So, I guess I’m estranged from my father. I don’t talk to him. I haven’t talked to him in a good long while.
I’m starting to come to terms with the idea that this is actually something I’ve done on purpose, something I’ve chosen to do, over the years, versus some incidental situation that’s just kind of, happening to me.
What can I say?
It’s been a deliberate choice, even if I’m only acknowledging that now.
I grew up in a messed up and chaotic environment. I’ve mentioned it here, before. There was so much sadness, anger, and violence in my home, so much subsequent shame about it, that I ALWAYS dreamed of getting away from it.
Getting away from them, from him.
The night my father finally left my mother, the night he finally left her for good, after wreaking years of physical and emotional havoc, he threw me through our front screen door, into the street, in front of a bunch of neighbor kids.
I was in my underwear.
In my underwear.
And it was the night before my first day of high school.
Over the years, I’ve had as little contact with him as possible. It wasn’t hard, he never sought me out or actively pursued a relationship with me. Although, there where times throughout the years that we have had some contact, including a brief period right after Damien was born, that I went to stay with him, my stepmother and my 3 little half brothers, at their apartment.
Interestingly, but I guess not surprisingly, he hadn’t changed at all. Just like when I was growing up, he had nothing to do with the day to day affairs of his children. He was just as aloof and disconnected from them, as he had been from my brother and me. He didn’t work, instead he spent his days locked in his upstairs bedroom. His room, the music room, emitted the stale smell of cigarette smoke, with the occasional expletive escaping from behind the walls that usually blared public radio, all day, everyday.
This experience of living with him as an adult was pretty much the end of any notions I might have had, that I would find a place, in my life, for my damaged fucked up father. I knew after this, we would be done. While I was grateful for the literal roof over my head, that he had provided to me, (I would have surely been homeless without it) I felt completely heartsick watching so many of the same painful scenarios of my childhood played out again.
According to the mythology of my family, my father was diagnosed with schizophrenia in the military, as a young man and he never treated it. As long as I can remember, it’s seemed pretty appropriate. He’s always been unnerving and volatile and seemingly disconnected from reality.
After that brief period of living with him, I didn’t really see him again. I’ve had the same phone number for seven years; he’s never dialed it. Occasionally, my mother would have holiday dinners and include me and my father and his second family. But I never saw him on purpose, again.
I’ve never been sad about that.
Throughout the years, when people would ask me about my father I would say, “We’re just not that close.” “We just don’t do birthdays.”
I never knew exactly how to explain, being estranged.
After we moved up here to Pittsburgh I began to realize that my estranged father was the last living link I had to my grandmother. His mother, my grandma Minnie.
My grandma Minnie was the one constant unwaveringly loving person in my young life. She doted on and spoiled me and my brother. She loved us fiercely and there was never any doubt. She offered us shelter from the storm of our crazy parents and our tumultuous home life. We spent weekend nights with her, staying up late watching wrestling and horror movies on TV. She gave us money for candy and she cooked us bacon sandwiches and fried chicken.
She was pretty much the best thing ever.
After she died, I ended up with very few things of hers. All of the jewelry I had of hers, all costume, by the way, was stolen when my apartment was burglarized.
Somehow, I ended up with only one photo.
Lately, this has started to nag at me.
My son won’t ever know her and it’s kind of heartbreaking. He only has some stories and this one photograph.
(I’m sure you can see where this is headed.)
I contacted my father, just recently, to see if he would scan some photos, so I could share them with Damien. At first, he responded kindly enough.
But, I didn’t reply soon enough, in a way he would have liked, and just as quickly as he was kind to me, he spiraled into all to familiar menacing and nonsensical threats.
He wrote me back. And part of his mostly incoherent reply, was written in all caps. It was copied and pasted over and over again, in the message as if he was screaming his unhinged response at me, again and again. It was like a time machine had transported me back to my youth, back to that night before my first day at high school or the time went he crazy about the type of bread my mother bought.
Except this time.
I’m far away.
And I knew I been right all along.
I knew that I separated myself from him for damn good reason. I knew that it had all been on purpose, even if I’d spent all this time pretending, even to myself that, that it had been incidental.
I’m estranged from my father.
Because he’s a goddamn crazy person.
My first instinct was to respond to him, with bitterness and cruelty.
Who did he think he was? Certainly not any kind of father.
A part of me, the wounded part of me, wanted to give him a piece of my mind.
But, I worked so hard to divorce myself from him. From his violence and his tenuous grasp on reality, from his strangle hold on my life. From his poverty. From his anger and rage. From his mental illness.
From all of that.
I’ve worked so hard to be someone different. I am different, damn it. I’ve worked to make my own way. To work for what’s mine. To break the cycle of violence and destruction. I’m never going back there.
I wouldn’t even go back there for pictures of my grandma Minnie.
So, ya I didn’t write him back.
I literally live my life on the other side of all his shit. There is no place for that in my life, anymore.
So, now I’m up here in Pittsburgh with Damien and Jesse in our sort of sanctuary, far far away from all that crazy. I’m in this spot where the bullshit can only reach me, if I let it in.
And it ain’t getting in.
So, its OK with me that Damien only has stories about his great grandma Minnie since there aren’t any pictures.
And we are just gonna chill up here in our bubble, free of pyscho, and just talk about how great she was, whenever it comes up.
That’s enough for me.
Because, sometimes you need to turn around and close the door.
And that door is fucking nailed shut, yo.