 1973, when I called home to find out that my father was moving out about changing my two by six: 2 years active duty, two years active reserve, and two years inactive reserve and turn it into a straight 6, or six years active duty. The idea had been to get the military over with and go work the farm with my Uncle. But with the news that my parents were going to divorce, I physically and emotionally stopped looking to the present and future, burying myself in the past.
In my profile is a brief discussion about my Dad. My father was a Southern Democrat turned Republican over the Civil Rights issues of the 60s. He had been raised in Southern Alabama being born in the depths of the depression. From the bits and pieces I have gathered over the years, he was an only child for the first nine years of his life. His father had left him and his mother and started another family in some other area of Alabama around the time he was five. At which time my father became the head of the household. Then as suddenly as he was gone, some four or five years later his father came back and basically took over again as head of the household.
I have very vague memories of my Dad’s father, as he died when I was fourteen. He was tall maybe six feet, but he was a very big man through his chest and shoulders. He didn’t have a beard, but he was always unshaven. He reminded me of being something of a small bear with a personality to match. My father and he were very much alike. He had been a working man and was a heavy drinker. He was drinking the night he died. He was in a bar, and had a heart attack, and was dead before he hit the floor.
Even as a small child I could sense the tension between them. I think my father was intimidated by his father. As at times, my father tried to make me intimidated of him. Eventually, my father grew to admire his father as if the issues between them had never existed. It was like he ran away from his life in Alabama to join the Air Force, but in the long run reconciled himself to the idea that maybe his father had it right all along. All I know is that my father never trusted anybody in his life enough to allow them to get close to him, as if he considered vulnerability to be something of a curse.
My father describes an event that made a very strong impression on him with regard to his father. He said he saw his father hit a man, and that the man’s shoulders were the first part of his body that hit the ground. I didn’t really understand until many years later that his father had been as unreachable to him as he had chosen to be unreachable to me. I in turn had chosen to be as unreachable as either one of them. It was not until I did my little prison stint that I came to understand how self-absorbed as both of them I had become.
His father leaving his life and then coming back had a powerful effect on him as well. He saw his mother take his father back as if nothing had transpired over that five year period. He saw his head of the household status removed forcibly and then he saw his world change dramatically with the birth of his brother. All of these events he resented and was powerless to change or control. He spent the rest of her life abusing his mother for failing to stand up to his father until her death in 2002.
For my part, I was just as self-absorbed as my father when I was a child. I was expected to be a leader to my siblings, but I resented them the way my father seemed to have resented his brother. I treated them like crap. I was physically and emotionally abusive toward them. It should not be surprising at how easy I had made it for my father to pit us against each other.
With my mother, I think my father at first admired how tough she was. My uncle describes her as the only woman he saw who could fight like a man. A description of her ability to ride a horse sounds to me like someone who would be something of a dare-devil not unlike Evel Knievel. Not that she was crazy or careless, but just as tough as nails and not likely to back down from anything or anyone to include my father.
I think foolish pride got my father in the long run, and he ended up intimidated by her, and just could not deal with it. His behavior toward her is not unlike his behavior toward his mother. He treated his mother as the heavy for allowing his father to strip him of his status as head of the household when his father had emerged from his absence. In his own twisted way he tried and succeeded in making our mother into a poison that was hampering his life. He was desperate in some ways to manipulate us into seeing our mother as the source of everything that was wrong with our lives. If he could not destroy her directly, he would destroy her through her children.
My mother told me when we were on the way to the bus station in late May of 1973, just before I was to start my obligation to the Navy that my father had come in drunk the night before and threatened to hit her. She responded by screaming for me, and my father backed off. It appears he was as intimidated of me as he tried to make me intimidated of him. I had actually come in drunk that night myself. If he had not backed off, I would have been no help to her.
Regardless of what it was that motivated my father in his dealings with my mother, she was and still is the rock that holds our household together. She never possessed his charm but she has a down to earth quality that comes out through her focus on her responsibilities and her duty to her family. Regardless what motivated him to conduct himself as he chose there is nothing she did to warrant the behavior he displayed toward her or the rest of us. I have to admit however, that for my part, I was just as guilty back then as the rest of my family in playing Mom as the heavy.
I also watched what my mother went through to deal with the betrayal of my father’s choice to divorce her. She suffered much, and did not have anyone to reach out too, because to one degree or another, we all blamed her for the divorce. If she was not the tough character that her father had raised her to be, she might have given up. But she was just too strong minded for that. As I said she accepted the role as the heavy, and in time she moved on. The rest of us however, in one way or another allowed our father to manipulate us all the way to his grave.
