• 4th of July Memories - and a shadow legacy.

    I did a whole series of posts on my mom. 
    I seldom speak of my dad.  
    But the 4th of July always triggers memories of him.

    New York City, NY
     My dad and mom on a date before they married.

    His birthday was July 3, 1917 - so if he had lived, he would 101 today.  Not sure why every 4th of July triggers memories of him.  Father's Day doesn't do that.  Our family didn't do anything special on the 4th of July.  In fact, our family seldom did anything special.  Guess it is just that his birthday fell so very close to the holiday.

    Hyattsville, Maryland
    My family - probably the only picture I have of us as a family.
    I was 7 years old.

    Memories of my dad for the most part aren't happy ones.  He suffered from alcoholism - for as long as I knew him.  Sober he was a wonderful person.  Drunk he was just the opposite.  In the 1950s  the disease of alcoholism was not well understood.  It was seen as a personal failing ... or even as a choice you could simply choose to do differently.  It wasn't talked about - it was something to keep hidden.  We hid it well.

    I am not silent about it now as an adult.  There are limits I have set in my personal life with regards to alcohol and one of them is speaking out.

    I think I have a better grip on what addiction is, but I also have some rigid expectations due to my formative years living with an alcoholic.  Alcoholism is black or white for me .  You have it, you get help.  You don't get help, I limit my exposure to you.  If you don't treat the drug alcohol with respect for the risks it poses ... then I can't be around you.  There are no shades of gray for me being the child of an alcoholic.  I spent 21 years of my life forced into situation not of my own making - and I won't waste one more day of my life coping with it if you won't help yourself.  I know that is a hard stand to take - sounds heartless even as I re-read my post, but for even the closest of family ...  it is a line in the sand that can't be crossed for me.

    It is the shadow legacy my father left for me.

    These are some of the thoughts that fill me up around the 4th of July.  But it is not all bad.  I saw glimpses of the man my mom fell in love with.  I saw the love he had for his family - when he was sober.  I saw the father who loved his children in many small ways.  So I try to balance the bad with the good when remembering.

    Dad left behind next to nothing of himself in life, sadly.  But I do have one very precious document he hand wrote to me when I was about 12 years old.  Dad was not a writer.  He did not have a way with words.  He had only a 9th grade education.  He worked with his hands, and they were rough and thickened from years of hard work.  Managing a pen probably wasn't entirely comfortable.  But on one early summer morning before he left for work, he wrote this letter to me.  It brings tears to my eyes to read it even this day 60 years later.  I was preparing to go on a Girl Scout camping trip and would be gone for a few days.  (I bet that trip was in July.) He wasn't going to get a chance to say goodbye before I left.  So he wrote this letter.  (note: Lucky was our dog at the time, and Canada Dry was where he worked.)

    So, although my memories are filled with many darknesses, there are some shining lights he left behind for me.  What a wonderful father he could have been if addiction had not entered his life.

    Not all shadows are sad.

    (The top image header of my blog has a picture of dad and I at the beach. I don't remember this picture, but it does make me smile - happier times were rare.  We seemed to be enjoying ourselves.)

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