I have to say, before I get to my husband’s story – he is the most wonderful and loving man I have ever met. In these days since my sister had been released from the hospital – my mind has been a jumble of mixed emotions. I love my sister and wish for her to get well. I want more than anything to be there. However, these pangs of sadness overwhelm me. Wishing I had received support she is getting from my parents, brings tears to my eyes. In fact, as I type this with tears in my eyes, I get the most awesome hug from my amazing “partner-in-crime”. I know immediately: “I’m not alone, he’s in this with me and it will be okay.” Like me, he has had to struggle with similar emotions that come from an unfulfilled childhood wishes. When you grieve this sort of loss, the pain is difficult to put words to for those who don’t understand. Let me just say the loss is very real and vivid. It leaves a hole behind which is “unfillable”…
What follows is an excerpt from my old journals. It is a son’s regrets about a father who was never there…
“My husband stood in the kitchen watching our two young sons snuggling on the sofa in the living room. They were watching their favorite cartoon before bedtime. My husband’s eyes welled up with tears as he whispered quietly: “look at them, so happy, contented, safe and secure.” Knowing of my husband’s own painful childhood, I couldn’t help but get caught up in his love and gratitude for what we’ve created together. At moments like this, I like to try and see through his eyes. The beautiful perspective I get is always that of someone with a wealth of life lessons well-earned. I have nothing but respect and gratitude for his strength of perseverance. My husband is the youngest of four children. His mother was married and divorced a total of eight times in her life – twice to his dad. As the youngest of her four kids, he was the product of his parent’s second marriage together. The majority of his childhood memories are pretty cloudy. As the youngest child, he was shuffled around quite a bit in a pass-the-buck fashion. He says he doesn’t have any real memory of his mom though and spent the least amount of time with her. He never really had the opportunity to know who she was outside her addictions. As a drug addict and alcoholic, she was fairly incoherent and unstable by the time he came around. His memories of his father on the other hand are painfully vivid. He was a tyrannical and abusive, alcoholic. When it became apparent that his parents were incapable of providing a stable home life, his grandparents decided to step in and raise him. Between the ages of 9 and 14 he lived with them. They were quite old at that time, but did their best to keep up. He describes them as loving and kind people.
At the age of 14, my husband reached what was to become the end of his childhood. His grandfather suffered a stroke and died shortly thereafter. His grandmother overwhelmed with grief stopped taking care of herself and ended ip in a nursing home. My husband was the forced to live with his father. He was the only one willing to take him in. As you might guess, this turn of events was very painful time for my husband. He was grieving the loss of his grandfather, (the closest thing he ever had to a real dad). He was worried about his grandmother who he now rarely had the opportunity to visit. To top things off he had to continually endure the pins-and- needles environment in his father’s home. As a rebellious and independent teenager, who had grown a foot in the last year, my husband wasn’t destined to last very long in his father’s home.
One night after coming home late, as he opened the door, my husband was met with his father’s fist. While my husband has spared me all the exact details of that event, he chose on that day to defend himself. His father’s reaction was to throw him out of the house.
I don’t exactly know how, but to make a long story short, my husband managed to survive on his own from that point forward. By the time I had met him at 34, he had already been on his own for about 20 years. He is pretty proud of the fact that in all that time he managed to remain self-sufficient and gainfully employed – with the exception of 3 months in the early 80’s.
When I asked my husband if he had ever seen his father since that day, he relayed to me one the more painful memories of his life. It was on his 25th birthday. He had moved back to his home town after several years of living and traveling throughout the United States. As it so happened, it was his 25th birthday on that otherwise ordinary day. He stopped at a gas station just down the street from where he lived to get some gas. As he stood there, he noticed a familiar car drive up right next to him. As he looked up to see who stepped out, his face turned pale and his heart skipped a couple beats. Lo and behold, it was his father! The last person he wouldíve expected or had been prepared to see on that day. As is typical of his father, my husband received not so much as a hint of recognition from him. Instead his father simply set about filling the car with gas and acted as if there was nothing to say about the fact that they hadn’t so much as laid eyes on each other over the last 11 years. A well of pain and anger start to build in my husband. After an eternity of deadening silence, he eventually piped up and said: “Hi dad! Aren’t you going to wish me happy birthday? I turn 25 today.” After a minute or so, his father screwed on the gas-cap and walked inside to pay. As he passed by my husband, he said rather nonchalantly: “Yeah, how could I forget, it was the most miserable day of my life.
My husband quietly went into his car and drove back home. He says if nothing else, he knew the hope he held onto for something different, was a useless burden. Still, the pain of his father’s rejection had stayed with him. While it is not as sharp or biting, this memory still sticks.”
Today, I reap great rewards in the aftermath of these painful experiences. Through each other we established the sort of loving home – we thought was impossible at one point. It’s an indescribable experience finding out that “impossible” is not “impossible”.