Yesterday would have been my dad’s 79th birthday. He died in July of 2002; at the age of 63. If you have read any of my earlier “stuff”, at times I feel I was hard on him. Though nothing I’ve said is untrue, I probably haven’t given him enough credit and I’m sure I was working through my own daddy issues. He was never physically absent and I know he tried. I think he tried to be a good dad, to be present and give love and structure and accountability.
Mentally, emotionally and physically; life can be complicated and messy and overwhelming and
we . . . you and me and every other human being is challenged with responding and moving through life the best way . . . or maybe more accurately, the most comfortable way we know how. Some people have developed coping mechanisms in their faith or exercise or hobbies or passions or family or careers. Others turn to less productive coping mechanisms that may provide short term comfort, but end up causing more challenges. My dad’s coping mechanism was booze, just as it was with his dad.
My parents were married in their mid-20s, had my two older sisters; four years apart and finally me, eight years later when my mom was 37 and my dad was 38. Though my dad had always drank, my sisters acknowledged their childhood with our dad was a very different experience than mine. It sounds like he may have drank less, felt less stress and had more fun with friends and family. But, something changed shortly after I was born. Right around his 40th birthday, it’s like he gave up.
I know my parents bought a bigger house right before I turned one and my dad’s dad died when I was two. I remember finances becoming an issue. I’m not sure if those things were triggers or not, and at the end of the day, the specifics don’t matter. Around 40, something changed; he changed. My earliest and most consistent memories of my dad were of him waking up early to go to work and getting home late in the afternoon to do his paperwork, drinking until he passed out, raising hell and living in the basement.
I don’t have any major regrets with my dad. Fortunately, he and I could have “the talk” before he died. You know, the one where we acknowledge how messed up the past was, how we wish things would have been different, but we love each other and we forgive. I watched him take his last breath and I know he and I were good. I guess yesterday was a little heavier and more meaningful to me than it probably ever has been, because now I’m 40 and in some ways, the past couple of years, I feel like I’ve been “living in the basement”. Not literally, but a weird phase . . . a funk.
Like with my dad, the specifics of the “why” don’t matter. What matters is what happens next and how I need to be; for myself, family and everyone else around me. And, I have been thinking about this and feeling it a lot lately. I feel it with my kids, at the gym and in my career. A fear of failure, settling, giving in, giving up and history repeating itself; not living my purpose and potential.
My thoughts and feelings around this are as much about you as they are about me. We all “live in the basement” and feel like giving up in varying degrees at different times. And if you’re not right now, at some point you have and you will again. That’s normal, so give yourself a break. How productively will you cope? How quickly will you respond? What will happen next?
Again, I don’t have a lot of regrets with my dad, but the older I get, the more I wish I could talk to him about this stuff. Not that he would be very open; vulnerability wasn’t exactly his thing. But, dammit I would try.