My father is a very proud man. I’ve never understood him, but for the first twenty years of my life I lived in his shadow. He influenced my way of thinking, what I studied in college and how I viewed the world. I had a role-model, somebody I could admire and look up to. In my early-twenties though things began to change, or, more precisely, I began to change.
I moved away, first to Poland and then New York and finally San Francisco. I saw new things and was exposed to new ideas, new ways of thinking. I finally got to see the opposites–the things my father rejects, and never converses about. The things that make humans unique.
I started joining radical political groups and got rid of my car and stopped eating meat, anything to piss my dad off. For once, I wanted him to recognize me for me. I didn’t care anymore if he couldn’t see himself in me.
Because of all these changes, I’ve become angry at my father, and my father has become angry at me. We rarely talk. When we do it’s awkward and forced. I say hello, he says hello, I ask how he’s doing, he says fine, and then I ask to talk to my mom. At the time of writing I haven’t talked to him in at least three months. I’m waiting for him to call–it’s his job, right?
I’ll get to the point: I no longer want to be angry with my father, and I do not like this distance between us. There may always be geographic distance, but I’d like to be closer in a spiritual sense, or at least in a father-son sense. At this point, he’s less of a father to me and more of a long, lost friend. It’s sad.
What’s more, I don’t really know how to repair the damage between us, if that’s even possible. But I think a good starting point is for me to start being honest with him.
I think the most logical part to start with is his alcoholism. He’s been a functional alcoholic most of his adult life. It’s not easy to address because he’s not the quintessential alcoholic you see on TV or in the movies. He’s never hurt anybody in the family, and we rarely see him drunk. But he still has a dependence–and it has greatly affected our relationship.
I’m also afraid of my father. He has such a big ego. Nobody can tell him anything that goes against his way of thinking, and so I think the only way to get through to him would be through writing–
I hope this letter finds you well. I know we don’t talk much, and so you must be surprised that you’re reading this right now, but I think this is something we can address later. For now, I want to jump to the point.
For the past year or so I’ve spent a lot of time analyzing my past in order to understand how those experiences create meaning for me in the present. You, being my father, are a big part of that, obviously. You’ve had your say in who I am today, and I thank you for that. I have inherited a lot of great qualities from you. I deeply care about the world and the people in it, especially those I associate with–which is why I’m writing this right now.
As you can tell, I’ve changed a lot since I moved away. I’ve taken the theories I learned from my childhood and adolescence–the things you taught me–and tested them in the real world. Some work, some don’t, and that’s okay. At this point in my life I think my most endearing quality is how open I am–I’ll listen to anything, I’ll give anybody a chance. Everybody has something to say, and everybody needs someone to listen to them. Right now I need you to be open, and I need you to listen.
I strongly believe that you are an alcoholic. You are not a fall down drunk and you’ve never laid a finger on anyone in the family, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have an unhealthy dependence on alcohol. And it’s certainly impacted our relationship. Whenever I’m home, you’re always in the basement drinking, and when you’re not, more often than not, you’ve had too much to drink. Frankly, you’re less of a father and more like comic relief for me, as sad as that sounds.
You can do whatever you want now. Your actions are your choice. But I am no longer going to be an enabler. If you want to continue drinking, I believe the distance will only increase between us, and our relationship will continue to falter. What you do now is your decision. I’ve made my choice. It’s time for you to make yours.
I may never give this to him, but it still feels good to get it out in the open.