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Rescue Me: The Summer of 1966- before my Father’s Death

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Date : September 6, 2016

Bob and Marion014

My father died almost fifty years ago.  I was fifteen when he came home day from work at the factory in the middle of the day in the summer of 1966.  That was highly unusual.    He walked through the door with his hair disheveled and a preoccupied look in his eyes.  My mother told me later that my father had been fired from his job because he forgot to tell his boss that he was going on vacation.


My mother, sister, father and I were vacationing in Boston with my mom’s parents.  My father and I drove home to the suburbs of New Jersey.  It was your typical hot, humid east coast summer where you could see the air and feel it’s oppressive power.  My dad was driving a brown 1964 Mercury Comet.  He was driving unusually fast and veering way too close to cars in other lanes.  I was frightened, but I was experiencing the beginnings of living in a state of unreality where bad stuff was happening, but I didn’t really believe what was being played out in front of me.  I also didn’t have the vocabulary to describe what it was like to dissociate from the present.


I remember my father having no patience during this time.  He would often be found sitting at the kitchen table with his head in his hands.  He looked like he was in pain, but no one in my home talked about it.


My father did the laundry and must have put too much Clorox in the wash because my black Levi’s now had white spots on the legs (which went on to be fashionable in a few years, but seen as crazy then).  I really didn’t care about the bleached jeans, but my father found some black paint and proceeded to stick a large paint brush in it and paint over the bleached out part.  My brain didn’t quite realize something was terribly wrong.  It was like the data got kicked out of the recesses of my mind and registered emptiness.


Then one day my father became very angry with me.  I don’t remember why he was so distraught, but he had this rage in his eyes, his hair was flowing wildly, he seemed to wear the same clothes every day.  I was frightened and I saw him take his arm back like he was going to hit me in the face.  I was awake now; all my senses were on high alert.  I rolled my hand into a fist and I punched my father square in the stomach.


He doubled over but, did not fall down.  He stared at me with vast confusion and hurt in his eyes.  I was waiting for him to retaliate; I wanted him to hit me.  I immediately felt ashamed and knew that today’s effort to protect myself would haunt me the rest of my life.


I continued to prepare myself for the beating that was to come, but a different kind of violence occurred.  My father took one last empty stare at me and like a wounded animal, turned and walked away.  He never spoke to me again.  It wasn’t too long after that he was found driving erratically and died later in the ICU of a stroke.


I recently have come to understand that I get triggered when I notice people being in a state of denial or unable to look at and accept the horror of their situation.


This happens in my personal life when I am interfacing with alcoholics or other addicts who for various reasons do not accept that they have an addiction.  I am equally triggered by their family members who deny that their loved one is an addict. I want to shout, “Wake up you’re an alcoholic.  You will die if your keep on drinking.  Why won’t you listen to me?”


During the time my father was losing his mind and life, I knew something was terribly wrong, but as a fifteen-year-old, my sense of survival pushed me to ignore the warning signs.   My mother was facing her own grief issues and couldn’t attend to my emotional pain.    Who was there for me to help heal my loss, confusion, and numbness?  Nobody.


I take it upon myself to be the truth teller because I feel it is the right thing to do. I also believe that no one else will take it upon themselves to speak out against self-destruction.  I feel guilty if I believe I can save someone’s life and find myself trying to avoid getting involved in this mess.


The words don’t float across my mind, but I have the delusion that when I call out an alcoholic, they will be grateful for my effort to rescue them.  Of course they always reject my pronouncement and become very angry at me for mentioning such a possibility.


Then without warning, they turn their back on me and walk away.  Even though I confronted them and knew deep inside that their not accepting my message would be the outcome, I felt rejected.  I felt abandoned.  It felt like the profound sense of loss when my father died; the rawness of my heart when my mother died and the soul crushing experience of the little girl I helped take care of not being allowed to see my wife and me anymore.  My ability to protect myself from emotional pain vanishes and the pain feels like it will never end when I experience being discarded.


Time to reshuffle the deck.  No, time to find a new deck.


I know that each time I confront someone about their self-destructive behavior, I am trying to save myself from my overwhelming childhood memories.  I am trying to undo my father’s erratic behavior.  I am trying to erase the memory of hitting him in the stomach.  I feel, but am not aware at the time, that I am attempting to stop my dad from dying.


I have worked intensely and for years to grieve the death of my father.  Each time I think I have come to understand my latest effort to undo his death and bring him back to life, another means to accomplish this shows up.  What does this mean?  It means that I will never fully accept my dad’s death.  The teenager inside me with the new braces and suit can’t abide by reality.  Perhaps I have been ignoring this part of me and not even realizing it.


My fifteen-year-old inside’s name is Rob.  I will speak to him now.  “Rob, can you please tell me why you can’t let dad go.”  He says, “Why should I let him go?  You shouldn’t let him go either.  He was abused and neglected by his work, the religious community and the doctor.  They knew he was sick, but didn’t lift a finger to help him.  It is my job to keep this fire burning.  We should never forget.  We need to let the world know what happened to him.”  After what seems like an eternity, I reply, “I will share Dad’s story with the world.  We can honor him and hold on to our righteousness indignation and allow his spirit to find his resting spot.  Our dad deserves peace.”  Rob says, “I see him now floating above us, please hug me and never let me go.  Dad has a smile on his face and he is waving good-bye.  He is saying that he loves us and forgives you for hitting him and that you can forgive yourself too.”


These rituals where the father, adult son and teenager have healing ceremonies are rich and rewarding.  I have been hoping that they will lead to the acceptance of my father’s death.  I am now going to announce that I have accepted that I will never accept my father’s death; that I will always find some way to bring him back to earth.  Logically I know this will never happen and I don’t consciously long for his return in any kind of obsessive way.  But perhaps the brain and the heart don’t know how to accept the concept of death.  What does accept mean anyway?  Does it mean getting amnesia about the loss of your loved one.  Does it mean having all the I’s dotted and the T’s crossed regarding the death?  No, this is all impossible Hollywood curtain dropping BS.


Keeping my dad’s memory alive is the opposite of acceptance.  I would rather keep his memory alive and share his tragic story and his love of family.  The more I can love him, the more I can love myself.  Acceptance does not equal peace.  Peace equals peace. Now is now.

Dear Readers,

Please share your experiences with these Grief below or here   Thanks!!!

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Letting Go of Grief
Move Your Body to Rock and Soul

Letting go of Grief: Move Your Body to Rock and Soul teaches you how to work through your losses. These losses could be the death of a loved one, the end of an important relationship or other trauma. Grief is an evolving process and you will learn what the term acceptance means. It means that you will always have the option of honoring your loss, but you don’t have to be continually consumed by it. In this book, you will learn to find a landing place in your heart for grief. You will learn to embrace the pain instead of being afraid of facing it.



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