Thursday, February 7, 2013

dead deadbeat dad

---disclaimer: this is a personal entry that doesn't have much to do with work. i don't have a personal blog, though, and i needed to write today, so here ya go. don't read it if you don't want to, and i won't ever know.--

well. my father died yesterday. i barely knew him. his visits had been few and far between when i was little, but after he came to visit when i was ten, saying he was gonna move to portland and be a dad, blah blah blah, i never saw him again. he did call one time after that, though, when i was 13. i answered the phone and he acted all chummy, like a regular dad just calling his regular daughter for a regular little chat, instead of a drug-addicted drifter calling his malnourished and neglected daughter after making wild claims then disappearing for years on end.

i said, "you can't just call here, and expect us [my sister and me] to be happy to hear from you."

he said, "i kept trying to call, but your phone's always disconnected."

"well, how about sending some money so it stays on?"

he laughed lightly, pretending i'd made a joke. "take it easy, andi. don't you miss me?"

i was hungry and pissed off. in general. why couldn't i have the kind of absentee dad who at least sent money once in a while? one who cared that his daughters never had enough to eat, shivered all winter without proper coats, and wore the same crappy clothes to school every day? like if you actually cared about your kids, wouldn't you want them NOT to look like orphanage escapees? wouldn't it matter to you that they were living like "the boxcar children," virtually parent-less in a haunted section 8 house with barren cupboards and no working toilet, heat, or refrigerator?

"no," i said. "i don't miss you. i don't even know you."

"you know me: i'm your dad! i'm charlie," he said.

"fine. hi charlie," i said. "why are you calling?"

"i just miss you is all. how are you?" (in his thick brooklyn accent this sounded like, "i juss miss you is awel. how ahhhhh you?")

"i'm ok. but you know what? i don't want to talk to you," i told him. "and neither does [sister's name]."  i didn't know whether she wanted to or not, but i was in the habit of making decisions for the both of us (a necessity in our childhood that became a cause of resentment when we were grown).

"oh," he said.

right then i wanted him to have some news, like "i'm coming to visit." or, "i care about your well-being, so i've decided to start paying child support." some compelling reason to make me want to talk to him. maybe a declaration that he was sorry for never ever being there or claiming us or adding anything at all to our lives, but that that was all about to change because he was deciding to STEP UP.

he had no such declaration. we weren't worth it. he didn't try at all, just threw in the towel right away. "ok," he said. "well. i love you."

"bye," i said, my cheeks piping hot with anger and shame.

before i could hang up, though, he said, "wait! i said 'i love you.' ...don't you love me?"

i didn't think, just blurted, "no. actually i hate you. goodbye."

it felt good to slam down the phone. i really thought he'd call right back and want to work it out. he'd say something that would make me not hate him, and then i could apologize for saying i hated him, and we could get along for a while. that's how my mom did things. she'd get mad and hit everyone and yell a lot, then have something sweet to say and things would be ok for a while. basic survival precluded the luxury of grudge-holding. that you could fully freak out on someone, and then a little later say the right things to make them forgive you, was a total given in our house. (a truly terrible way of relating to loved ones that has snuck along with me into adulthood, btw.)

well, charlie hadn't spent much time in our house, so he didn't know that "i hate you," was code for "please give me a reason to love you." he never called back. my mom liked to say that my meanness was the reason he never called again. but i thought it was that, and also that we were needy strangers and he just didn't feel like it.

so. that was the last time i talked to him.

when i say that i haven't seen him since i was ten, though, that's not exactly true. i must've seen him 12 years later, when i was living in san francisco, because he saw me. by then he and my mom had reconnected through his aunt, who my mom took care of (long story). so he'd call her from time to time. once he called her to ask if my hair was pink and white. he had come to san francisco for methadone and was sleeping on the street (ONE BLOCK AWAY from where i was living) and he swore this girl who walked by him every day was his daughter. don't ask me how he knew that. but maybe it's a thing, that you just recognize your offspring when you see them in the world?