For all of us, there was the hope that Mom and Dad would get back together and that only then all would be right with the world.
For many years I would look at my father and think to myself, how a man so potentially smart could be so stupid. And then, I ended up in prison. I ended up in a situation where I had to face the fact, that I had become the same kind of narcissistic fool that my father had been. I was addicted like he was. I was abusive like he was. I was selfish like he was. I was just as good at playing the victim as he was.
First, I became something of a silver tongued devil myself. I had the same type of disarming charm as my father. I thought of myself as something of a lady’s man, because my Dad had basically given me permission to do so. I had also taken it upon myself to focus on sexual prowess. I wanted to be a great lover, as it were, whether I was a good man or not. The bottom line being that I was not focused on being a good man.
I learned to lie to myself the same way I think my father lied to himself. Like I said he was more concerned with being right than he was at being responsible, or accountable. I tried desperately to make his reality my reality. I was deathly afraid of being rejected by him. In the long run my mother would accuse me of being my father’s son, and I defiantly rejected that notion. When a series of early relationships I had were characterized as rejections on my part, I became very indifferent and detached from the people I was getting involved with and focused on sex as my release.
Then when my manhood came into question as the result of so much rejection as I saw it, I not only tried to think of myself as maybe homosexual, but tried being a male prostitute. Thus I was taking steps to becoming one worse than my father had been. Coming out to California in late 1974, I was looking for the casting couch as my way into show business. Any desire on my part to work for what I wanted was meaningless to me. The world was bought and sold as I saw it. I didn’t see any reason to deal with it or myself, in any other way.
Through a sexual business encounter I had discovered an alleged acting work shop. It was run by an also ran actor with some experience but no real credentials to speak of. I had gone out one night with a gal from the class who had led me to her apartment under the guise of having sex. But when we were well on our way into the sexual encounter, she stopped me. She said she was prepping me to have sex with her roommate. Rather odd and at the time, unacceptable.
Out of that event I had accidently found my way into a local television station, and was offered a job learning to be a cameraman. The guy said to me “Tell the personnel office that I (the head camera man) sent you.” It wasn’t until I was in prison that I looked back and realized the opportunity that had slipped through my fingers. This is not the last time I let my distortions push away good opportunities that would come my way.
In some ways it could be said that I was abusing my sense of myself to gain much needed and/or desired attention from my family. But the truth is, it was much deeper than that. In the summer of 1964, I was treated to rare experience. I was allowed to participate in a baseball camp in Oklahoma. For about three weeks that summer I was away from home for the first time in my life.
It was also the first time I came face to face with sex. I was forced to strip from the waist down, and parade around by some older boys. I have had dreams of being exposed in public or nightmares of being trapped in public naked ever since. It wasn’t until I was in prison participating in the Sex Offender Treatment and Monitoring Program (SOTMP) that I remembered that event. I had learned long ago from experience to keep my thoughts and feelings to myself. When I finally discussed this with my Dad, I got the distinct impression that he really didn’t believe me.
What I did was to use these things to bolster and feed my resentment and me sense of inadequacy. If I couldn’t gain my father’s acceptance, I would punish him through my exploits. I would proceed to humiliate him by degrading myself. It turned into a very vicious cycle of self-abuse, that helped me justify being even more abusive toward others, especially women. I played all women as the heavy in my relationships the same way my father had always played my Mom as the heavy in our household. The same way he had played his mother as the heavy in his upbringing.
What made it worse is the fact that the more honest I tried to be about some of my sexual exploits, in a feeble attempt to be an honorable man, the more aroused I thought most women were becoming toward me. What I did in turn was to use this to be all the more indifferent about the behavior I chose to pursue with women. I would get bored with myself and my crap, and found myself inventing ways to become sexually aroused and usually at the expense of the women I was involved with.
In the process, I turned myself into something of a drug dealer. I operated more or less on a very basic street level, but at a time when drug dealing stopped being something of a novelty and turned into a very dangerous and serious business. I was smart enough to avoid legal trouble but too proud to appreciate the dangerous a game I was playing. Or, I could have followed in my Dad’s footsteps and become an alcoholic, but alcohol did not set well with my equilibrium. I could only drink so much before I would become violently ill. But, I could do drugs by the truck load.
