Father’s Day 2017. Scene: Facebook:
What time do the first bands go on at City Stages?
Oh wait, nevermind. I meant Happy Father’s Day to all the daddies out there!
I chuckled, and cringed. I considered responding with a joke about trigger warnings. It’s a great Birmingham joke, sarcastic, nostalgic, all those lovely things. I miss City Stages. I don’t miss my father’s passive aggressive griping about the timing.
City Stages was a perennial culprit. Other times mission trips (when I participated in such thing––I’m sure the people of Colorado Springs really needed me to bring them the Jesus). Regardless, it was always met with a, “They’d never plan X, Y, or Z on Mother’s Day.” I’m sure empirical evidence might suggest otherwise, but there was no point engaging in the conversation. After all, for the first man in the state of Alabama to gain full custody of a child and receive child support, the world was against him and his standing as a father.
I’m not one to observe Hallmark holidays, or really holidays in general. My mom and I have quite the understanding about Mother’s Day. She doesn’t want a one day a year celebration. Instead, we talk regularly, neither of us burdened to maintain things. We split the who should call duties rather evenly. But Father’s Day. It always sucked. And you’d think if it sucked then, maybe it’d suck less after he’s been dead for six years. It’s worse.
The day brings back a lot of those conflicts, all of his put upon grievances. But it’s also the pinnacle of social media perfect life syndrome. Every happy post of smiling fathers and sons another little stab. Yours is dead and gone, and even when he was around, well, this day sucked too. I wanted to yell and scream at every one of the posts, lashing out. Instead, I reposted the above image as a silent acknowledgement of the day. And a reminder of the work and progress I’ve made in dealing with my father. His continued presence through his physical absence.
I know that anger wasn’t directed at my friends and acquaintances. I don’t begrudge them the relationships they have with their fathers, and I sincerely hope no one has to deal with the shit I dealt with, even as I know many have dealt with far worse. I’m angry at him, still, for his unfinished life. The way he seemed to cave in towards the end. The death spiral of fentanyl with a Michelob Ultra chaser. The whole six-pack.
And then the anger or frustration with myself. Listening to the slurred, delusional speech as he slipped in and out of consciousness on the phone. The state most of our conversations endured the last year or two of his life. The paranoia. The clear signs of opioid abuse and addiction. Clear, at least, in hindsight. There is no proof that my father died of an overdose per se, there was no autopsy. As the medical examiner responded to my inquiry, it’s just not standard practice with someone who had my father’s medical history. A half-dozen chronic conditions were in competition for the right to be named primary cause after all. Not to mention the 30 years plus of hard living and substance abuse. But it remains the case that I never pushed him on the medication. After all, he complained about it all the time, wanted to talk to his doctor to try to get off the dozen or more medications he took daily. Considering his long history of drug use, it didn’t seem odd or all that dangerous to consume in the way he did. It was easy to turn it over to him. He was a grown man after all, my being the “adult” in the relationship since childhood notwithstanding.