Father’s Day is not always the easiest day for everyone. Some have lost their father and some have had an absent father. It can be an emotional day for many.
Today is a day that I think about my dad, who has his phone turned off so that his kids can’t call and wish him a happy Father’s Day. The last time we spoke was the previous week. I make sure to keep in contact daily but lately he forgets and sends hateful messages my way. When we spoke last week, everything was fine at first. As he drowns his mind in his fifteenth can of beer, he turns into a broken man. His self-hatred consumes him to the point of misery.
My dad gave up on himself years ago. Each year that passes by, his mind and body transform more and more. Once a lean, handsome and charming man to an overweight and grimy shell. He never made it to my wedding and he can’t even make it to the end of his driveway.
In Eric Erickson’s stages of psychosocial development, Generativity vs. Stagnation is when a person between the ages of 40-60 either volunteer, raises children, mentors or contributes to society; generativity is finding your life’s work and meaning. If you fail to accomplish this stage, you reach stagnation. Having little connection with others, lack of self-improvement and no motivation can be qualities of stagnation.
As my father transitions from that stage, into the next stage, I realize he is clearly coming from stagnation. The next stage is Integrity vs. Despair, from the 60s till the end of life. Reflecting on your life at this age, you feel a sense of accomplishment or failure. My dad lives in a state of despair. People in this stage feel as if their life is wasted.
Though my dad has children and family who love him unconditionally, he takes his misery out on those he loves. I know when he calls me the worst names imaginable and repeatedly tells me that he hates me, that really he just hates himself. I know that he is a hurt man that feels hopeless with no answers. Maybe he carries regret for the years he was not sober; years went by where we lived with a growing pit in our stomach of what the night would bring as he sucked the whiskey out of his mustache. I believe he is a prisoner to his own mind and body.
Though he damaged my brother and I throughout our lives, we still remember our sober dad. We remember the road trips, Sunday breakfast, camping trips and his great laugh. He has always been a Jekyll and Hyde. His soul felt the sunshine and other days he felt cold darkness.
I blame everything on the ignored mental health crisis that no one talks about. I blame it on alcohol and how it can poison an unstable mind. I blame it on the world for looking the other way while others suffer, because they don’t understand. As this elephant sits in the room, crushing others, we pretend to be fine.
My dad lies on his disintegrating bed, drinking his sixteenth beer as his body gets sicker. His hate burns in his belly while he curses life. I don’t know how long he will be around but I already grieve idea of not having a father. I grieve that he won’t let anyone help him and that we have to watch him slowly kill himself from afar, while his lasts words are that he hates us.
We just respond, “I love you too.”