This past July 1 was the eighth anniversary of my father’s shooting. Normally, it comes and goes without any fanfare from me, and this year was mostly no different, except for the fact that I happened to be staying at my sister’s house so we had the chance to discuss it and commemorate it together.
As my sister and I are 10 years apart, we did not necessarily “grow up” together, but we did go through our father’s death together. So, instead of reminiscing about life and childhood, we talked about what we did in the days following the homicide, the epic, the incredulous, the depressing, and even the ludicrous. Our memories of that time were bittersweet, we laughed a bit, no tears, as we just aren’t that way with each other, but we had our memories of that day, then we moved on from there and went about our business.
Since then, I have had occasion to think about my relationship with my father, especially as it relates to my exploration as “the flat girl”.
It has never been a secret that my father became very abusive when he was inebriated. However, he was completely different when he was sober. He was intelligent, well-read, and could hold in-depth conversations about a number of topics. Yet, there was still something missing, at least with me, in his interpersonal relationships. I never felt particularly close to him.
When he was sober and not being abusive, I could talk to him for hours about so many things, we seemed to have so much in common, but he could have been a college professor for as close as I felt to him during those times. Then all of that would be washed away with one drunken abusive night.
I always felt that his relationship with my two sisters and my brother were different than the relationship that he had with me, but, for all I know, they felt the same as well. They seemed to have an easy banter, lower expectations of each other; I wanted something more from him, and he from me. I wanted perfection, a father that I had seen on the little bit of television that I had seen, like Michael Landon on Little House on the Prairie or Mike Brady from The Brady Bunch. He wanted me to be a straight A student who didn’t smoke, break curfew, cut school, or break the rules. He (mostly) got what he wanted from me, I did not.
Growing up, I do not recall ever being told I was loved or being hugged by either one of my parents, something that is probably not a surprise in an alcoholic abusive household. I certainly did not know any better. But, it was at my high school graduation that I was hit with something that was so powerful that it affected my life forever. My father walked up to me, shook my hand and said, “I expect to see you again in four more years.” I took this to mean he was indicating that I should be graduating in four years again from the university.
That was it… nothing more. I was hurt at the time, as when my older sister had graduated three years earlier my parents had a huge party, invited relatives, and made a huge deal. My graduation was much more low key, no fanfare really, just a level of expectation of what I was to accomplish, and that I was expected to accomplish again in four years.
Looking back, that was me and my dad. He expected more from me than he did from my siblings, but with no touchy feely subterfuge that other relationships may have. He wanted great things for me, but did not necessarily have the ability to show me in a way that was demonstrative in a loving, caring way. So, was this way I learned my flat affect? Possibly. Possibly.