BittersweetMy father is/was a mixed bag.
Far from perfect, he beat both my brother and I, and he taught us to fight back physically when people hurt or teased us. His discipline was wildly inconsistent, sometimes hugs and understanding when a beating wouldn't have been unexpected, sometimes brutal reactions to minor offenses.
I know my father loves us, but his background didn't equip him with effective tools for handling conflict. He had no real experience with providing leadership, and ****-poor examples in his own youth. I don't even know how many uncles and aunts I have who are his half-brothers and sisters due to my grandfather's constant stepping out. He spent his childhood evenings trying to track his dad down in bars and bootleggers before he could spend all the money. He was also beaten and abused.
Not that any of that is an excuse for how he treated us as children, but... I know he did the best he was able given his own demons, and I know he feels sorry for his own excesses because of the way he turned his own life around after my brother and I left home. He went to teachers' college and spent the last 20 years setting up technical programs in trade schools and mentoring at-risk youth. I'm proud of the old guy.
The problem now is that he's had a series of strokes that seem to have taken away his will to live. All he does is sit on the couch and watch sports. Nothing else seems to interest him. It's like after the strokes he's just given up, even though the doctors say he should be able to have a full recovery.
I think part of the problem is that he feels isolated in the family, because my mom's side has never really approved of him, and my brother and I both gave him hell about our childhood traumas. I think he thinks we hate him or something.
The thing is, it wasn't all bad. He was a good provider and his passions were contagious. Even if he didn't personally know better, he knew there was better stuff out there and he encouraged us to dream and achieve even though he was crap at providing emotional support or guidance of any other sort. He was a strange cross between a thug and a self-educated renaissance man.
I love my dad. I wish he could be happy in his retirement. I'm afraid that my own children won't get to know him because he's just sitting there waiting to die.
My girlfriend is pregnant, and so is my brother's wife, so by January we'll have two new additions to the family.
I think I need to talk to my father and tell him I love him and forgive him for all the crap in our childhood. I also need to apologize for not clearing the air sooner and just leaving things as they were when I left 20 years ago, pissed off and bitter.
I hope it helps. I hope he'll get up off the couch and engage with the world again. I know he'll be a much better grandpa than he was a dad and I hope we don't miss the chance because of old grudges and guilt.
My mom needs him back, too. It's kind of ******* me off, actually. If the carrot doesn't work, I'm pretty good with a stick.
Plan is to do the love and forgiveness thing, but if there's no change I'm going to have to try shaming him into action, showing up at their place a lot and making him do stuff.
I don't know. Not sure what I expect from all of you, but I think it helped me to say this "out loud".