Sunday, August 07, 2005


posted by Michael Piwonka 7:23 AM
It's been about 20 years since my dad died. He died from emphysema, having smoked most of his adult life.

I am one of ten kids, and it's always interesting to hear the different memories of my dad. But for the most part, we don't seem to talk about him at all (or else I've missed most of those conversations).

My memory of dad is of a man who was truly proud of his kids. I think that there was nothing more enjoyable to him than hearing about the successes of his children. And since his kids were all good students, athletes, and citizens, he was fortunate to have many proud moments.

The stories I've heard about dad's upbringing, albeit sketchy, were not pretty. Disturbing stories of alcoholism, mental abuse, physical abuse, and even hints of sexual abuse abound. While I don't know how many are true or myth, the interesting thing is I've never heard (or at least can't remember) any positive stories. Dysfunctional would be an understatement.

My memories of dad's alcoholism have faded over the years. I can remember an angry drunk, yelling at our mother. But while he was yelling at our mother (while she was yelling at him for drinking), I think he was actually yelling at his family, specifically one brother that he often worked with on carpentry jobs. As a young child I came to correlate dad coming home drunk with whether he and his brother had had an argument on the job site.

Actually there were never any arguments at the job site because dad didn't have the courage to confront his brother; getting drunk on the way home and then confronting my mother was much easier.

I hated my dad for being an alcoholic. Hate may be too strong of a word, but I was definitely embarrassed by his behavior. Being embarrassed, I would lie at school to cover up for strange events at our house. In retrospect, there was no need for me to lie since everyone in our small town already knew anyway. The only person I was lying to was myself.

So I grew up angry at him. Angry about a lot of things. And I became smarter than everyone else. Anyone who didn't see things as I saw them was obviously not very intelligent.

When he finally died after a few years of deteriorating health, I was glad. I was happy that he was dead.

I had no love for him or for his alcoholism, so of course the idea of telling him I loved him never occurred to me. But now, twenty years removed, I wish I would have had the capacity to tell him that. Maybe I wouldn't have been so angry.


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