I know that my father’s love of animals, specifically birds has been since he was very young. I realize it was a coping mechanism for him. He wasn’t outgoing like my mom, he never liked social situations or small talk. He often could use them as an excuse to get out of things he didn’t want to do.
His pigeon hobby came close to costing him his marriage almost more than his alcoholism. What do you do with a man who spends 9 hours a day at work to come home only to spend his evenings and weekends with his birds? The birds came before family vacations. If there were babies about to be hatched forget it. I watched my mom slowly start to withdraw herself. She started sitting at the kitchen table, smoking Winston Light 100’s, staring out the window.
My mother loved my father with all of her heart. She would have died for him. And make no mistake my father loved my mother the same way. She saved his life. He will never love another woman the same.
That being said she admits she became pregnant on purpose. My father had taken off at the news and came back at some point during her pregnancy or right after we were born. I know they were not married until we were at least 5 years old. I was an observant/nosy child and always found out the family secrets. I kept them to myself until drunk and angry when I knew they would hurt the most.
I sometimes doubted my dad ever wanted us. I thought he felt trapped or forced into taking care of us and marrying my mom. My mother was so loud and different than him I wondered why he didn’t leave. She would have weeks of depression where she stayed in her nightgown, locked in her bedroom. We all pretended it wasn’t happening. When we were very young I think we were sent to a relatives house for as long as they could take us. As we got older we took care of ourselves.
When my mom was ok she was more than ok. She made up for the flaws in both of them. I don’t know how she did it sometimes. As I sit here now at the same kitchen table, alone, isolated, watching my father kill himself over pigeons, I can’t help but wonder. Did she give up? Did she have enough of seeing my dad but not really ever being with him? Her bestfriend and sister had just moved away. She was used to either talking to her or seeing her everyday. Now she would have to get on a plane to see her. With one lung and other health problems that probably wasn’t going to happen. My Aunt made her leave the house and keep active. When she left that was it. My father never tried. I did a few times but she refused.
She spent more time in her room and more time sneaking food she wasn’t supposed to have. She was good at talking people into bringing things that were not good for her. She would cry and say how depressed she was and how maybe a candy bar would make her feel better. I would go in her room while she was in the shower and find bags of candy bars! She was an insulin dependent diabetic with 1 lung, that 1 lung also had emphysema, she had fluid around her heart and ate bologna sandwiches 4 at a time. It became harder to watch, I spent more time drinking when I could.
It’s easier to understand looking back years later. I don’t think any of us could’ve done anything for my mom. She would tell me she felt like she was drowning. For someone who had a phobia of drowning this had to be a nightmare. I held her beautiful hands in mine and cried with her when she told me this. She passed away a few days later.
People often ask why I don’t live on my own. First of all I’m scared, second I owe my dad my life and he needs me. No, I don’t owe him because he’s my dad. I owe him because he has been there every time I tried to get sober and failed. He has been here when I got sober and so far have stayed that way. He has been there every time I tried to kill myself and never judged me, he just held me and cried. He sat with me through endless hours of mind numbing movies and TV because he knew I didn’t want to be alone. He did this for years. When I think of my parents I think of one picture. It makes everything clear.
Like a bird in flight I start to feel free from my hostility and glimpse a little bit of solace.