Dear Dad

I have been writing this letter in my head for years now. Until today, I never got the courage to actually put the words down much less send them to you.   I have been really trying to figure out why now was the right time and it finally occurred to me.

The reason is simple. I am sad. I am heartbroken. I miss you. Deep down in my soul, I want you in my life.

The truth is, I am also angry. You hurt us and mom so much while we were growing up.

I always thought that all kids had “two” Dads: the morning dad and the nighttime/after drinking Dad. Do you know how stressful it is for a little girl to have to time her conversations with her dad around his whiskey? If I needed a permission slip signed I had about an hour to spit it all out before you changed. That’s it–one hour. Once you got that all too familiar slur, I knew my window was closed.

I thought all Dads started the day washing two aspirins down with two cups of Turkish coffee. I thought all dads started their day at noon and came home at midnight most days. I thought all dads hated vacations. I thought all dads hit.

I actually used to blame Mom for how angry you were. I would see your teeth clenching and beg her in my head to walk away. But she didn’t. She let you come at her again and again. I blamed her for throwing up after every meal. I blamed her for crying. I blamed her for spending days at a time in bed sleeping away the effects of some tranquilizer or another.

Then I blamed myself.

But not for being a bad kid…for being a good kid. I remember trying to think about some misdeed I could commit. I thought maybe if you could both be mad at me…really mad at me…you would stop being mad at each other. But I was afraid. I was afraid to get a bad grade or to get into trouble. So then I started thinking about ways to make myself sick. There is no way you would fight while your poor child was battling a sickness right?

When I was 13 and put my hand through that broken glass pane in our front door, I thought I would just get a scratch, maybe need a few stitches. Maybe then you would sit next to each other in the ER and smile warmly at me and then at each other. I wasn’t supposed to tear my radial artery. I wasn’t supposed to watch a fountain of blood erupt from my wrist with every heartbeat. The kind smile wasn’t supposed to come from the on-call hand surgeon that saved my life that night.

One time when I was about 12, Mom saw the look on my face after one of your famous fights. She stopped in front of me, bent down and whispered “Don’t worry honey, Daddy and I can’t live without each other..no matter what happens, I promise you we will always be together.” Failed promise true. But, the bigger failure was that we all would have been better off had that promise been broken years before.

Last week your visit meant so much to me and my kids. They are already asking when you will be back. I loved that we talked: not just for an hour but for hours.  But, do you want to know what I loved the most about that Thursday you spent with me?

I loved watching you help me shop for our office Christmas party. I will never forget the way you grabbed bottle after bottle of liquor, wine and even whiskey without even flinching.  I loved that despite my fridge full of beer, you chose a diet Pepsi. I loved that a quick bit of math revealed that you have now been sober 17 years…just about the same amount of time it took me to write this letter.

I have learned from Chris that Dad’s can have one drink and stop. I learned that Dad’s can talk and listen for more than an hour. I learned that Dad’s can love vacations with their kids. I learned that Dad’s can cherish their wives whether their kids are good or bad or sick or not. I learned that a Dad can be calm and reassuring instead of angry and threatening.

Because of Chris, my kids know life with an amazing dad. Because he convinced me that we should have our visit last week, I am finally ready to know my Dad. My “now” dad: the one that can pick up the whiskey,  put it in the cart and not even pause.

I love you Dad.

Comments

  1. Anonymous says:

    Wow…seems as if some of these words have been swirling around my head for years now too! Although having kids now, i think it makes reconnection that much harder. I do not want my kids to ever know the pain that i knew. But my heart really needs that connection. I miss my dad! I know he was
    working on making his life better…it is hard to feel that you are not enough for them to make a change….but the love never goes away.

  2. Christine says:

    Anonymous:
    I don’t know who you are but I am sitting here fighting back tears. In my every day life I see so many people at the end of their lives and full of regret. I am so angry and heartbroken at my wasted childhood but then I also think, I needed it to be that way to have the amazing and blessed life I have now. I am not sure I am ever going to be able to forget but I am really trying to forgive….I hope that helps you somehow.