I liked speed, but I ended up losing so much weight that I rendered myself physically weak. I was one of those people who shared needles. Between my homosexual exploits and the sharing of needles, I think it’s a miracle that I did not end up with Aids. So, it was after a long series of major speed runs that I passed out for several days and decided that was not for me.
I really liked acid, but on one adventure where the content of the acid was laced heavily with strychnine, I spent a long night with a block of ice under my neck to ease the tension in my neck. It was like my neck was being tied into knots. It didn’t really hurt as much as it felt like my head was coming off.
But then there was marijuana. I could numb myself and never quite be out of control. When I finally got locked up, I was diagnosed as suffering from marijuana poisoning.
My work life was a bit of drama and a joke just like the rest of my life had become. Although I had a very strong and aggressive work ethic, when I chose to actually work, I would inevitably treat my bosses as advisories. I chose to resent their authority the same way I resented my father trying to enforce his notions of his authority on me. I judged them the same way I judged my father, and eventually rebelled against them the way I rebelled against him.
They would start out liking the way I worked and liking my attitude, but I would drive them out of my life the way I drove everybody out of my life. I didn’t believe in myself and I didn’t believe in anybody else. When Nixon got himself kicked out of office I didn’t even have a country to believe in. And, with both my parents working for the government, Nixon’s exploits made them both blind hypocrites in my book.
As it was, I was one of the first eighteen years olds allowed to vote in the election season of 1972, with the adoption of the 26th Amendment to the US Constitution. I thought of myself as a patriot and voted for Nixon. With the divorce and Nixon’s fall from grace, and the extreme emotion upheaval of the 60’s, I found myself questioning everything and everyone especially myself. I have never voted for a Republican since, and didn’t vote at all until 1988. It wasn’t until the events of September 11, 2001, that I even had the desire to feel patriotic.
My first real dream in my life had been to be an astronaut. It was the issues with my equilibrium that made that dream impossible. I had grown up with issues associated with my equilibrium since I was a small child, which really didn’t become evident to me until I was in the Navy at sea. I became violently ill because of motion sickness. Alcohol seemed to bring that on as well, but drugs didn’t.
Then there was music. I was a very talented trumpet player. When compared to the best horn in the band in high school, I was told that I had real talent. I was good, but I was not disciplined. When I tried out for the Army Band, I failed the audition because I could not sight read. What I had however, was the ability to feel the music and share that feeling through the horn. I was told that I could almost make the trumpet talk. Music was an ultimate escape for me, but not enough of an escape to keep me from self-deception and self-destruction.
When my Dad ended up owning his own advertising agency I had been offered a job to work in his office. For three days before I started work I got so wound up that I could not sleep. The idea of spending so much time with him was emotionally too much. There was fear that I would fail, fear that I would disappoint, and fear that I just could not measure up. But I had also told him that if he would just believe in me, I would go out and get him Bird’s Eye. Anyway, I exhausted myself to the point, that on my first day on the job, I was found passed out in the storage closet. After that I could not face going back to his office ever, again.
By the time I met my ex-wife, I had become so good at playing the victim, that my life was something of a soap opera. I was playing myself off as a work in progress. Had made many mistakes with my life but I was learning. There was an event associated with the drug business that had almost cost me my life. The truth was however, that I got caught up in the hunt for sex, for the sake of sex. Just as soon as I had what I wanted, I would always find a way to dispense with my prey. But then, my ex-wife changed all that.
There was something about her that caught my attention and kept it. Though our backgrounds were very different, we had shared some similar exploits. Of all the women I had ever met, she always seemed to understand where I was coming from. There were things about me that I would open up to her, but never enough to allow her to see what was really going on with me. Fearing as it were that if she really knew what I was about she would run away from me. But, as soon as we started becoming emotionally and physically involved I did what I always did…I pulled away, but not as completely as I had in times past.
Just like my Dad I had old habits that I was not about to brake. I still wasn’t mature enough to hold down a job. I did not know what I wanted for myself let alone what I would want from someone else. I loved getting high, because it was the only way I knew and trusted that I could shut myself down and relax. I was incapable of allowing myself to be vulnerable and open. Not unlike my father I had learned to believe that I must have some measure of control over everything and everybody. I thought I needed that control over my environment to feel safe, or more to the point self-assured.
The Bible says “love your neighbor as you love yourself”. I say, if you don’t know how to love yourself, how can you possibly know how to love your neighbor? These words speak more clearly to me, than any other set of words ever has.
