Today is August 3rd, the day of my biological father's birth.
I try to avoid admitting it but August 3rd hurts. Whereas birthdays are usually cause for great celebration, August 3rd is a reminder that birthdays will eventually have an expiration date. August 3rd's alternate parallel is May 9th, the day that claimed Keith's death.
With death's finality, any possibility of fixing what is broken is gone which makes me inconceivably, and understandably, angry. I'm embarrassed to admit how easily focusing on that anger comes for me so I limit it to these two days a year. I fight it off like a rabid dog. Being angry is easier than accepting an apology I'll never get. It's far less difficult than forgiving a person who never admitted that they were wrong or that they fell short in the ways that mattered most. It requires very little effort to blame him, to shake a finger at the man who found solace at the bottom of a bottle of Crown Royal rather than in the arms of the people who poured their love into him so blindly until they had to choose self-preservation over martyrdom. I could rattle of his shortcomings as a husband to my mother, as a father to me, or as a son to my grandparents. I could call him a hypocrite and a coward.
I could for the hundredth time ask what-if until I have nearly convinced myself that I could've done more than I did, that I could've swallowed my pride and picked up the damn phone; that I, alone, could've fixed our relationship. If I wanted to reverse any of the work I've done thus far, I could ask the one question I know I shouldn't; the one question that is excessively unfair to lay on anyone's shoulders:
Could I have helped prevent his death?
And I have said all of those things and asked myself those questions over the last six years. To myself, to therapists, to my friends and loved ones, to the woman who was once married to him, and even to the man who stepped in and took over as my dad when I was drowning in the murky waters of losing the father I was born with. I've sobbed silently, sat with the deafening and complicated process of letting go of someone that I never really knew, and wished simultaneously that none of it ever happened and that I could live through it all over again. I've wondered why I didn't try to give him an ultimatum: me or the booze. I've wondered what he would've chosen and, mostly, doubted that it would've been me. While it's impossible to avoid these thoughts, I will not under any circumstance allow myself to wallow in them.
It's been thirteen years since we've last spoken and in that amount of time, I've finally gotten to a place where I don't feel the need to rehash all that he wasn't, even if doing so helps me justify excusing myself from our relationship. I've stopped focusing on all that he didn't do or where he came up an inch or a mile short, telling myself instead that he was likely trying his best at a job he simply wasn't cut out for. I've stopped asking myself why he didn't value his own life enough to keep living, if only, because no matter the answer, his lack of self-worth is a gut-wrenching reality.
I've concluded that he, like the rest of us, was a deeply flawed human and just like I've done a thousand times-- just like any flawed human has done, does, and will continue to do-- he simply fucked up. If I can so easily admit that I am human, surely, I should show the same respect to a man who, quite literally, made his grave and now rests in it.
What I have been forced to accept is that some wounds will never fully heal. They run too deep because the manner in which they occurred was etched much too vividly into our brains. We either hide them behind cloaks of nonchalance or humor, pretending they don't still hurt like hell when given the acknowledgement or we painfully attempt to keep the wounds clean.
A small part of me prefers knowing that the wound is there. Not out of self-pity or because I find comfort in painful memories; rather, I wholly fear the alternative of apathy. I'd much rather walk around with an occasionally bleeding wound than there be no remnants whatsoever of the battles I've fought so hard to survive.
My belief that we cannot allow ourselves to stand in allegiance to pain, no matter the perpetrator, is only solidified. It is fiercely reiterated that our own emotional well-being and preservation is wholly as important as the next person' and the League of Martyrdom isn't one you should ever accept an open invitation to join.
August 3rd is hardly an easy day. It is nowhere close to even being considered a good day. But I didn't wake up hoping to have a good day. I woke up planning on simply having a day.
Before I fell asleep last night, I told myself that when I woke up this morning, I'd use this particular August 3rd differently than I have in the past. I wouldn't sulk. I wouldn't allow myself to feign indifference. I would finally allow myself the freedom to feel the feelings. I committed to waking up and being grateful for simply waking up. I swore I'd spend the day mindful of all of the good problems I am lucky enough to have and to embrace the scars some of those problems have left in their wake. I promised to focus on the chance I've been given to learn from my own mistakes as well as from his. I pledged to love loudly because if a person who is suffering needs anything, it's love.
I vowed to appreciate August 3rd...
and him, wherever he is.