I refuse to apologize for the poor quality of the title pun. I've been awake since 4:30 in the morning. It's the best I can do for now. Sorry. No, wait, I'm not sorry, I'm just fucking exhausted.
My father is currently in his second month of a 4 month jail sentence for drunk driving. This is the second time he's been incarcerated for driving drunk - the first time was for 6 weeks, and he was a changed man - for about 3 months. Then he went right back to his old ways. It's nearly miraculous that he's never hit anybody else while drunk driving - he's wrecked more than 15 cars, but the only person he's ever physically hurt is himself.
Psychologically, emotionally....it's hard to have a father who behaves like a child. I mean, he's a man in some ways - he set a great example of work ethic for us. No matter how much he drank, he was always up at 5am and never missed work. He worked for a construction company M-F, and on Saturday, he built decks or stairs or did roofing projects. He was tough in a way that made us feel kind of proud of him - no one picked fights with him.
He was also gentle in surprising ways - like when he found a nest of baby rabbits that had been abandoned - perhaps the mother was killed by a dog or cat or coyote. He scooped them out of the unprotected nest, tenderly holding the tiny rabbits in his massive hands, and took care of them until they were big enough to be on their own. He was vehemently opposed to hunting, an activity he associated with the English (and he hated the English on a general basis, but specifically, he is fond of a great many English people). If we had a splinter, he was the one who could calm us down and take the splinter out without hurting us.
I'm a naturally optimistic person - while I have many moments of self-doubt, I ultimately feel that eventually, I will achieve my goals and be the person I want to be. But looking at my father, I wonder if I'm not just deluding myself. He's a person who had a lot going for him - skill, intelligence, strength - and he just kept making (keeps making) terrible choices. I am like my father in so many ways, I wonder if I share his weaknesses - he doesn't like to deny himself what he enjoys, even when it's bad for him; he lashes outward when he makes a mistake; he loses his temper and says and does horrible things*, only to suffer from tremendous guilt afterwards - but never attempts to rein in his temper, so it's a neverending cycle - rage, abuse, guilt...rage, abuse, guilt...rage, abuse, guilt, ad infinitum.
What keeps me going, ultimately, is my fear at starting down that spiral. If I start to give in to all of my little desires - one more ice cream cone, I'll just surf around the TV dial for one more hour, I'll just buy one more pair of shoes (all of which are things I deserve because I work hard and I live with so much physical pain, so shouldn't I get to have these little things that give me fleeting moments of pleasure?) - I feel like I will just keep sliding downward. Fear can be a powerful motivator, even though it doesn't feel very strong to admit that I can't have one more ice cream cone because I'm afraid I won't be able to control myself.
My dad is going to turn 63 while he's in jail. I look at him and realize that wisdom doesn't come automatically with age - one has to make and acknowledge mistakes to gain wisdom, and he can't admit that his mistakes are his fault, something he did to himself. So what else can I do, but try to learn from his example, even if his example is of what *not* to do.
*I usally only say and do horrible things in my imagination, where it can't hurt the people I love.