My Father's Birthday

dad.jpgYesterday was my birthday. No big deal really. Some people remembered, some forgot, and I spent the whole day working. Today is my father’s birthday. I’m not sure how old he would be if he were alive, either 59 or 60. It sounds kind of weird to say that—if my father were alive he’d either be 59 or 60 years old. I can’t even imagine what he would be like, because he died before my second birthday. I have no memories of my father—not one. Just a few pictures in a photo album. This picture is of him when he was 18 years-old. He would not live another five years after this picture was taken. And as I write this, I realize that I’m twenty-one years older than my father was when this picture was taken.

I’m not sure why I’m writing this, other than it seems to be a long time coming. A lifetime’s worth of bullshit that has rested firmly on my shoulders and deeply within my soul; and while it has eaten away at me, I never talked about it. I never talked about it with my mom, or my friends, or the women I’ve slept with, or even myself for that matter. Instead, I just ignored it and pretended that it was a non-issue, when really it was pretty important. So, now I’m writing about it. This is me making real a lifetime’s worth of bullshit that has been a part of me for as far back as I can remember.

For many years I hated my father. Okay, maybe hate is too strong of a word. “Resent” is more fitting. For many years I resented my father. He died an accidental death brought about by fucking around with drugs. He was doing the same things so many other people in their late teens and early twenties have done while “exploring” life away from home. But the difference between my father and all the other college kids who experiment with drugs is that he had a son. He had a life he was responsible for. He made something he was supposed to take care of. And instead, he pissed it all away in a moment of total and absolute selfishness.

The result of my father’s carelessness was my mother struggling to survive as a single welfare mother. My father’s disregard for everything and everyone left me as the sole kid on my little league team without a dad at the games, with no one to play catch with, with no sense whatsoever of what it was to be a father’s son. I grew up always uncertain of myself, not sure if I was doing what a man does, because no one was there to provide me with that sort of guidance. Sure, my mother did the best job she could, but it was not the same thing. And for that, I hated him. At least that’s what it was when I was a child, when my emotions were not well-developed enough to differentiate between things like hatred and resentment.

The hatred faded as I grew older, and more emotionally sophisticated. By the time I was in high school, and my mother was continuing to work double shifts and nights just to pay the bills, and I began to fully understand the sacrifices she was making to keep me fed and clothed, the hatred began to transform into resentment. But the sad thing is that while I was angry with my father for how selfish and inconsiderate he was, I never saw it in myself. Instead, I cluelessly sat back and let my mother work her ass off, when I could have gotten a job at Burger King and helped bring some money to the household. Only now do I have the ability to see that I was in fact my father’s son—a young man too self-absorbed to be a good man, because the person who was supposed to teach him these things never bothered to stick around. Now that I see what I was, I work everyday to not be like that ever again.

Somewhere along the way I realized I had to make peace with my father. Hating him was getting me nowhere, as was the resentment. I know that what he did was an accident. Yes, he was careless and selfish, but he didn’t mean to die. And I know that if he could do it all over again, he would try to do things differently. But we don’t get second chances like that, so the best we can do is do the right thing while we are on this planet.

Now that the hatred and the resentment have passed, I think the thing I most feel is a profound sadness. My father never got the opportunity to know me. Without going too deep into my spiritual beliefs, I do believe he sees me, and to a certain extent he watches over me. But it is not an active relationship based on interactions; so much as it is all about my personal faith. I have faith that in the state of being he now finds himself in, my father is trying his best to do right by me. And for that, I love him. It took a long time to come by this love, but it has finally arrived.

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4 Responses to “My Father's Birthday”

  1. gkleinman Says:

    Wow. From the heart man. Thanks for sharing it.

  2. hihat Says:

    You look a lot like your Dad.

  3. shawnlevy Says:

    This was lovely to read, David. I’m a huge fan of T-Shirt of the Week and Going Postal, but this stands alone as a deeply confessional piece of work that was obviously heartfelt, considered and carefully crafted.

    Thanks

  4. L13 Says:

    massive respect to you and your mom

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