Well here I am, two cocktails in to an otherwise uneventful evening. Am I drunk? No, not by a long shot. Am I feeling like I could spill a secret if a national terrorist organization demanded it of me? I’d lean toward yes.
So, here goes:
Have I told you my father left my family when I was eight years old? Up and gone. Poof!
Well, not quite so simple. I wish it were.
What do I tell you? Do I tell you about the day I begged and begged my mother for a dollar so I could go to the grocery store and buy a soda, knowing very well we didn’t have the money? A dollar. Can you imagine? We didn’t have a dollar, yet I asked for it. I should be ashamed of that, but I was eight years old. Eight years old. Isn’t that the age you start to truly remember things? Embrace them as part of your life?
Do I admit to you that feeling of shame, leaving the store, knowing I was enjoying a sweet beverage when that dollar could have gone toward something as substantial as food? A dollar in 1983 was a lot of money. Again, how could I possibly know, at such a young age??
Do I tell you about my father, coming toward me along the dirt path that led to the store, looking stern and serious? Do I tell you about how I froze, and wondered what he might say? Or, worse, do? He was in a rush, walking quickly, coming toward me like he knew I’d done something wrong. I was petrified. I can see him now: dressed simply, slacks and a t-shirt, his hair thick and shiny, his mustache threatening and rust-colored. “He was such a handsome man,” family members have told me, years later. I could swear he was clenching his fists.
“Don’t tell your mother you saw me,” my father said. Seven words, the last I’d hear. He might as well have dropped dead right there. But he didn’t.
Instead, he swept past me as if I were nothing more than an afterthought. His son. The child he had a hand in creating. Abandoned, a pair of old socks you toss in the trash. A cigarette smoked to the nub, flicked into the gutter. An empty beer bottle you chuck in the garbage. I turned back to look at him – I remember this clearly – and he didn’t turn back once. Not once.
I said nothing to no one. Even when we were forced to pack up and move, because my father, as manager, had stolen all the rent money to go gambling. I told my mother about the incident years later. She understood why I’d said nothing. What good would it have done? I think, even at eight years old, I knew my father’s departure was coming. I can’t imagine how, but I did. His involvement in my life was peripheral, at best. Showing up at Christmas one year. Patting me on the head at dinner. Jokes, laughing, being a Part Of Everything.
I don’t remember much of him. I have a few pictures, nothing substantial. I feel nothing but hate for him. Resentment. There will never be forgiveness, the way they teach you on Oprah or Dr. Phil. “To forgive is to let go, and to move on with your life.” Fuck that. If there is a hell, I hope he’s burning in it. Why? I’ll tell you why.
I know very well my life is better for not having had my father in it. Had he stuck around, who knows what kind of train wreck our family would have become. But what I do know is that he took away the choice. He took it upon himself to disappear, because it was easy. Is this my consensus? No. My family agrees with this completely. My father was a coward, always had been. I can’t begin to imagine any redeeming quality about the man. NONE. “Try, Sean, there must be something.” There is nothing. I see him as I would see a mannequin – hollow, useless, nothing more than a stand-in.
There are blessings, I suppose. I am who I am because my father did not stick around. I think if he had, I’d have killed him. A knife to the chest, or a gun to the temple. Quick, simple, clean.
And it would have felt wonderful.
If he is dead – and I hope he is – I can only wish I’d some hand in it. Maybe I did. I pray he was crippled with the decision to leave. I pray he thought about me, my sister, my mother, at least once a day. And I hope it hurt. If there is a god, then it hurt. A lot.