An Open Letter to the Absent Father

Subject: An Open Letter to the Absent Father
Date: 10 Oct 2017

Dear dad,

That sounded funny. I never really got the chance to call you that.

I don’t remember much. In fact, I don’t actually remember anything. Only what my mother chose to tell me. I’m sure if I asked to hear more she would tell me. I don’t really feel the need to know. I’m truly glad that I don’t remember.

I’m willing to bet that you don’t remember much either. At least, I hope you don’t.

What I do remember of you is everything I don’t remember. You were never there.
I don’t remember you teaching me how to:
tie my shoes
ride my bike
defend myself
catch a fish
drive a car
change a tire
cut up firewood
I can’t recall any of these things because you were never there to teach them to me.

Maybe if I was older when your addiction struck you would have taught me things I’m glad you never got the chance to teach me. With your Ph.D. in gambling away my mother’s money, you could have taught me how to lose all my money in one sitting at a slot machine. With your degree in binge drinking, you could have taught me how to handle my first time blacking out while under the influence. With your diploma in running from your problems, you could have taught me that I will not amount to anything. With your A+ knowledge in leaving everyone who ever cared for you, you could have taught me how to isolate myself. With your distorted concept of money, you could have taught me how to enable your addiction the way that my grandparents did.
But I wasn’t older. I wasn’t anything close to old. I was only six months when you became every cliché possible of an addict. An addict. My dad the addict. My dad? No. A man with an addiction but you were no dad. I find a bitter taste in my mouth and my tongue begins to fumble clumsily between my teeth when I learn that a synonym for an addict is an enthusiast. There is nothing slightly enthusiastic about having an addict for a father. My father the addict. My father? No. A man with an addiction but you were no father.

Did you show great enthusiasm at the bar that night? That night. A night I don’t remember but it was my mother recites as she tastes daggers and disappointment. Not in you but in herself because she expected more from you, the addict. The first story I was ever told that surrounded your addiction. The only story I ever needed to hear.

It was nearing 8 pm, that part of the memory will never be foggy. 8 pm was always my bedtime. I was crying, I was ready. I was ready to go to sleep I would never be ready for the disappoint that would follow such a simple request. My mother handed you a blue five-dollar bill and asked you to walk to the end of the street to buy me some milk for my bottle. You never had a license you had to walk. I was crying it would be easier for her to stay and comfort me and for you to walk. You did walk. You walked right past the convenience store at the end of the street and crossed the road to the nearest bar. You sat there. I want to say proudly but I never did ask you how you felt that night. Well, I couldn’t ask I was only 6 months old, I can’t ask now. I could dial numbers aimlessly and somewhat hopeful that you might pick up a phone that you can not afford to own. I could ask you how you felt that night but it would not solve anything. It would not solve the fact that you probably managed to turn $5 into $20 then $20 into $200 and turn that into nothing. The way you turned that blue five-dollar bill into nothingness instead of a red two-liter carton of milk does not matter. What matters is the fact that you turned it into nothing and left your infant child at home crying. I imagine that you did feel guilty and ashamed. I only imagine that you felt this way because after you lost my mother’s money you decided not to come home that night. Or the next night. Or the night after that. When you did come home, you were no longer welcome to call this place your home.
Now I could be angry and I could be bitter about all the things you never taught me, but with the things, you never taught me I decided to teach myself.
I taught myself,
- it’s okay if sometimes I feel lonely
- to have pride in myself
- that I do not need a man’s approval or opinion
- not to dwell on the what ifs and what could have been
- to be emphatic (for the right people)
- to be kind to everyone
- believe in others, but not more than I believe in myself
- that I am strong
- to watch for signs in others and if they’re edging towards addictions
- to watch for signs in myself
- when my mother asks me to buy milk, I buy milk

Thank you for not being there.
Thank you for disappearing.
Thank you for showing me that you do not need to force people to stay in your life because you have the same bloodline. I’m not so thankful for this stupid heredity blood disease you gave to me but hey at least I can say you gave me something.
Thank you for giving me the option to become independent.
Thank you for not letting me depend on you the way that you depend on your addiction.
You do not deserve the title of dad or father and one day I hope you do not deserve the title of addict.