    • Anonymous says:

      Christine,

      I type through tears as I write this note. I too suffered an abusive childhood that included all forms of abuse and neglect. The things I can remember from my childhood are ugly.

      What struck me about your post is that had you not gone through the horrors of your childhood, you would not be who you are today. You say “I am so angry and heartbroken at my wasted childhood but then I also think, I needed it to be that way to have the amazing and blessed life I have now.”

      Through the sexual, verbal and physical abuse I can look at my life and truly feel that I am one of the luckiest people alive. It took years of self-work, a spiritual quest, lots of self help books and therapy.

      I am in a 31 year relationship with the most wonderful person in the world. I have real love. I am blessed and filled with gratitude.

      I also realize that most children that come from an abusive, dysfunctional family aren’t so lucky.

      PS- I am 50, and have only recently really been able to let go of my past and become friends with my Dad.

      Thanks for sharing your story.

      • Christine says:

        Dear Dear Dear Anonymous—-
        That is the beauty despite utter pain of sharing stories like ours: triumph over heartache, love over anger. I also pray that a young girl sitting in a cold dark house alone may come across OUR stories and realize that there is an “out.” —that there is so so much more to life than those terrible times.
        Thank you so much for sharing your story with us.

  3. jeanie says:

    Dr. Meyer…..I think everyone has the ability to change (for the good). Some people, including myself, was looking for the instruction booklet to come with my kids, when they were born. I was lucky to be a very maternal person…..the rest didn’t come easy. It took me a lifetime to learn to be a good parent. My parents didn’t have a clue….so getting married young, was an escape. Unfortunately, while some are still growing up, they are raising children to the best of their ability. I am thankful my children love me for my strength and commitment and I am still happy to this day, that I walked out on my alcoholic husband when my kids were 3 and 8. I guess we’ve all forgiven him in one way or another, but when the alcoholic drinks, he/she has no idea the domino effect they have on people who they live with. I am proud that I had the guts to take my two kids out of that household. That was 32 yrs ago. We all somehow forgive and forget. My husband was killed in a car accident after a night of drinking. Thankfully, no one else was hurt. He had already hurt too many people while he was drinking. I give you a lot of credit to forgive your Dad.

    • Christine Meyer, MD says:

      Jeannie
      I often wonder if things would have been better if my Mom had left when we were much younger– maybe so. Thank God you and your kids are ok.

  4. Barb says:

    Beautiful! And why I stay sober now!

  5. Tear in my eyes, Dr. Meyer! Thanks for writing and posting this :)

  6. Rachel Micco says:

    Dr. Meyer – Thank you so much for this! I lost my Dad when I was still in High School. Technically to Emphysema, but alcohol killed his body more than anything else. I would love to share something like this with him, and although I cannot, I do get to say Thank You every day to my brother who was on the same path, but heard all of our prayers for healing. 13 years sober in just a few weeks, and grateful for every moment!
    Thank you!

    • Christine Meyer, MD says:

      Hooray for your brother Rachel!!!! I am reminded every time I reach for another glass of wine or beer how really close to the edge my genetics make me– and I am NOT going there. Thanks for sharing your story.

  7. Anonymous says:

    My dad was an alcoholic, too. Drank until I was 10 and when I was 15 he was on prescription drugs and I feared so much that he would start drinking again. I lived a life of fear until he died when I was 33. I loved him so much but worried about him…and Mom and me…just as much. Today I still suffer the emotional illness…

    • Anonymous says:

      I wrote the one above but forgot to say that he got his drugs from a doctor here in Downingtown. I heard an alcoholic say once that you don’t have to go out on the street to get drugs.

      • Anonymous says:

        Anonymous–so true and so sad. When I hear stories like yours I am so grateful that my dad is still alive to be mad at and to forgive. I sometimes lay awake at night worrying about the pain meds I have prescribed. It is so hard to know but for sure, doctors can and should do a better job before prescribing. We are in fact a big part of the problem.
        Thanks so much for sharing your story.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Christine, now I KNOW THE REASON why I always thought you ARE an Angel.

