If I had to choose one word for today, it would be bewildered.
Confused and indecisive. Puzzled.
And that’s how I felt leaving my first one-on-one session with my psychotherapist (who I love). It started off simply enough then took the most wicked u-turn and we were suddenly standing on my father’s grave with all my regrets and disappointments spilling out of me.
My memory of the session is choppy at best, feeling eerily familiar to every day before rehab, when I was too hung-over or freshly drunk to remember what I had said or done the night before. Absolutely bewildered, puzzled how I got there and completely confused as to what the hell was happening.
Now 6 days sober (but the valium isn’t helping) – the fog can only be attributed to my heart and my mind re-learning the new language of sobriety. Emotions are falling out of me like candy from a well-beaten piñata.
My Dad. In a nutshell, the simple question she asked was how I felt about my Dad and what regrets I have.
The words “I disappointed him” fell from my lips and that’s when I pretty much lost it.
Scratch the “pretty much” part.
I totally lost it.
This, I know, is going to be a very big part of my healing here. Grieving. Forgiving. Accepting. And, I am not very good at any of those things.
I’ll never forget the night my Mom called to say it was time to come home as he’d taken a turn for the worse. Of course I was in no shape to drive, it was 10pm and I had at least 3 Litres of wine in me by that time.
Two of my best friends had just arrived from my hometown, where he was – after driving several hours and walked through the door the moment the phone rang. Without a second thought they had me in their car and we were flying through the thickest fog (of course) at speed limits that were dangerous but necessary.
The weeks and months leading up to this I had promised myself I was going to clear the air with him, and whether he was coherent enough to understand it, I would forgive him and ask for his forgiveness of me, in return.
About 30 minutes from the hospital, in the backseat of the car, I felt something physically lift from me. The closest I can describe it is as though I became unstitched. Everything became looser, like a corset being undone that had been strung up too tight for too long.
I asked my friend to slow down, because he was gone.
I knew it.
With every ounce of my being I knew, and felt, the exact moment my Dad passed away.
And with him in that moment went the last chance I had to give him those words that were waiting in line behind my pride for so many months. Like anxious children they nagged me every day – are we there yet?
And we never were, and in that moment I knew, they never would be.
So they crawled back inside me, finding a way to multiply, fertilized with addiction and watered with wine. Both existed before then, but this new crater inside me had made room for more. And more. And more.
The thing is, you think you have time.
I had spent several years not speaking with my Dad growing up – moving out early because of his infidelity and shaming him for things I wish I had known more about at the time. But we didn’t talk.
We’d just trip over the issues every time we walked across the room, as it all piled up beneath the carpet every problem was swept under. Years of unspoken everythings and both our egos too proud to throw out the carpet and sweep it all out the door.
Years wasted. Things unsaid. The belligerence of time in that it insists on going in only one direction, filling it’s bags with what-if’s along the way.
So I have a project.
A letter to my father. And I’m to write a little on it every day, as I go through the next 3 weeks here in rehab. Every happy memory, every wish, every disappointment, every question I never asked. A chance to ask why he did what he did, and to be angry at him and myself for having repeated his sins 20-some-odd years later. To tell him I’m proud and upset, that I miss him and every little thing in between.
And there’s so many in betweens.
To finally let those nagging little words that sat so patiently in my throat for so long know that yes – we have, at last, arrived.
On the final day of rehab, before I climb back on the plane to begin the hardest part of this journey – learning to live day to day – we are placing that likely to be 20 page letter in a bottle, and like the fisherman my father was – sending it out to sea.