This is one of the earliest pictures I have of myself and my father. Since I am the second oldest of six, and my closest sibling is one year younger than I am, this picture was taken when my parents were raising two children. My father seemed caring and affectionate in this picture (to me) – VERY different from the person I remember during my childhood. My father was one of the angriest, and (sometimes) cruelest individuals I have ever known. He could find fault in anything, and would often express his distaste to anyone who would listen. The father I knew had a different demeanor than the man I am pictured with in this photo.
I often wondered what happened in his life that made him so disagreeable. His mood used to go from hot to cold in an instant – often without warning or provocation. While growing up, I learned to stay quiet, and do exactly what he wanted (to stay out of harm’s way); sometimes my strategy worked.
He was a high functioning alcoholic; there was never a time when he was without an alcoholic beverage. My mother left him when my youngest brother was around 13 or 14 years old (she did not take my brother with her); my father instantly became a single parent of his teenaged son because my mother couldn’t take it anymore, and needed to find herself. She went back home to live with her parents, and refused to help or be involved in my youngest brother’s life. At that point, my father became more reclusive. I went to visit him (while on leave when I was in the military), and we would sit and talk about random subjects for hours. He loved to lecture.
When he became sick, he didn’t seem to care whether anyone came to see him or not. I went to visit him because I believe that no one should die alone. He didn’t want to talk during those visits. Most of my time was spent sitting in his room, observing him, and wondering what he could be thinking.
The way he lived his life prompted me to reflect on the value of my life.