    • Anonymous says:

      I don’t know about that George (and aren’t you impressed I know who would say that??) I only have one patient that calls me an angel!!!

  9. Noha assad says:

    Every time I read one of your blogs I can’t help but think of the following quotes :)

    “People are often unreasonable and self-centered. Forgive them anyway.
    If you are kind, people may accuse you of ulterior motives. Be kind anyway.
    If you are honest, people may cheat you. Be honest anyway.
    If you find happiness, people may be jealous. Be happy anyway.
    The good you do today may be forgotten tomorrow. Do good anyway.
    Give the world the best you have and it may never be enough. Give your best anyway.
    For you see, in the end, it is between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway
    .”
    ― Mother Teresa

    • Anonymous says:

      Noha
      How how how beautiful and appropriate. Thank you so much for that. I want to frame it and print it and carry it around with me always! Truly words to live by.

  10. Anonymous. says:

    I am posting here where I can be Anonymous, because I can not post this to your FB page for the hurt it will bring to my family.

    Your story is so familiar. I lived it, my clients have told it to me a hundred times. I too “was the good girl” that got great grades and became a doctor. Both my parents were alcoholics. They had knock down drag out fights, while drunk after a fight my father would put us in a car and take us from our mother sobbing on the floor, and drive off anywhere at high rates of speed. He would tell us that he loved us very much and that my mom needed to go to the state hospital because she was mentally unstable and we would have to tell a judge that so he could keep us. The next morning he would act like it never happened. Other days, we would do some minor offense and he would beat us with a belt. Mom was similar. This all changed when I was 11. He came home from a flight (he was a commercial pilot), mowed the lawn, and was resetting the sprinkler system when he collapsed, he was pronounced DOA (his initials) at 5:05 that day. I felt it in my soul. I have loved and missed and hated him all at the same time for many years. It shocks me today to look at pictures of him from before I knew him and see how much he looks like my husband. My wonderful husband who is nothing like the man my father was. Like you, I am so blessed to have a husband, friend, and partner who loves me and my children dearly and knows how to listen and love.

    Thanks Christine,
    Love your patient the Animal Doc.

    • Anonymous says:

      Oh My Dear Friend Animal Doc
      Your anonymity is of course safe with me. I want to HUG you! What a tragic tragic story….How I cringe at the things I heard my father say to my mother and us. At least my father is alive…I am ashamed that most days, it doesn’ seem to matter to me that he is. It is reading stories like yours that make me want to try harder. Thank you so much for sharing with me here. And Thank God for our husbands!

  11. Anonymous. says:

    Christine, I read your other comments and have to add, I too think of my parents every time I reach for a glass of wine or spirits. I Know the genetics. And enjoy a glass of wine or a martini with friends but it is just that and a rare time at that too. – Doc

    • Anonymous says:

      Not a patient..yet..but I enjoy your blogs…all of the above applies to me,too…Both parents and one always feels so alone in this..Thanks for sharing and knowing I am not alone in these feelings An Exton fan..

  12. Christine says:

    Dear Exton Fan
    You have, in 5 simple words, encapsulated the reason I write this blog: WE (non of us) are not alone. Thanks for commenting.

  13. Anonymous says:

    Dr. Meyer, thank you for sharing…..that was my life too growing up. Unfortunately my father still drinks and my mother is still with him. I carry lifelong emotional effects now. Luckily I found my “Chris” too. He shows me what a real father is.

    • Anonymous says:

      Dear Anonymous
      I wish I could say that the emotiona effects are better now that my father does not drink –And I often feel guilty for not trying harder given the changes he has made. The reality is, all he did was stop drinking. His life, behavior, isolationism etc…continue. If I had to choose, I guess I am glad he at least doesn’t drink anymore but that’s about it….so sad. Thank God for our husbands/partners that are so different.
      Thank you so much for sharing….none of us should feel alone.

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