I think one of the hardest parts about death is that it doesn’t blur out life. As much we’d like to, we don’t get to pretend that the person who died was perfect. We don’t get to fill in the rough edges of their cracked paintings with our own well-preserved oils, and we don’t get wipe the slate of their pasts clean to create ours anew. Life is exactly how they how they left it when they left this world, and there is no chance for redemption. It’s so final. So absolute. So…dead.
My dad was an alcoholic. A crippling, acute, debilitated alcoholic. He was drunk in almost every single memory I have of him in his last ten years alive. That’s half of my lifetime. It’s so hard to reconcile that with this beautiful life he had before me. How do I honor him properly when the man I knew was a man who wouldn’t, couldn’t, didn’t stop drinking even when it would, could, and did cost him his life? His family? His own daughter.
It’s hard getting past that anger. It’s hard trying to marry the two — this wonderful, kind, compassionate man that everyone knew and loved, and the dad that couldn’t stay sober for more than a week at a time.
I want so badly to erase my memories of him and replace them with your own. I want so badly to forget the mornings I’d wake up and have to call his boss because he was too drunk to make it into work. The nights he’d defecate in his own bed and I’d clean up the feces. The days he’d mix pills and booze and wear a ski boot with a dress shoe and jean shorts when he was supposed to have a meeting with his parole officer.
When he’d forget to pick me up from school and I’d intuitively know he was getting another DUI.
When he was the first parent in history to be asked to leave my boarding school because he was drunk on grounds. When he was too drunk to eat at family dinner and choked and almost died. When he had a seizure because he was so dehydrated from a month-long bender. When he had a heart attack because he was treating his body so poorly. When he fell down a ladder and eroded an already existing brain bleed from a previous fall in his right temporal lobe. When his doctors called me and asked what they should do — operate, or let him die instead of live in a crippled body? When he caused the brain bleed that would’ve rendered him speechless, half-paralyzed and unable to control his own body even if it was operated on, and I had to make the decision as to whether he lived or died. When he still lived even though we didn’t operate and I had to make another decision: to take him off of life support or leave him in a half-awake, half-vegetative state, pawing at his catheter and spewing gibberish in his semi-lucid moments. When I had to put him in hospice so I could watch him die from the fucking disease that he didn’t even bother to try and survive.
He was beautiful and he was lovely and I know that because all of you wonderful friends, fans, and family have reached out to me and introduced me to a man that I never knew via your incredible memories.
I feel blessed to have been spawned from something so great. But I don’t know how to reconcile these two men, one of whom I’ve never met, and the other that I took care of, either emotionally or physically, until I was 21 years old and I literally had to sign the papers for the death that he had been actively pursuing at least half that time.
I’d give anything to talk to him. To have a conversation with him. To listen to his perspective on life. To get his advice. To hear his voice. To smell his warm, daddy smell. To feel another bear hug from someone that loves me unconditionally. But I can’t. And I can’t even pretend like I know what he’d say or what he would think, and that kills me. I’m trying to get past my own biases and get to know the man you knew. Feel free to help me along the way. I could use any I can get.