I have been pondering my path lately and how I ended up here, at this moment in time. What’s around me, who’s around me, where do I connect, how do I connect, is this where I am supposed to be, have I done things right, did I do everything that I could? Like waking in the middle of a dream and then a “FLASH!” reality sets in. Don’t get me wrong, I belong right where I am at, with the people in my life and doing exactly what I’m doing. My dilemma is, “do my kids?” I fear I have failed them although, many others, voice otherwise.
I have spent the better part of my, almost, fifty years as a parent. I was headed for a fall when the first one saved me, and his mother. This was when I started becoming a man. We found out he was coming, got married and joined the Marine Corps. I found out quickly that it’s a lot of fun to have kids but you damn well better have some patients. Then along came my oldest daughter, two years from her brother. I never knew that you could feel so much love for a person, but when I looked at my son and daughter, I know no stronger love. This, unfortunately, is not always right out front. The fear involved with not being sure if your doing things right? Then, turn to my spouse, and her expression is the same as mine, it can be overwhelming!
Nobody’s perfect and I understand that, but what I am regretting now is the lifestyle that I raised my children around and the effect that this may have had on them, especially my boys. By the time my oldest son and daughter reached seven and five, my marriage was over. Living in Washington State after the military, she decided to head home to California, where we are both from. I cried myself to sleep for months, real manly huh? I felt that I had failed my children and family and commenced to mentally beating the crap outta myself for quite a while. I had no family in Washington but good friends and my music, which in the end, was not nearly enough. I spent the next five years working and playing music and flying to San Diego as much as I could, not nearly enough for me.
During this time we had both remarried and remained friends (still are close). I often flew down and would stay at my ex’s house with the kids and let her and her husband go out. This, obviously, was great for the kids. No drama, paid my support (because it’s my responsibility) and spent as much time as I could with my kids. In 2002, my youngest son was born, his mom was beautiful, but one of the ugliest people I’ve known. By 2005, I had to leave her and went back to San Diego. Within a month, she had lost her apartment, friends where calling saying she dropped him off and hasn’t come back and it happens frequently. Damn!!! one month and the bitch goes crazy! Not that she wasn’t in the first place. Anyway, at three my son comes back home with me, it’s fourteen years later now and he’s about to graduate this year.
So there’s the scenario: “Wow! What a great dad!”, “Way to man-up!”, “Your amazing!”, just some examples of what I have heard directed at me. To me, I want to grab them by the arms, shake them and yell “are you out of your f*****g mind!!!!”. They survived!, that’s it! The reason I speak of myself this way will be revealed shortly but for now, let’s just say I talk down on myself often. Usually shrugging off the compliment with ” I’m not doing anything more than every mother over the span of time, what’s the big deal?” I also agree with this statement and at times I have told people, “I’m just doing what any man would do in this position, taking care of their kid!”. Usually what follows is a humorous or sarcastic laugh, followed by “No, most wouldn’t!”.
So, there I am, 35 years old, paying for and visiting my oldest son and daughter as often as possible, while raising my youngest son solo. Up to this point, I really only worried about myself, making enough money to support my kids and working three jobs at one point and enjoyed the popularity in my hometown of being a bartender at multiple locations. Well, I had a four year old to manage now, so I had to adjust my lifestyle. Herein lyes the dilemma.
Now, I started drinking and smoking at 13, and focused a great deal on leading my kids away from smoking, but alcohol was always present, at home, holidays, BBQ’s, etc… Because my life had become quite different and I had greater concerns now, I went into property management, which allowed me to walk my son to school everyday and eliminated daycare costs. It also allowed for longer and more frequent visits from my older two kids. The dilemma is: I drank at least a six pack every day. I have never physically abused my children, but I am seeing more and more that verbally, I did. It’s unsettling to me.
Luckily, I still managed to be responsible and have great years with my three children, and it was just “dad” to them. In 2010 I got a management job at a property over-looking the Pacific, my dream job. My other kids, being 16 and 14, loved the new spot and were down even more frequently. Alcohol was still very present and the area was a very “open” beach area, meaning people smoked pot openly. Knowing my kids were not ignorant of these things I trusted there judgement and was never disappointed. This went on until 2013, when I met the love of my life.
So my two older kids graduate, two years apart. My oldest son decided to go in the Army after high school, making us all very proud. About a month before he was to come home in July 2016, which he was very excited to live with his brother and I full time, he was killed. I was approached by a Captain and Chaplin of the US Army and told that my 21 year old son would NOT be coming home standing, but in a box. I have no words for the feeling, I don’t think it sunk in totally until I turned around and saw my son and daughter, with dumbfounded faces, and realized that I have to tell them their brother, best friend and idol is DEAD!
The process of receiving my son and putting him to rest is something I would wish on no one. “I’m so sorry for your loss”. I heard that so many times, yet don’t know what to do with it or how to respond, most times it’s just, “we all are”. What else can I say? I wanted to fuckin scream! This is the hand my family was dealt and it took every inch of strength to survive it, still torments me daily. This incident was the beginning of the epiphany.
From July until July the next year I pretty much spent drunk. 35+ years now, especially since 2005, I have drank daily and not just a couple. After my sons death, If I wasn’t at work, I was drunk. Couldn’t even drive after 12 pm, usually, if I was off work. Drinking and crying, that was my everyday. During this time, my youngest daughter was born. My oldest was the first one I told that his sister was on the way. His response: “jesus dad, tie that thing in a knot!”. That’s my boy…..Then he left for his duty station and it was the last time we would ever hug him.
July 3, 2017. Almost exactly a year from my sons death. Clarity, through scaring the shit out of my family, finally came! I finally realized the impact of my sons death. A revelation and another time where my oldest saved my life, even through death. I quit drinking that day and haven’t given it a thought since. Many things have changed since that day, both good and bad. With the clarity came reflection, and I saw my reflection as ugly, still do sometimes. I feel like I cheated my other kids, even though I was always there, I wasn’t always present. My oldest boy, standing up for his siblings, yelled back at me when I really had no reason to yell, and he never hesitated. I am so proud to be able to say that.
So I’m over two years sober, my 2 year old daughter has never met the father that my other three knew, and honestly, they are still trying to get used to it. I have spoken with them and apologized for so much, but I still feel the weight of it. I am grateful to have another chance to enjoy being a parent and have been gifted with beautiful healthy children. I just feel that there is still a space between my older kids and myself. As much as I try to make up ground, I feel I never will.
I was always around my kids and supported them in all their adventures. I could never be prouder of my children for becoming the people they are despite the scenarios I brought them up in. The amazing young people they have become has little credit owed to me and more the love around them. I feel I have short changed them and have spent the last two years, and will spend the rest of my life, making sure they know how much I regret not giving them a solid base to start from. I will tell Bud when I get to him……………
DAP Written with Love 9/26/19