Making Peace with my Father

I ran a search for Father’s Day quotes. They are all tributes and warm descriptions of great fathers.  You don’t find any that say, “A father slips away every night into the bottle.” Or “Thanks, Dad, for never being there.”  Or, “I remember a great gift my father gave me: he passed out on the couch every Sunday and embarrassed me in front of my friends.”

My father was an alcoholic who died at the age of forty-seven from alcoholism. I remember a man who was at heart kind, but who simply wasn’t there, even when he was there. I carry one good memory of my father. I was perhaps four, and I had lost my teddy bear, the one I clung to when I went to bed. My father went out to find him under the slide on the swing set. I remember it being dark, and I thought it was brave of my father to go out there. Now that I’ve had a child and grandchildren, I think perhaps it was self-preservation on his part, but still, he did it, and I remain grateful.

For years the painful memories of my  father far over-shadowed any good ones. In his last days, he was so dissipated from alcohol that his mind was gone and he could not walk. I had to see that and deal with it, and be the one to handle his funeral before I was twenty-one. I blamed him for inflicting that upon me, and for never being a father. I felt an orphan. I think I blamed God, too, that I was not given the father I felt I deserved.

Somewhere along the way, however, I finally woke up to the rich blessings of all the fathers I was given. One, perhaps the first, was my grandfather for whom I am named. I suppose he was the stand in, until I would find the Matlock men. Oh, how I adored my grandfather Curtis! I remember him as kind, and funny, and generous, a good man that made me proud to be named after him.

Lessons: real men paint little girls' fingernails.

Then I left home at the age of seventeen and married, gaining a father-in-law, Pa, who would become a true father to me. One memory of Pa Matlock stands out: He, a staunch Free Will Baptist, giving out my promotion bookmarks for my first books– romances with sex!–to everyone he met. I was his ‘Favorite’ daughter-in-law (his only one.) I think, too, of our private times, when Pa told me some of his own story with a drinking father, and how he got himself up and out of such a background. We shared a kinship of not really having a father. His experience made him determined to be one.

There is also my husband, who has often guided me, and who has become the patriarch of our little family. He has weathered the storms of our early married years and become a mighty oak, like his father before him. We call him Papa.

Today I spent with our son, watching him with his two children. He took them to church, not so much because he wanted to go, but because he knew they would enjoy Sunday school, and because he is trying to be like his father and grandfather before him. They are good models, and so is he.

None of these men can be called perfect. A father is not perfect. He simply tries his best and makes many sacrifices. Thankfully today I can see all such men who came into my life. I never was left an orphan. God provided.

This is the first time I have been able to write truthfully about my father. For one thing, my mother is not likely to read it. And I find that finally I have made peace with my father. I think of him, an alcoholic who was the son of an alcoholic. He did not plan for things to turn out that way. In his way, he did the very best he could. And he got my teddy bear for me. Thank you, Daddy. I love you.

16 thoughts on “Making Peace with my Father

  1. Thank you for sharing this CurtissAnn. Your forgiveness was just the message I needed to hear today.
    Love to you!
    Holly

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  2. Thank you CurtissAnn……I was 28 when my MOM died of alcoholism…..I remember good friends like you when I was young that were going through some of the same things I was. You were smart about y who you married. I stupidly married an alcoholic. I am very happy to say my daughter did not…she has a wonderful husband who is very involved with being a father. Your article is wonderful. I wish I had the gift of words that you do.
    Mary

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    • Mary– it is twice as hard a road when the mother is addictive. Mothers hold the world together, but we’re treated and been led to believe we don’t matter. One of the reasons I write the books that I do. A book that made an enormous difference in my life is ‘My Mama’s Waltz– daughters of alcoholic mothers’ by Agnew, I think. It is stories from real women. Thanks for dropping in and sharing your story. We help one another every time we speak up. hugs, CurtissAnn

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  3. I was tearing up as I read the first paragraph of your post. I can’t even imagine handling funeral arrangements at such an early age! I’ve often heard the saying “what doesn’t kill you will only make you stronger.” Whatever your pain and unpleasant memories, you must have used them well, to become a sweet and loving Mother and Nana, determined to leave only wonderful memories for those whose lives you touch!
    When I came to the photo of Papa painting the little princess’ fingernails, I felt the tears trickle down my cheeks.The two hardest days of the year for me are Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. I can’t bear to go out on those days and see parents and their children celebrating; it’s just too painful. Not because of bad memories, but because of all the good ones, the kind I miss so much now. It makes me thankful for my blessings and determined to leave precious memories with those whose lives I touch, too.
    Hang in there and have a wonderful summer! Hugs ~

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    • It makes me smile to know you had such a good relationship with your parents. I am learning it is true what I’ve heard tell–that we never really lose those who have touched our lives with their kindness and glory. They live in our hearts. How often I hear my Big Mama’s voice these days, sometimes as if she is right there with me. And sometimes my grandfather’s, too. We are blessed, dear friend!

      hugs, CurtissAnn

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  4. Curtiss Ann, you touched my heart with this post of yours. So many of us in our age group seemed to have dads who drank excessively. I know mine did..especially when I was young….I still recall incidents and it makes me very sad…so I really try not to think about them. However, those things do take a part in shaping our lives……good and bad.

    I feel like I’m a lucky one, too……. meeting a guy at a very young age whom I married and created a family. He’s been a great husband and a wonderful father to our kids. Now, he’s an amazing grandpa.

    Wishing you a great week……dana

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  5. That is so awesome CurtissAnn. I believe both you and your dad did the best you could in the face of a terrible disease. And writing about it is a gift to you… and to those of us who read it. I love you.
    ~Maxie

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    • Maxie– I still remember when you taught me about buying the card for the parent– what they wanted, not what I saw as the truth. Thanks, sugar, for helping in the healing.

      CA

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  6. I am so honored to read your honesty, Curtiss Ann. I know we have talked about this very thing. I don’t know if you’ve been reading my blog lately. But I talked about alcoholism a week or so ago. Lots of things have been going on. When it comes to the bottle, it may as well spill out and go ahead and leave the stain marks on all around the one drinking it. They are called scars.
    Brenda

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  7. luv u curtissann,,,what a gift u r,,,and ur honesty makes us all know that being who we are and saying what is true is the best thing we can do for ourselves…i thank you for sharing. i did not see my father drunk , it was a silent killer, the ism’s, that almost took my life away. but thanks to wonderful sharing i am a free person today and a very understanding person of my father’s pain that he did not wish upon any of us…so again, thanks, lou

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    • It is a surprise to find the freedom from pain. It works when you work it. 🙂 thank you for going ahead of me and offering you helping hand. Love you.

      Sent from my iPhone; please excuse typos.

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