As it applies to me, my life, and these set of circumstances, these words tell the tale more directly than any I can think of, because they speak to the heart of the problem.
The truth is I wanted very much to love my ex-wife. I simply did not know how. I did not know what it meant to love myself and more to the point, why it mattered. I did not understand as a result how that in turn, made it impossible for me to love my ex-wife.
I was always trying to control how I was perceived. I was determined to be heard and did not care to hear. I had to be right, and everybody else had to be wrong for me to feel like I was in control. There was no middle ground and there was no compromise. It was because I simply had no real sense of myself or what I really felt or who I really was. I was so closed off even from myself, that to involve anybody else in my life was both pointless and as in this case, dangerous.
Nobody had ever tried harder to reach me as my ex-wife had tried to do. She genuinely loved me and she tried to find ways to reach an effective balance between us. She was even ready to seek religion as a way to help effectively structure the content of our relationship. She even at times allowed me to attempt to compromise her self-respect sexually, to motivate me. But nothing she did worked, because I refused to participate. She needed a “helpmeet”, and she would end up calling me a “man child.” Next to being accused of being just like my father, this did not set well with me.
I had once been diagnosed as manic-depressive and was medicated to deal with it. But, I did not like the medication because I could not feel anything. In prison I finally allowed myself to be medicated as a part of my sex offender treatment. I have now been using anti-depressants for more than ten years and it works for me.
It works because I was finally willing to reach out to someone for help. But it was only because I was willing to accept that I needed help in the first place that it worked. It was only because I was finally willing to allow myself to be vulnerable that it was possible for me to accept help at all.
I know that sounds a bit redundant, but the price paid to achieve that little bit of compromise on my part, and the pain suffered by so many for me to get to such a point in my life is staggering and painful. No suffering more staggering or more painful than the price paid by my ex-wife for having had the desire to love me.
There were good moments, but only when I let myself be relaxed enough to enjoy them. There was the birth of my son, but not unlike my Dad, I would end up resenting how much his entrance into our lives affected the way I perceived our relationship was supposed to be. I didn’t hate him, I just wasn’t mature enough to appreciate the importance to my existence he was, or would become. I was too busy being my father’s son. It meant that I was too proud to focus on being my own man with my own life with my own responsibilities.
My ex-wife finally got to the point where she could not deal with me anymore. She decided she wanted a divorce. I had been through a very long bout of depression, and after several months jumped up and decided to go to college. A bill I created that I am still paying off to this very day. She was not impressed. She not unlike my mother needed me to be a man and not a child. Going to school was not really what I wanted. I was just looking for an escape to ease the guilt I had been feeling for being such a bum.
With this separation came the first real indication of just how dangerous my thinking was. I was for a short time insanely jealous. I actually stalked her. Not that I was following her around, as much as I was watching the house from a distance in the middle of the night. I wanted to see for myself if she was bringing anybody home with her. Then I just kind of mellowed and started moving on, when we got back together.
As we approached the beginning of 1990 my son had been diagnosed with RSV. It was a flu virus capable of killing small infants. I had avoided taking him to the hospital until he was bordering on severe dehydration. I had tried to keep him hydrated but he was not holding anything down. It did not help that we did not have insurance. I remember the Doctor telling me that he was tempted to call in social services. If he had known that I had been leaving a broken window in his room unfixed in the middle of winter, he very likely would have called in social services with good reason.
The stress of all this going on did not help my ex-wife. She would get pregnant through this time period, and we would end up in the hospital where she would have a miscarriage. This was in the last year before I would go to jail. It is ironic that we would end up a year later in exactly the same emergency room as we did on this occasion. Only that would be under circumstances that does not fill me with much in the way of self-respect.
The stress of our son getting sick and being in the hospital had been too much for her. She was still the primary breadwinner. She had gone from trusting me with the finances to opening up her own bank account. She had even tried to reach me, by allowing me to be a househusband. But, I was still doing drugs and my efforts at being employed were half-assed at best.
My ex-wife is not a screamer or a crier, she internalizes things. She will get tied up in knots and have migraine headaches as an expression of how she feels. It takes a lot to make her angry. So the stress of having to deal with my growing in competence and self-destructiveness was taking its toll. Our son being sick made it worse, and then the fact that I was now starting to show signs of endangering his welfare as well was just too much. That new baby never had a chance. It was on this occasion in the hospital that she and I would be bonded to each other for the last time. Whereas a year later in the same emergency room that bond would be broken, forever.
