The Forgotten Soldier…

On the seashore
People ask me all the time about my dad. I think because I write so much about my mother, most people just assume I don’t have much a relationship with my dad, but that’s just not the case. In fact, I think I have a more normal relationship with my dad than I ever had with my mother. Well, as normal as a relationship one can have when you’re a gay, recovering alcoholic/addict, only child. But he’s done his best, and really, what more can you ask for.

Several years ago, my dad and I went through a period of misunderstanding. He was an awesome dad when I was a little kid up through high school. My dad was my chief enabler. Buying me cars, getting me out of jail, paying for attorneys, college, apartments, vacations and treatments. During our time of misunderstanding, I worked with my sponsor on wanting a relationship with my dad where he would just call me up to talk, or invite me out to lunch. My sponsor at the time asked me to explain my dad’s relationship with his own father. “Did he have one? I mean…did he really have one? Because we can’t assume your dad has a road map for what that relationship you’re wanting looks like.” And he was right. But I think I allowed myself to become angry with my father for not doing all of the work, to which my sponsor asked, “what does your dad say when you ask him for that kind of relationship?” And that was the joke, because I had never asked for any kind of relationship. I had never set boundaries or told him what I wanted. And as most of us know, resentments are unfulfilled expectations.

So he and I worked on things, and they’re better. And I consider my dad and I very close. Especially when I need him to help me with anything medical, anything pertaining to my car or how to set up an IRA. My father is my forgotten soldier, always out at war, walking the fields for me, while I’m back at home, resting comfortably on my couch. I always feel a little safer just knowing he’s out there. And I think we all have forgotten soldiers out there, who make us feel safer, just knowing there around.

And so really, I don’t write much about him, because my dad is kind of a private person, unlike myself, and he is also a constant in my life. I also think it is much easier to write about people once they’re gone. If I knew my mother was reading over my shoulder half of the things I wrote, they would never make it to the page. She just wouldn’t have liked being exposed, no matter how much she was helping someone with her story. She never quite understood that in all her wisdom.

But maybe it’s time for me to give that soldier a badge of honor. Thanks dad; for everything. For cars and trips and treatment. For memories of skiing and laughter driving fast in your car. For a few drinks too many, and understanding now that I can’t have any. For my other mother, Debbie, more mother than step than anyone could ask for in a woman. For acceptance and tolerance, not in my being gay or being an addict, but in being crazy, demanding and overbearing. Thanks for all of it. A long, long time ago, driving back to your house one day, you apologized to me for leaving me alone with my mother. Well, thank you. For all of those times I was allowed to have with her. You have been released. Thank you for integrity and honesty, both qualities I learned from you because they were not inherent. But most of all, above all else…thank you for your humor. It has been God’s quiet reprieve from all that is dangerous and terrifying in this world to me. It is what most notice first about me, except from your wonderfully, azure eyes which women and men alike stare into daily. Your humor, although sometimes painful growing up, has been your greatest gift. Thank you for all of it…I love you!

When I was a little kid, my dad would drive his old Porsche up towards our sailboat in Michigan, 90 miles an hour in a fifty, fleeing the cops, cranking the music loud. I will always remember one of his favorites because he always warned it would us one day. And maybe, although I hate to admit the truth, he was right as he’s been so many times before…now, as I watch Harry Chapin sing “Cat’s in the Cradle” live, I’m reminded, like my mother has become famous for saying, we’re on borrowed time as it is…