I use this blog to express myself- usually in some sort of creative attempt- some more successfully than others. However, I don’t typically directly put my stuff out there. This blog is not meant to be a diary or a confessional.
However, this time, I have something I need to say, and I need to say it directly. No BS. No flarf poem. No hiding behind a wannabe pseudoliterary conceit. Just me and the truth.
In Wisconsin in 1940 a 17-year-old kid went for a ride on his motorcycle. He might have had an incredible future in front of him. He might have won the Congressional Medal of Honor for his heroism saving his buddies storming the beach at Normandy. He might have become President of the United States. He might have beaten Detroit pitching for the Chicago Cubs in the 1945 World Series. He might have cured cancer.
He might have been a gentle, kind, loving father and grandfather.
Fate had other plans. That kid crashed his motorcycle. He survived, but without wearing a helmet he suffered a severe frontal head injury. The damage to his left frontal lobe (the part of the brain responsible for higher order cognitive functions including judgment and impulse control), coupled with the alcohol he would soon add to the mix, made for an explosive, violent, unpredictable, uncontrollable combination.
To his son, growing up was a living hell. The kid was physically and emotionally tortured in unimaginable ways. He found little solace and no peace. He found as he got older the only way he could defend himself was to attack- with sarcasm, with insults, with his fists and legs. Feelings were dangerous to that little boy, so he attempted to purge himself of them. Feelings were “dramatic” and were among the worst sins anyone could have. The innocent boy withered under the torture and became a brooding, dark, angry, violent dysthymic narcissist. He could not love and could not accept love. A birthday or Father’s Day prompted a disapproving groan. A crying child deserved horrors I won’t describe here out of concern for those who might be triggered by it.
The little boy who was tortured so badly, who only wanted love and acceptance, became what he hated most.
The kid on the motorcycle was the grandfather I never met (except when I was thrown off his lap as a newborn, as he demanded a beer and to be left alone to watch the Cubs). The little boy was my father.
Several days ago my father was moved to hospice. His 3 pack-a-day habit finally caught up to him, as everyone including himself knew it would.
Several years ago, after he was released from prison, we tried to make a go of re-establishing a relationship, but it was not to be. He never had (or took) the opportunity to do the work to heal from the pain he’d carried all his life. He’d never had (or taken) the opportunity that I had, doing the work to heal from the damage he’d done to me. I had done the hard emotional work I needed to, so I was prepared to give it a try if he’d been capable to meet me halfway. Sadly, he wasn’t. The last time I spoke to him face to face he committed several deal-breakers, the worst being a joke about beating my daughter.
I dealt with the intense anger at his behavior and made peace with never having a father- not what one looks to in a father, anyway. We didn’t speak again for a year, and when he popped back up I simply told him that while I was sorry about it, he simply wasn’t capable of doing what he needed to do to be a father or a grandfather. “Well, if that’s what you choose,” he blithely replied, and that was it.
I do not hope or dream of a deathbed reconciliation. I know there would be no peace to be had showing up at hospice. It would only be the “drama” he hated so much. His death is more peaceful for him (as well as me) as I keep my distance. I am convinced his death will bring him peace that he has never found in life- and for that I am grateful.
I have great compassion and empathy for that little boy he was who had to live with the hell of his father’s brain damage. I mourn that little boy. I mourn the man my grandfather could have been if he didn’t crack up his motorcycle. I mourn the 73 years of intergenerational hell that happened because he did.
In a strange way I can feel the little boy my father once was inside me, inside my DNA, and in that way we are connected (and will continue to be so after his death). I mourn that little boy, the little Anakin Skywalker who would be turned into Darth Vader, but who I cannot turn back.
Rest in peace, Dad.