Where my father could never quite bring himself to the point of being physically abusive of my mother, I had no such issue. I had become so good at giving myself the right to cross boundaries with everybody, that it got real easy to justify my behavior. I was at times physically abusive toward other people, but up until the night I raped my ex-wife, I had only been verbally and emotionally abusive toward her. It was always about sexual compromise. It was my sexual inadequacy, her compromise.
Then after having gone through a long bout of depression that had progressed through the year, on one day in early January, I had finally done something that convinced my ex-wife that she could not depend on me anymore. I had passed out and just as my ex-wife had come home from work, we both discovered that my son was not in the house.
It appeared that he had gone down to a neighbor’s house when I had put him down for a nap, and had gone to sleep myself. I had been up again for several days.
I was out and the relationship was over. But that was not good enough for me. By this time I had convinced myself that she was the villain. All this crap was her fault, and I was blameless. She never loved me. I could go on and on about the bullshit I was telling myself, but that is only to keep from going where I know this segment of the story has to go.
I was telling my son the other day, that this was where I was having to most difficulty dealing with telling this story. That at this point I was going to be at a major crossroads, because it would be real easy to play victim here. But, I have got to admit that I was wrong. The issue is not about allowing me to play victim here, it’s in not wanting to appear as bad or as pathetic as I know these events establish. There is no fool like being my own fool and that is as real as it gets.
For my Dad, rock bottom was the events surrounding his first heart attack. It was only just two years before that a heart attack had claimed his father. But, my dad never did catch the hint, that maybe it was his lifestyle choices that were responsible for his issues. In his near death experience he decided that he was going to spend the rest of his life doing what his father had done, live for himself. It was at this point that he decided that if he was going to have life on his terms, then everything that went against that principle was out. That would come to mean that anybody who did not conform to his way of seeing the world was out, as well.
The point here to me is best established in the only books my father eventually wrote. In the first is a description of his life that never mentions that he had been married let alone had brought children into the world. The second has the revelation of an, all praise worthy daughter who seemed to have come from nowhere, but there she was.
For me it was at this point that I finally understood that we had all been rejected by my father long ago. It was likely right around the time of this first heart attack. Specifically it was the night he chose to go out and got sick from drinking, which could have stopped him from wanting to do it again. But like the addict he was, he did not want to stop and nor did he ever.
At a similar stage in my life, the night I raped my ex-wife was such a crossroads for me. Right up to the point where I had perpetrated the events of that night at my ex-wife’s expense I had felt right about what I was doing. I had decided that to complete this little act of revenge I would end my own life. I wanted leave this world as the victim I had been making of myself all this time, but I could not bring myself to close the deal.
I bitterly cried for the longest time. It was bitter cold, being February, because I had left the apartment and went out to find a place to do my bit. I planned on being dead before anybody found me. That’s when something snapped in me, and for the first time I actually realized what I had just done. I was both horrified and ashamed. Worse, I was miserable that I did not have the guts to kill myself.
I was starting to become aware that what I had just done was going to have major consequences attached to it. Since I decided that I could not bring myself to end my life that meant that such consequences were inevitable. But I was still playing the victim to that point. As I saw it my life was over anyway, so it really didn’t matter what happened to me, now. Who would care, I didn’t care. But time and sobriety would change all that.
I had finally put myself in a place where no matter how I looked at it, there really was nobody else left to blame but me. But the process of learning to account for myself and my actions would take many years. It was three years of sobriety before I realized that I actually had a functioning brain. I was so use to playing victim and manipulating people to see it that way that I went on for a long time pretending to be righteous in my own mind.
So, I was thinking of ways to undermine the damage I had done to my own credibility, without taking into account that the damage was already done. I just didn’t want to look as bad to myself as I knew in my heart that I looked. My sense of my own self-image was still too important for me to take into account how easily people were being abused by that reckless and selfish sense of self. It was still all too important for me to give up on the lies I was telling myself.
It wasn’t until I was in sex offender treatment, and still had this idea in the back of my mind, that there was still a chance that my ex-wife and I could get back together, that the reality of my circumstances actually started to set in. It came in the form of having it pointed out to me, that to believe a relationship between my ex-wife and me was still possible, was a clear indication that I was still in denial over what I had done and the impact it had on her.
She had done nothing to warrant what I had done to her. She had tried to love me. I had ultimately pushed her away from me, and then blamed her for it. I had blamed her for all that was wrong with my life. And, after all that had transpired between us, I still wanted to believe that I could make it right with her and move on together with her. In spite of myself, I was still playing my ex-wife as the heavy. I was still being my father’s son.