anyway my mom "didn't want to upset me," so she didn't mention it till months later. he had probably moved on by that point, but still i spent some time really looking into the faces of the homeless dudes who lived down the block. after a few days of thinking this guy or that one might be him, i decided i actually didn't want to know, because if i knew who he was, wouldn't i be obligated to help him? i was still so bitter and fucked up over my abusive and destitute childhood that i didn't want to have to help some homeless guy i didn't even know, who just happened to have had a fleeting teenage romance with my mom that left her knocked up with twins. so i changed my route to work, going out of my way to avoid that particular block of shotwell street.

so. that's pretty much it. and then came facebook, and my mom and charlie's sister became friends on it. she harassed me until i added her, as well, but then she made some rude homophobic remarks on one of my pictures so i blocked her. but my mom and she have kept in contact, and the sister has kept my mom up to date on charlie's whereabouts, etc. so for this reason i've known for the last few months that he was dying of liver cancer. and then yesterday he died.

my mom called to tell me and i thought, "wow. that's sad." and i sat around for a little while thinking i didn't actually feel sad about it. i didn't feel glad, or anything like that, but i felt about as sad as when you read in the paper that tragedy has befallen someone you don't know. as a person, a member of humanity, you say, "wow. that's sad." but it's not personal.

so then i got ready and went to work. i felt kind of weird and spaced out but it was an okay night. i felt some feelings creeping in, so i decided to drink, which i haven't been doing for a while. i told a customer he looked like steve carell, and he got super offended so i said, "well at least you're not funny, too, because then the resemblance would just be uncanny." that allowed me to chuckle to myself for a while, and i just kept working all night without feeling anything, and then came home and went to bed.

but then when i got up today i felt unexpectedly heavy and sad. it's sad that this guy, my father, died without ever getting to know his smart and awesome daughters. it's sad that the last thing i ever said to him was that i hated him, especially when i didn't ever know him enough to hate him and was just disappointed and angry. also liver cancer is supposed to be a terrible way to go. it's sad when anyone dies a painful death, especially with no home. at least his sister had taken him in these last few months. but how must it feel for your life to end on someone's couch? even though i didn't know him, it doesn't feel to me like a stranger died. i feel like a person who could've meant something to me has died. someone who could've truly loved me and had a lot of my love in return. i'm not stingy with it. give me an inch, and i'll give you a mile.

and i'm having all the old feelings of being a snowball melting on its solo flight through space. i don't know when i came up with that particular image, but it kinda perfectly describes how i feel as someone with no partner or close every-day friends, a family who doesn't talk to me anymore, and a mom who is always so out of it on pills or methadone that you can barely talk to her, let alone count on her for anything at all. more like a weird older sister who is nice sometimes, but has made it clear that you're not her problem. i don't often allow myself to get caught up in these feelings, but i called out of work today for the first time in 3 years, and am just letting myself have a sad day.


  1. Hey andi,I have been reading your blog for quite some time now. (You should update it more often :P) I just wanted to say I know what you are going through, although I have had the opportunity to make up with my father. I just wanted to say I am sorry to hear about your dad and I am rooting for you. You seem like an incredibly funny, intelligent, dynamic individual. Keep fighting and don't kill yourself! *HUG*

    P.S. I think you are adorable! :)

    1. hi! thanks!! i'm not gonna kill myself, i promise. i feel happy knowing someone i don't even know is rooting for me. xxxooxo

  2. oh god a snowball melting through space! perfect! all that empty space around.

    also, i'm sure you know this but i just wanted to let you know that your mom telling you your deadbeat dad never calling again was your fault is almost unforgivable. you have been through so much Andi and yet you seem normal, and i hope that doesn't sound patronizing because i don't mean it that way. you sound like a normal, rational person who gets things and is trying to improve. your thoughts about the world are extremely valuable to me and i don't even know you. if you ever want to talk i'm going to pull out my old stripper yahoo account and give it to you:

    1. thanks for your kind words! i'm really happy to think that you're reading and finding my thoughts interesting. very sweet. xxo

  3. Thanks for sharing, I am sorry for your loss, the loss of never knowing a good father, I mean. I am sure that is affecting you more than anything.