Today is the anniversary of my father's death. He died in 1985 at age 76 from cardiac failure largely due to emphysema. He was an old fashioned gentleman who loved being on the water. He taught me how to fish at an early age and to steer the boat and understand the channel markers. He always had a good job and worked every day for a large shipbuilding company that had a lot of defense contracts. For some reason though, on the weekends, he would go to a local bar and grill and have a few beers. One of those evenings resulted in his having a car accident in which he broke his shoulder. I remember that night well and it was one filled with fear for me. I can remember the sheriff coming to the door, my father coming in, and the doctor being summoned. Because my family was well known, there weren't any legal consequences. He had been driving his car too fast and it got away from him. His shoulder was broken and always had a different look to it for the rest of his life. I remember the smell of beer on him.
As time went on, he would sip bourbon on the weekends. He would often be drunk by dinner and I hated having to eat at the table with the slurred speech and criticism of me. He wasn't a mean drunk but he would be very critical of me and often express displeasure at whatever I did. I began to think that I annoyed him or was a source of irritation. When I was younger I would get the belt on my legs and butt. Although I would try to please him, as I got older, I rebelled. I was a teenager and as tall as he was, although he outweighed me. I can remember having arguments with him and he would try to hit me. I would storm out of the house and stay away until it was safe to come back. On the weekends, I would sometimes sleep until near noon and then head out with my friends or take my car and leave.
I was actually a good kid. I studied, made good grades, graduated at the top of my high school class and later was one of the top graduates in college. I never thought that he totally approved of me but probably that was in my own head. We made peace though as the years went by and thankfully his alcohol consumption went way down to near abstinence later in life.
I realize now that whatever was bothering him during those years of my youth was in his head. His anger was his to own and not mine. I loved him a lot and still think of him. He was a critical person but probably because he wanted so much for me. I gave all that I had to give and was by all outward signs a success. Inwardly though, I was unsure, felt unloved, and not very happy. That was especially prevalent during high school. When I went away to college, it was as if I were free. I was out of the house and on my own where no one knew anything about me. This "geographic" cure worked well until I came back home where all the same fears came back.
Anyway, I understand my father a lot better today than I ever did in those years. He did the best that he could and had his own fears to deal with. I think that he knew how much I loved him and hope that his spirit is peaceful and united with my mother whom he loved.