From this point forward, I never looked back. I have never blamed anybody else for my existence or my choices. I had to work at it mind you. I had to learn to challenge my thought process to change how I chose to see things and change how I chose to act on those beliefs. At one point in prison I even managed to be charged with another crime of violence, which ended without a conviction. The point being that I still have a temper and I still find time to feel like a victim. But under no circumstances do I allow myself the option of allowing my thoughts to control my behavior. That isn’t to say however, that I don’t still feel the need to be aggressive in my behavior.
I have now been out of prison since March of 2008. It has not been easy, but for the most part it has been productive.
I tried a couple of times to get involved with other women, but my anger at being hurt by them made me realize that I still had emotional issues to deal with, so I left that part of my life alone. A couple of years ago I finally laid eyes on my son for the first time since just four days before I hurt his mother in 1991. It has been both a very enjoyable and painful experience for me.
He has chosen to be forgiving of me and my choices, but not without some very serious reservations. Any desire on my part to try and make contact with his mother could prove to threaten our growing relationship. Not unlike my mother, my ex-wife effectively moved on with her life. For me to even consider challenging that would prove that nothing in me has changed. It would prove that there never really existed any desire on my part to be conscious of what I had done to his mother. Worse, it would mean that I have no real desire to be responsible for the pain I caused her. I can’t do that to myself, and I won’t do that to her or to him. I would rather live in exile from both of them.
Then comes the understanding of what my son has gone through in my absence. I find myself dealing with the fact that I was not there to help him deal with his own choices and the consequences of those choices. I regret that I was not there to guide him when he could have used my help. However, I am now grateful that in the seeds my own growth I can still be a benefit to him. That it should be my choices of what not to do with your life, if you want your life to amount to something hurts. But I keep telling him that I don’t want to end up talking to him through a pane of glass talking on the phone, because I don’t want his choices to cost him like they cost me.
One of the most important crossroads in my life, came on the day I sent my father a letter, to say good bye. I still had several years to do in prison. Our relationship had been what it had always been. He was the expert at reality, and needed that affirmation more than he was interested in how I was doing. He never did stop drinking.
I remember the sheer terror of sending that letter, because I knew I would now officially be rejected. It was a fact of life that I had long since known and had finally decided to face. It was an important part of how I had used that thought process to avoid accountability in my own life. I also needed to stop feeding his desire to pull me into his life just long enough to find another reason to reaffirm his need to reject of me.
A couple of years ago when his health was in serious question, I had volunteered to take my uncle up to Washington State to see my father. But, I was threatened with a restraining order if I came near him. I had no desire to see him, because I had let him go some years before. I had resigned myself to the fact that he would never willingly change. He had always been very effective at using my emotions against me, and now he could not do that anymore and I guess he resented it.
As I was writing this story, it came to me to think about what would have happened the night I raped my ex-wife, if I had committed suicide. To think in terms of what my father would have felt. And I realize that this is not important, because he made himself known a long time ago. When he stated in that letter I read from Thailand, that maybe things would have been better had they, my Mom and Dad, pursued an abortion in Japan. He was not talking about me per say, but that this was his view was very painful for me. I understood that then, but rather than accept the truth and move on, I told myself that I had no worth, and therefore no purpose. Until the night I raped my ex-wife that was fundamental to all my choices and all of my behavior. “If you don’t love yourself, how can you possibly know what is means to love your, neighbor.”
On the other hand, I now share a great relationship with my Mom that is long overdue. She has accepted my flaws and still treats me like a son. As I said before our relationship has suffered much but still exists. She knows something of what I hope my ex-wife will come to know that I am now the man I was always capable of being. It would be nice to know she sees that in me, but it is my sworn duty to my son to focus on being that capable being, regardless. To have taken my own life, would not have destroyed my Mom, but she would not have been allowed to enjoy seeing me as I am today.
For my Dad, I miss him and I still wish that things had been different between us. However, I no longer have the need to have need of his approval to feel whole. I am now in a relationship with a woman I knew years ago who seems to want to accept all of me, the good and the bad. I don’t know that I deserve it, any more than I deserve a relationship with my son, but I like the way it makes me feel. As for my Mother, she is still the rock I lean on when I need to feel good about myself. She has never let me down, and when she is gone she will missed in more ways than words can describe.