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Jun 21, 2008

It is

It is what it is and I can't change it.

That's my mantra and I'm usually pretty good about it when it comes to my parents. It wasn't easy or fast- in fact it took many years. I've never been in formal therapy- except for myself- but as I get older I think more about it.

Growing up, my father was a drunk. I suppose a prettier word is and alcoholic. In my head he was a typical construction worker guy. I thought construction workers were all the same, he and his buddies were. After work he would have drinks with his buddies, especially Friday's. He always had beer or vodka at home. He has had some sober years, after I left the house, but now his drinking is much more unpredictable

I have many and various memories of him getting physically intrusive and abusive with my siblings, cousins, and me, after he had been drinking. He commonly drove drunk, sometimes with us in the car. Once, in eighth grade, at a school dinner/carnival function, he shit his pants and had to ride home hanging on to the window of the pickup, standing on the outer step. Another time he drove up to his family cabin to join his brother, sister and families and me- I was old enough to drive myself and had spent a few days by myself before the other family members arrived. He pulled in, in his El Camino and stumbled into the cabin, slurring, lazy, droopy eyes, saying hi. His sister quickly sat him down to a meal where he proceeded to droop his head and fall into his food. I watched. He stirred himself and began to ramble about going into town to get more beer. His siblings and spouses did nothing. I told him no and struggled to get his keys out of his pants pocket, convincing him to lay down for a while. After, I went to the car and took out the nearly gone 6 pack and the empties. I checked on him and found that he had peed on himself in his sleep... My aunts and uncles avoided me and we never spoke of it.

Fun times.

I can replay these scenes over and over again. The colors of his El Camino, the cans on the seat, his wobble, the looks from his siblings, my little cousins watching, my uncle steering them out of the room, the trees around the cabin, the stillness, the chaos in my head and the need to take care, while despising the acts of helping as well as the 'adults' disgust, yet lack of action.

So many other scenes play.

My parents love each other. I know they do. It is obvious to me and to others- sometimes I don't understand why my mother didn't leave him and then I know- she loved him and still does. Dependence, co-dependence, whatever. They'll celebrate 50 years next April. I celebrate their marriage as well. The family they raised, their commitment to one another. Thick and thin, good times and bad, and all that. They've done it.

My mother- she has her faults too.

Don't we all???

My parents are in town this weekend. Arrived yesterday around 3:00 and will leave on Monday morning. My mother was asked to be the god mother of my cousin's newest baby. My parents are staying with Käri's mom- she has extra space, so do we. They never stay with us when they come to town. Too much for my father to deal with. The noise, the chaos. Really, can't blame him (or anyone) for that. Yet, I see in my mother the desire to hang out and play with the kids, swimming, visiting, playing. When she visits by herself she does stay with us and spends all her time with us. Usually, when they both come, they stay with my aunt and uncle and spend most of their time with them.

I anticipate their arrival each time, with a mixture of excitement, anxiety, and dread. I would like my kids to have a relationship with them. A positive relationship. It was one of the reasons we moved back to California. And yet, I wait. ( Yesterday, I had to have a little ativan to help me wait) Will my father be drinking, will my mother be anxious about his drinking, will it be tense, will he be physical in his jokingly intimidating way, with my children, will he run to the store for some more tortilla chips and return drunk (it's been done before- once with my two year old son in the car...), will I have the guts to tell him to get out of my house and if I do will he ever return?

They have just left my house. They were here for about five hours yesterday evening, my mother came at noon today (my father had been golfing and came 30 minutes or so after her). Mom slept in this morning and hung out with Käri's mother before she came over. They left a bit after 2:00. We won't see them again until they are on their way out of town Monday morning. My mom played and went swimming with the kids while she was here. When my dad arrived he was fine. Thirty minutes later, not so much- he went into the house by himself to make a sandwich, when he emerged a few minutes later he appeared to be drunk, blurry confused, wobbly, softer... Did he find the vodka? I looked for evidence- refused to smell his breath (cuz yeah, you can smell it don't let anyone tell you you can't- although, I am an expert on smelling it and recognizing drunk symptoms. I can also count drinks like nobody's business- talents of growing up with a drunk). My mom got out of the pool and within forty five minutes they were gone. I spoke to my mom over my fathers head- just like when you are with a child- told her not to worry about it.

