My family and I were finishing up our Christmas shopping last night and just enjoying being together, when all of a sudden I realized that there was one person I didn’t buy for – my dad. At first, it was actually the type of thought that one would normally act on as if life had never changed. After a couple seconds, it finally ‘clicked’ that I don’t have a dad to buy for, which naturally was followed by sights of all sorts of fathers and daughters walking around the mall happily shopping for last minute gifts. I felt instantly envious. There was a time (my teenage years) in which I didn’t value my relationship with my dad. Now, I find myself feeling so lost without him.
On the drive home from shopping, I spoke with my mom who had an update on my dad. We hadn’t heard one in quite a while and I’ll admit that natural curiosity got the better of me. A family friend who used to work with my dad couldn’t believe the news he had heard from another co-worker who my dad apparently keeps in touch with. Why people think that it’s ok to call a hurting family about their crack-addicted loved one (especially around the holidays) is beyond me. At any rate, I braced myself for the news that my dad was with another family.
Perhaps worse than thinking my dad was living happily with another family is the thought that he is homeless and living on the streets. Last night, that horrific thought became a reality. As it turns out, my father is living under a via-dock in Saginaw. He spends his days going between meals at the local soup kitchen and hanging out at the local library. I ask myself the rhetorical question, “how can this be?,” and have this insatiable urge to want to do something to help my dad. I know I can’t. If he’s living under a via-dock instead of sleeping at a homeless shelter, that’s a pretty good indication to me that he’s still smoking crack.
It’s entirely possible that my dad contacted his former co-worker knowing full-well that all of this would get back to us. In my sensible mind, I feel like this is probably just another of his manipulative tactics to get one of us to crumble and come to his rescue; however, in my heart, I feel like the most hardened, cold-hearted daughter on the face of this planet for turning my back on my dad like this. This is a constant internal struggle for me.
I still have those moments (like this one) when I feel like maybe there is something I could say or something I could do that would make my dad snap out of this. (If only it were that easy…) Maybe if I tried to reach him and just told him that I still love him and haven’t forgotten him; maybe if I did send him a Christmas gift; maybe somehow I could make this all better for my dad, for me, for the rest of my family.
Then I get angry at myself for thinking for a split second that could even be possible.
I will try to keep focused on the words that a wise friend recently shared with me (thanks, TM) that I think apply to all those who are in similar situations:
“It seems so common that these MIA addicts make their holiday appearances dosen’t it? …I am amazed every year by the feeble attempts made to convince us that the events of the year were nothing more than our own misconceptions of reality. For all of you who are bracing for this contact, please know my thoughts and prayers are with you. Stand fast with knowledge that the boundaries you’ve set throughout the year truly ARE healthy ones and that just because it’s Christmas time it does NOT give someone the right to waltz right in as if nothing has happened. It’s not some kind of God given right to be a part of special times when they have done nothing to earn a place in these times. Try to keep in mind that it’s the nature of this beast to try and make us second guess our selves and that giving in only gives strength to this demon that is making it’s home in our worlds. Think of your childhood memories of Christmas time and know that your decisions now will affect the memories your children and grandchildren carry with them for the rest of their lives…..”
Such wise words which make it easier for me to be reassured in my decisions. It’s a reminder that the decisions I’m making regarding my dad not only affects me but my children as well, and I will do everything in my power to protect them from the hurt and heartache their grandfather has brought into my life. I grieve for my children because they will never have memories of the great man their grandfather once was. All either of them will have is a picture of their grandfather holding them at the hospital on their birthday.
For all those out there struggling like I am, my thoughts and prayers are with you this holiday season and always.