I don’t normally refer to him as my father, it feels like a foreign term and leaves a light sting on the mouth, but that’s what he technically is. A few months ago we met and I believe he was dedicated to getting sober, something I’ve never heard him say or seen his behavior indicate.
He seemed to be sincere about changing, and yes althroughout my childhood, and in my late teens before I left home he was a monster, I watched everyone in my family disintegrate and wear themselves down with depression. The thing I have realised is fundamental to relationships is that having a close bond to your immediate family, is a prerequisite to be able to connect to others, and this is a skill both my brother and I lack. Being young, I can’t remember a time when I didn’t feel alone, boxed into myself.
He was drunk most of the time, I don’t recall this being an active problem, he stuck to his couch, numbed by beer and TV and this is how he grew old, a dark neon flickering across his empty face. I didn’t think much about how my mother felt back then, we weren’t close either, noone ever spoke of anything personal and only much later did I know she suffered most. Imagine having to share a bed with a man now vacated from affection, an absent being, indifferent to his own family.
To me, the prospect of escape was something to look forward to, I knew one day Carl and I would leave and build our own lives from scratch, have people we could rely on and genuinely care for.
So when my father apologized and the words came without a stutter, scripted almost, but I couldn’t expect every man to be as emotional as I am, so I accepted. We slept in separate beds in this dingy motel upstate, where the plan was for us to stay there until he felt clean, however long it took, then maybe later I’d take him to see Carl.
I was there when he had trouble sleeping and was soaked in sweat and his whole body red with this furious heat, he had nightmares and wept in his sleep. In the day appeared this huge appetite and I’d play along, we binged on fried chicken and tacos over afternoon soaps on TV, waiting on another day.
I admit that I expected to find someone new, a person I might’ve missed growing up, someone I could have lost to the booze. Yet as he sobered up and paved each day towards recovery, I began to see how wishful I was, there could be nothing that was kept hidden, he could've just been hollow. This was what I suspected, and I was afraid of the disappointment and didn't want to find out, and I told myself that the years I spent with him was punishment enough.
I didn’t want to be involved with him anymore, even if he could’ve turned out a better person, all the best intentions could not have reassured me. So one night I waited until he was deep asleep, packed my things in the dark and left.
I haven’t seen him since, he didn’t call, its better this way for him to belong to a ruined past. I worry about Carl and call to check up on him everyday, personally I think I can handle whatever damage my father might’ve brought, but I put in a lot of effort into pulling Carl out and have him come out the other side as unaffected as it was possible for him to be, and I love my brother more than anything in the world. I can’t put his happiness into the hands of a man who could have been a better father to us, its far too late to fix things. We moved on a long time ago, I guess he should be able to.