Wednesday, February 16, 2011


I wrote something here.  And it was stupid.  Trust me.

I tried to find something cute to post instead, but instead came across an essay I wrote about a year ago when I was in a particularly foul mood and, apparently, missing my dad.

I've been missing my dad a lot lately so I figured I'd post it here.  Be warned, it's not exactly a ray of literary sunshine, but it's true.


One of my earliest memories is of sitting on the floor in the living room of the house I had lived in all of my young life and watching as my dad moved our refrigerator out of the house. I clearly remember thinking that a refrigerator was a permanent thing. I didn't know before then that it could be moved.

We moved from Cleveland out to the suburbs when I was three. I have no memories of the old house except for the view of that moving refrigerator. I would love to go back and visit that home of my early childhood, but after we moved out it was torn down to make room for the ever-expanding airport.

My memories of life in that second house are many, as I lived in it for the next 17 years and visited it for another 13 after that. As a child, I believed my existence to be average. When I visited friends who lived in houses smaller or older than ours, my mind labeled them as poor. When I visited larger, newer homes, I saw the inhabitants as rich. But in my mind, the mint green split level on Monica Drive with the stay at home mom, only child and workaholic/alcoholic dad, represented all that suburban America had to offer.

My father was a fleeting, feared, vilified image in my youth. He left for work before the sun, my mother or I even thought of rising. My days started in the kitchen sharing breakfast (and later, coffee) with my mom and ended in the living room with her, watching TV and waiting to see headlights on the wall, which was my cue to run up to my room to hide from the fight that would surely ensue if my mom said the wrong thing. Between that daily beginning and end would be school, playing with friends on the cul-de-sac, making sure to be home before the streetlights came on.
I admired my mom for keeping our little family together and for putting up with his tantrums.

It wasn't until adulthood that I started to feel that my childhood was abnormal. Apparently everyone's mom HADN’T had a thirteen year long affair about which her husband, her teenage daughter and the entire neighborhood knew. Not every ten year old was expected to pack up the beer cooler for her mother's weekly dates with her boyfriend. Not every adolescent girl had chats with her mother that revolved around such "girl talk" as the preferred lovemaking positions of her mother's lover and the many shortcomings, sexual and otherwise, of her father.

Around the time I turned 30, it occurred to me that if I, as an adult, had to live with my mother, I would work three jobs and drink myself into oblivion just ad my dad did. I started to see him, not as the monster that my mother had so vividly painted in my mind, but as a man who supported a lazy, ungrateful, cheating shrew out of obligation to her and love for his daughter. I tried to be like him, tolerating my mom, albeit from a distance, out of obligation to her and out of love for my dad.

Then dad's health failed. He was sick for only about six months, mercifully short as the gruesome timeline of lung cancer can go. Of all of the memories I could have held from this time, one stands out: my father lying in the bed of his nursing home, where his doctor sent him because nothing else could be done. He was expected to live there no more than a week, so close was he to the end. I walked in to see him and found him crying. I said "Hey Dad, how ya doin?" a question I had asked so often in the previous months, always to receive an answer of "Oh, as good as can be expected". But this time he said "Not good. I'm laying here with no TV, no radio, nothing to do but think. And I'm dying".

Mom had dropped him off there and went out to dinner with her boyfriend, promising to return the next day with a TV.

That is a memory I will never be able to let go. It is sharper in my mind than the sight of him the casket four days later, or the looks of pity the mourners gave me when they realized that my mother had brought a date to her husband’s funeral. I think it stays vivid in my mind because that’s the moment when I realized, without a doubt, that most of my childhood memories were not based in reality, but were more a product of the twisting of truth that a child's mind can accomplish in order to feel normal and stay sane.

I sure am glad my life is normal now.


  1. certainly not a happy essay, but a very well written one for sure. Nice work.

  2. Well written. Sad. However, I am so glad that you have learned from the lessons, determined to make your son's and those "girlies" lives better than you ever imagined your own!

  3. Thank you both. I'm trying not to make this blog a sad place. Much of my old writing is very sad. But every once in a while I'll pepper some of it in, because it is such a big part of what got me where I am.

    Thanks for your comments!