Sunday, January 26, 2014

Sunday Confession: I'm a Little Stormy

In March of 2006, I received a call I was in no way prepared for. My father called to tell me he had been diagnosed with cancer.

At the time, I really didn’t have much of a relationship with the man, and I had no idea what I was supposed to feel. There was dread, sure. But, there was also a numbness that had always been a part of the way I thought and felt about him. My father, you see, was not exactly what anyone would consider a great father. The man’s nickname was Stormy and stormy-tempered he was. That might have been, in part, due to the alcohol and drug use, but it was also just part of who he was. I know this because I have a short fuse myself that I constantly have to keep check on. It's hereditary. My brother's the same way.

In the weeks that followed that first phone call, we all learned that it was renal cell carcinoma; that there was a softball size tumor on one kidney; that it had already metastasized to other organs including the brain; and that without treatment, he might live two weeks while with treatment, he would have maybe six months.

Over the course of that 6 months, we spent some time together. I let him play with my son, his grandson, and I tried to find some forgiveness…to reconcile before the cancer won in the battle for his life.

I tried to forgive the times he called me lardass, dummy, and Crisco when I was an intelligent, normal-sized child.

I tried to forgive the nights I was scared for him to come home, the nights I was so quiet so maybe he would forget I existed and leave me alone.

I wanted to forgive him for not being able to let go of the drugs and the drinking so his children could have some semblance of a normal life.

I needed to forgive him for all the hurt, physical and mental, that he caused to me, my mom, and my brother.

But, it just didn’t happen. Even in the end, when he was too sick to talk anymore and he grabbed the phone to kiss it when I called because he couldn’t tell me anymore that he loved me, I still could not make that reconciliation happen in my heart. Even after it was over—after he was buried on my birthday that year, September 26, 2006, almost 6 months to the day after his diagnosis—I still couldn’t let go.

At the time, I had been reading Lisey’s Story by Stephen King. It was a story I could really relate to because of the theme of child abuse and how the character in the novel would travel to another world to escape that abuse. Because it was King, the kid actually traveled to some other realm, but for me, my escape was books. I would read to get away…a different book every day. I thought it was fitting to get the cover of that novel tattooed on my arm as my badge of courage for making it through such a shitty, scary situation, but even that didn’t help get me closure despite the fact that I included the cross from that cover for my father.

There was nothing I could do to force it. That’s what I didn’t realize. I was trying to make myself okay with everything that happened to make my childhood something out of a Lifetime movie, and I couldn’t. I pushed it to the backburner for awhile and moved on or thought I moved on at least. It was then, during that period, that I really began to find myself and figure myself out. It was then that I embarked on a musical evolution and began to find music that brought me peace once again after a bit of a hiatus. Music—music I like anyway--is my Xanax, Prosac, Zoloft. It elevates my moods. Harmonizes my emotions. Frees my spirit. It makes me more social, gives me goosebumps, and clears my mind of all the clutter of the day. Somewhere along my evolutionary road, I began to realize that Dad taught me all that. I can picture him clearly singing along to Don Henley's (from The Eagles) The Heart of the Matter. "I've been trying to get down to the heart of the matter. But my will gets weak and my thoughts seem to scatter. But I think it's about forgiveness. Forgiveness. Even if, even if you don't love me anymore." He'd turn it up on that part when he'd have company over and tell them to listen to that shit closely. It's a decent sad-old-bastard song. I can still sing along to most of it even now. It wasn’t just that one, though. It was so many songs, so many sounds and genres and bands. He loved, breathed, needed, lived for music.

He introduced me to some greats. Janis, Jimi, the Allman Brothers, the Stones, Zeppelin, Cream, Derek & the Dominoes, The Doobie Brothers, Charlie Daniels, Hank Williams, Waylon Jennings and more, more, more. Dad knew his shit, and it makes me smile to think back to him laughing, smiling, even tearing up over songs. I got my love of sharing music from him, too. I don't remember much about growing up....side effect of the childhood I had...but I do remember him making people listen to the different songs he loved and keying them in on the best parts while they had their drinks and whatever else may have been on the menu that day.

The realization that Dad taught me how to love music and really open myself up to it led me further. I got a lot from the old man; I’d just never been able to see it before. He gave me my openness, quick intelligence (he was a human calculator, no lie), my ability to speak my mind without fear, and my rebellious, non-conformist attitude—you should see pics of him in the 70s. All in all, so much of what I love about myself came from the person who also put me through hell growing up. Eventually, I saw the balance in things. He wouldn’t win a Father of the Year award, but he helped shaped me into the person I am today and in his own way, as evidenced by the kisses on the phone if nothing else, he did love me.


I would be much less of a woman if it weren't for you teaching me how much music could much it could move you and connect you to others. Thank you. It is about forgiveness, isn't it? I love you, you crazy sonofabitch.




  1. I can relate so much to your post. I have a similarly complicated relationship with my father. It challenges me every day. Thank you for sharing.

    1. I've found a lot of peace in reconciling with the past. In a lot of ways I wish it had happened before he was gone,

  2. Thank you for sharing this. It is so easy to try and force these things because we feel it is what we "should" do. In reality, they take time, as you found out. Very touching post.