Friday, July 11, 2008

Memories of a Vodka Drenched Childhood

Those of you who have been reading my blog for a while know that I grew up with an alcoholic father. Memories of his drinking go all the way back to nursery school when he'd do things like let me sit on his lap while he drove down the street-while I steered the car. Even then, at the tender age of 4 I knew by the look in my mother's eyes that it was not something I should be doing. I knew by the way that my aunts and uncles looked at my dad that he wasn't like the other dads. Even before I had ever heard the word "alcoholic", I knew what it meant to live with one.

It only got worse for me. I was a good kid-so good that I was afraid to make mistakes because I wanted to make sure he had no reason to yell-yet, even in my kindergarten quest for excellence, he did. It confused me, it saddened me and it devastated me. I loved my father very much and it hurt me to know that he chose alcohol over a relationship with me.

I wanted to have friends over but rarely did because I didn't want them to find out my dirty little secret. I didn't want them to hear my parents fighting or to wander to the bathroom in the middle of the night to find my father sitting in the living room in his underwear with a bottle of vodka by his side. I didn't want them to see my shame.

I learned at a very early age how to make things look like they were perfect, even when I was slowly shutting down on the inside-even though my family life was always unpredictable, always hollow. I made up stories about how great my father was and how many cool things he bought me (I grew up in a very wealthy area-where everyone wore name brand clothes and everyone drove expensive cars...except for us!). It was tiring, trying to hide my sorrow. It made me grow up too soon; it took my smile and hid it deep down inside my soul, not to be found for many, many years.

Today, as I watch my father (who has been sober for quite some time now) interact with my niece Rye Bread, I smile because he's such a good Papa. It makes my heart happy to see him at her T-Ball games and dance recitals and to watch him play with her at the beach. She hugs him without abandon because she trusts him and respects him, and loves him very much. This little girl would never even dream of hiding my father. She smiles when she sees him; he makes her laugh.

I am going to be 32 in a couple of weeks. It has taken me essentially my whole life to get over the fact that my father couldn't show up for my life. In his relationship with Rye Bread, I see what I could have had. I see a man who loves a little girl so much that he would give his life for her. I see a man who truly marvels in watching this silly, smart girl grow up. And it makes me happy, but it also makes me sad.

Because as much as I try to push her aside, there's still the little girl in me who can't understand why her daddy didn't love her as much as he loved vodka.

16 comments:

crazy working mom said...

Wow, such a powerful post Mags. I just applied my make up for the day getting ready for work and decided to pop in and now I'm going to have to go re-do it because my face is tear stained.

I ♥ ya, girlie!

Clancy in Idaho said...

I'm so sorry. Do you know how important it is to not push that little girl who can't understand aside? The hard thing is that you are the adult now and you get to give that little girl what she needs. But first, you have to find out what she needs. Pay attention to her. Love her. She's still hurt, obviously and that can still affect what happens on a daily basis at the age of 32. Love her. Be patient with her. She needs it.

Empress Bee (of the High Sea) said...

my father was not an alcoholic, but had other "issues" and my childhood was, like yours, tear stained. i never did get over it mags. i hope you do.

hugs, bee
xxoxoxoxoxoxoox

Linda said...

I'm afraid I'm with Miss Bee on this one. My Dad wasn't an alcoholic but he and I had an absolutely horrible relationship when I was young. I was the only girl out of four kids and everyone always thought that would make me special in my father's eyes but I never was. The man scared me half the time and I was never happier then when he was stationed overseas.

As I got older I realized that, growing up with only brothers himself, he had no clue how to handle a daughter - especially one who was as hard-headed and stubborn as he was. Once I became an adult myself and realized that he just didn't know what to do with me, it got better but like you, I could never understand why my father didn't seem to love me as a child.

Thank goodness for my Gramp on my mom's side - he gave me all the love and then some that my father couldn't.

As for your father, just remember that addictions are horrible and they take perfectly wonderful people and make them into human beings that are sometimes barely recognizable. Thank God your father conquered his in time to enjoy his granddaughter and make her smile in ways that he never could with you.

Big hug!

katherine. said...

lots of father daughter issues!

me too.

While it is great he has been sober and is there for Rye...it is hard not to think of what might have been.

Have you and your dad ever talked about it?

Ivanhoe said...

I'm sorry to hear that Maggie! As you probably know I never met my father and relationship with my mother is virtually none so it makes me sad to hear how many other people had sad childhood.

Did he ever ask you to forgive him? Did you forgive him in your heart? The good thing is that he is sober now, not many alcoholics can change...

heather said...

Mags, i understand your pain, my mother was an alcoholic, although she did not start really drinking until my step-dad died when i was 12, She is gone now has been for 14 years she was never able to be sober, and my memories are tainted. Use the time you have to try to forgive, you can never forget, but you can forgive. You really need to talk to someone if you have not already. There are a couple of great books out on the subject as well.

Heather

Travis said...

This is such an amazing post. You've put into words what neglect means. It's never easy to forget that, even though you may have forgiven.

Hugs.

Amazing Gracie said...

You really jam-packed a whole lot of feelings into a few well chosen words.
I see you outside looking through the window at your dad playing with Rye Bread. How terribly sad for both of you...
My dad died when I was 21 and there's not a day goes by that I don't wish he'd lived longer so I could ask his forgiveness for being strong-willed and screwing up my life and hurting him in the process...
I wish you healing and hope...
~~~Blessings~~~

Mo said...

I'll have to come back and read this one later, honey.
Still too fresh with me, too - and just talked to my mom. Saturday mornings she stays sober long enough to chat with me - good for me, but sad, too.

HUGS,
mo

Danielle A. said...

****Big Giant Hugs****

Callie Ann said...

Wow Mags.. I am sorry...
It makes me wonder if your dad has a million regrets and he is trying to make up for all the stupidness through Rye Bread... Who knows.

Other than that Hugs to you girlfriend

Liz said...

Maggie,
Thanks for sharing some intimate feelings and some raw emotions with us. Happy and sad, angry and laughing...isn't it amazing how you can feel such opposite feelings at the exact same time??

Melisa said...

Powerful post. Hugs to you!

Lois Grebowski said...

I'm glad he's sober... just wish it were sooner.

hugs, hon...

mama o' the matrices said...

Glad he's sober, and a good grandfather. There's two separate challenges in that one, and I wouldn't discount the second.

I had a non-present father (no addiction, just drive to succeed), and he's a non-present grandfather. It's sad to watch, but hey, there's a difference between addiction and just doesn't get it-ness.