I was listening to CbC Radio One today and they did a show on PTSD (thats Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). I thought of my Dad. Let me give you some background… but first know that I don’t write for my own therapy, or to say how bad parts of my life have been, but rather to bring some heavy subjects to the surface for us all to talk about.
I am super fortunate to have grown up with a strong mom that raised me well, without my dad for the most part. Also, I’m fortunate to have my Aunt and Uncle who were incredibly positive and a major part of my being who I am today.
But my dad. He was an addict through and through. And I can honestly say that I loved him, in my own kind of way… but I never really knew him. I mean, how can you know someone like that? There were two sides to him. One was practical, smart resourceful… my dad could do anything he put his mind to. I get that from him. And the other part was drunk and absent. Dad joined the army before I was born and mom says he looked so handsome in his uniform (we all know that what she really meant was that she thought he was a super hottie). Dad eventually was discharged, but not before he had fought over seas for the Canadian Army. And here’s the reason why I was reminded of him today… Later on after we had moved away from him, dad would call our home, usually drunk and he would talk about what happened while he was over there. He told me his friend took some enemy fire right next to him, and died right there. This guy next to my dad was shot and collapsed on the ground and that was that. I’m not entirely sure if that was the point that really sunk my dad, and I’m not saying that he had PTSD, but I’m thinking, that it sure didn’t help things…
Dad spent lots of time getting sober, then binging, and getting sober again, and eventually, he became less and less the man that I remembered him as. I think now as a kid, like most kids, I thought Dad was so cool. Super strong, he could make tree forts and shoot deer, he showed me how to skin a rabbit, taught me to never hit a girl, he even showed me how to pluck a goose for thanksgiving. I thought that goose was my pet, but thats a different story! My dad was a man man, and I honestly remember feeling safe with him in the early days.
Fast forward to the last time I saw him. Angie and I were pregnant with our first child, my mom, my aunt, my wife and myself, we drove up to see him. He lived in a sparse apartment, didn’t have much. And to be honest, he didn’t look good. He was aged beyond his years, and was a bit of a shell. We didn’t have much to say, but I enjoyed being around him… I could tell that the years of abuse were ruining him.
A few months later he died. He had a mini heart attack, resulting in a massive stroke that rendered him into a coma… This was what I used to pray to God every night when I was a kid, that dad would be safe and we wouldn’t get this kind of call, but it happened… we got the phone call. Someone found dad well after the incident, at his table, he had made a sandwich and sat down to eat it, and slipped into a coma.
We went to Ottawa and saw him there on life support, the only thing keeping him alive. My brother and I cried when dad squeezed his hand… and a few hours later he was taken off support.
Thats the story of my dad. It’s a sad, sad story, because my dad had HUGE potential, but he struggled with a disease. Addiction killed him, and believe me, he tried hard. I know now, he gave it his best shot and when I remember him I remember the strong, deer skinning, bike assembling, kid wrestling, car fixing, intelligent man, and I think I’d like to be that part of him. I’d like to be the best parts of my alcoholic father because I can see that he had huge potential. The best parts of my dad were incredible.
What’s it like for you? It probably hasn’t been easy eh? Can you see the potential and the good in the situation? It may take time, you may go through a lot of hurt and heartache. I believe we can learn, I believe we can love through hardship, I believe. I see my dad now for who he was meant to be, not how he ended up. And I miss him.