It is what it is, right?

Edited: In response to Process... My children are never left in my father's care, and in fact ,as a family, we have only been to my parents house a handful of times in the last ten years. I have spent time with my folks, with one child at a time, for a few nights, so my mother can get a grandchild fix. I am always with them and on guard.


Process said...

It is what it is, but please protect your children. If you don't know when he may drink/become drunk, act as though he may at any time, and don't let your kids go in a car with him or allow him to be the only adult with them. When, because of childhood experiences, our "gauge is broken" regarding some kinds of situations, it can really help to have a plan ahead of time and to have someone whose gauge is not broken know that plan and be enlisted ahead of time to help us act on it.

Tricia said...

Process- I know where you come from from from reading your words I appreciate your advice... Please know my gauge is not broken, quite to the contrary, more like fine tuned. Part of the reason my children don't know my father well- I won't let them. I refuse to expose them to his behaviors.

There are many more examples of encounters with my fathers drunkenness- the last big one ended with my mother saying "if I were you, I wouldn't come back" Part of the reason they left today, when they did, is because my mother is well aware of where I stand on this- as well as my father, although we of course do not discuss it, she removed him from my house so I didn't have to ask her to.

The piece left unsaid, is he also has diabetes and sometimes it is hard to know the difference when his levels are low...

Oy, enough said....

Yondalla said...


I understand.

It is what it is.

Tracey said...

I am so sorry... that must be incredibly hard.

Anonymous said...

Hey babe... so sorry I left you alone with them this weekend. I'm off having fun and you're at home with that! I'll make it up to you when I get home. :) I love you. K

Anonymous said...

will he run to the store for some more tortilla chips and return drunk (it's been done before- once with my two year old son in the car...),

Denise said...

I grew up with a drunk, sadly I understand all too well. It is what it is babe. It sounds like you are handling it well. Don't let anyone tell you differently.

Maia said...

Thanks for sharing. This stuff needs to be talked about more. We have some relatives that the kids aren't allowed to be alone with and are not around often (or at all for some). It's SO frustrating to see other relatives both enable such behavior and also ignore it ... do they really think that helps?? Sounds like you've thought this through thoroughly.

Tricia said...

Anonymous- I think your pointing out that I let my so go in the car with my father... Yes, I did. That was over ten years ago, it was 10:00 am and it was during a sober period. It was also the one and only time any of my children have been alone with my father.

And yes, I should have known better.

Julie said...

I find it interesting that you haven't gotten any counseling--especially since you have adopted children. I adopted five children (all older, either at age 8 or 11) and I have practically had therapists on retainer! For the most part, they did help my kids, but honestly, the person they helped the most was ME. I am sorry about your father, but I am glad that you are as "normal" as you are. Still, you might find counselling a good idea--there's no way that growing up in an alcoholic's home doesn't affect your parenting--for both good and bad.

Amy said...

Ah, something we have in common! My Dad, although I love him dearly, is no longer trusted to be alone with my kids. His interpretation of drunk and mine are very different. I remember the maniacal (sp?) ride of growing up with a father who drinks and who can also make the decision to stop, cold-turkey. Good for you for blogging about it - that's about as good of therapy as I've found!

(John had to play therapist for me last night when my grandfather was taken to the hospital for a likely broken hip and my dad "trusted us kids to keep him in the loop." That is, of course, code for "I've had so much to drink all day that even I know I can't pull it off and fake normalcy in front of the family/doctor/etc. It must have been bad if even he realized he'd had too much!)

Gretel said...

I can appreciate the struggle you must feel between wanting your children to have a relationship with their g'father and wanting to protect them from scenes such as the ones that haunt you from your childhood. You're a great mom and a great daughter. You are handling this so well...keep blogging courageously and keep it out in the 'fresh' air.

rae said...

this post touched me deeply. my dad will be coming for the first time in 11 years to my house to meet his new grandson in july. i'm so upset. he's a raging alcholic. i never want my kids to see/feel what i felt while i watched my dad urinate on the floor or fall thru plate glass windows. i'm scared of throwing him out of my house if he's drinking. your post just hit home. many hugs to you.