Love From Afar
Updated: Aug 5, 2020
Many people ask why humor, music, and riding the dark side are such an important part of my life, and why I don't reveal more of personal life, so here we go with a sliver of why I am the way I am. The accusations are just, but there's a reason. To be fair, it's not pretty, so consider yourself forewarned, but maybe it will help someone in some small way.
I am a child of divorced parents. I was five years old when my parents decided to go separate ways. My mother quickly remarried, but that's another story. Today I want to talk about my Dad. It was very painful for me when he left. So much so, that I don't remember large chunks of my childhood. My Mother told me she had to call my Dad and have him come over just to calm me down. If you think divorce is easy on a child, you're out of your mind. My Dad moved to Kentucky, his hometown, and also remarried. He soon had another child with his new wife, so I have a half-sister. The marriage also brought a step-sister into my life. My brother and I spent a week, sometimes two, every summer with my Dad until I turned sixteen. We were shuffled from home to home for holidays, and would see him when we traveled to Kentucky. My Mom's family is from the same area.
At sixteen-years-old, my stepmother accused me of calling her daughter, my stepsister, a "bitch." I never called anyone that, especially someone close to me. After repeated attempts, my stepmother refused to believe me and said I wasn't welcome in their home. There was nothing I could do, but walk out of the house. My Dad did follow me and this is the conversation between us:
Dad: "What do you want me to do? That's my new family."
Me: "Maybe support your daughter. I don't lie."
Dad: "I don't know what to believe."
Me: "Then you should should go back inside."
I went across the road to my grandmother's house, called my Mom to come get me, and never looked back. Dad didn't bother to try to help me, defend me, or make things right. Who was the adult in the situation? That pain still breaks my heart to this day.
When parent's divorce and remarry, the children are expected to accept an entirely new set of relatives, but, honestly, they are complete strangers. It was uncomfortable and difficult for me. You would never know it, but I am an introvert, and prefer to be alone. I can eat by myself, go to the movies by myself, and spend ridiculous amounts of time alone, and it doesn't bother me. I am very good at masking the real "Krissie." (Most of my family calls me Krissie). I quickly learned to use writing as a therapeutic tool. No one ever saw the true feelings wrote on paper because I later burned them. I learned to use music as a way to take my mind off things and later started writing songs. I'm attracted to dark things because they represent that part of my life, which is probably unhealthy, but it works for me.
When I turned eighteen, I decided to live with my Dad. He had divorced his second wife and lived alone. I wanted to know him and felt cheated by not having him in my life, so I moved to Kentucky and enrolled in Hazard Community College. The strain of our last conversation temporarily lifted and was never mentioned again. It was during this time I saw the real man. He would not buy me food, but would come home with cases of beer. He did not clean house. Instead, I cleaned after him, and his drunk friends, including laundry. Ever cleaned after a drunk? He never spent time with me other than to watch a western, while he continued to drink, and then he would leave for a bar or a party. He'd come home drunk with his friends, who would try to get in my bedroom, but I kept the door locked and braced a chair against it. Dad ended up marrying/divorcing two or three other women within a few years. Had it not been for my grandmother and aunts, I would have starved and never had gas to go to college, or buy what I needed, or any affection. One good thing came out of the entire experience when an English professor pulled me aside one day and said, "You can really write. Ever consider a career in writing."
At eighteen, I had no clue what I was doing and had never been exposed to addiction. I tried to talk to Dad. I begged him to give up the beer. I begged him to stop going to those places and to stay home with me, but he refused and said, "I don't have a problem and can quit anytime." I stayed longer than I should have, but I couldn't reach him, so eventually I left, and moved back in with my Mom. Within a year, I met my husband and soon married at age twenty-one. Dad came for my wedding, gave me away, then quickly left. It was as if he'd never been there. If I didn't have the pictures to prove it, no one would believe me. When my daughter was born, on my Dad's birthday, he didn't come to see her. I sent him a picture, but he wouldn't travel to see me or his granddaughter. The same thing happened when my son was born. Besides a few phone calls, I didn't see Dad anymore. My kids never knew him.
A couple years later, I received a phone call from a hospital in Whitesburg, Kentucky. They said they brought a man in, close to death, as a John Doe, and thought he might be my Father. Of course, I went. My Dad had gone through DT's, or delirium tremens, on his own, alone, and had tried to make it to my aunt's for help. She found him passed out in the yard covered in frost. In the hospital, he was placed under a warming blanket and wasn't expected to live, but survived, only to wake with severe brain damage. I thought it was the alcohol, but the doctor said it was from malnutrition. Dad had no alcohol in his system, but also no vitamins or evidence of food. I didn't know malnutrition would do that, but it will.
Dad spent the remainder of his life in a nursing home. I couldn't care for him because of his size and his repeated attempts to "bust out" of the home for a beer. They placed an ankle alarm on him and used male aides to force him to bathe because he refused. I visited several times, but half the time he didn't know me. He would always ask me to take him home or to a bar, but I wouldn't. The last time I saw him, he choked up, grabbed my hand, and said, "I'm so sorry. I should've been a better Dad." I left and never went back. I couldn't take it anymore. I was angry, disappointed, and sad all at the same time.
Dad passed away years ago and is buried in the family cemetery. I rarely go there, but I should and feel a tremendous amount of guilt about the entire situation, but don't know why. I tried, but he didn't want help. Addiction hurts everyone associated with the person addicted. It leaves no stone unturned and wreaks havoc in ways I could never believe. Even today, I still think about the conversations with him. Maybe I could've said something different? Maybe if I had stayed longer? Maybe I should've visited more? I'm not saying interventions don't work and I'm not saying alcohol is bad. My own husband has a beer every now and then, sometimes a couple, and it doesn't bother me. I don't drink alcohol because I've never liked it. Weird huh? I don't know the right answers, but I do know if a person doesn't want to change, they won't.
I did the best I could in the situation. I loved my Dad from afar because he gave me no choice. The nurses and aides said he read his Bible the last few weeks of his life, so I can only hope he found some peace in the next world. My Mom said he was a good man at one time. I just wish I could remember those times. I have a couple pictures from my wedding with him (after we dragged him here) and one with my siblings. He was happy in this picture and free of alcohol addiction. From left to right....My brother, Dad, and myself holding my sister. We looked happy, but I honestly don't remember the day.
Divorce is common nowadays. Addiction is common. I know there are a lot of adults from similar homes and worse situations, and there are children going through the exact same thing. I don't know why I felt the need to go this way with this blog post, but if it helps just one, it was worth it. Don't feel sorry for me either. I am the strong woman I am because situations like this forced me to be. I have developed a low tolerance for anyone's crap and can quickly cut them out of my life. Self-preservation? lol Some say I should be more forgiving and maybe I should, but not today! It is possible to channel that pain into something productive. You can love from afar and it's okay.
If you're dealing with addiction or an addict, there are plenty of organizations to find help! Don't be afraid to swallow your pride and ask for it. I only wish someone had gave me the same advice. Hugs to anyone going through something similar!