Patient Zero

As fate would have it there is drama with my aunt’s estate. She refused to write a will, convinced she would recover or drag out the battle. My dad is in an absolute tizzy over this and has been on the phone nonstop with banks and accountants. He’s not after the money himself; it was meant to go to my sister and me.

Quite frankly I was shocked there was any money left for anything or anyone. My aunt spent money like a drunken cowboy. She had a well paying job and no dependents, so while she was never in debt there wasn’t much concern for a rainy day.

Anyway I asked my husband to play interference with my dad because husband is much smarter about financial stuff than I am. Well somehow somewhere wires got crossed and my dad got pissed. He demanded we both call him that evening so we could all speak at once.

Right away I could tell my dad was drunk. I mouthed he’s drunk to my husband and pantomimed drinking from a glass.

How did I know my dad was drunk? My father is a highly functional alcoholic. He is very good at sounding sober when drunk. He rarely slurs words and can keep a clear train of thought. But there is a deep, ugly anger that comes out when he drinks. Think richard III combined with the impetuousness of a toddler.

I immediately recognized that anger in his voice, an anger I hadn’t heard in decades (I have avoided my father all my adult life). A dire chill ran through me and my heart sank to the floor.

My father started ranting at my husband in the most vile, insulting, demeaning manner imaginable… it was sheer hatred and malice. This was out of nowhere because my husband had done nothing to cause anger. My dad was simply drunk and stressed. As I sat there, phone clutched in hand, it occurred to me this is what I grew up with as a child- every.day.of.my.life.

My eyes welled over with tears. I’m sorry, I mouthed to my husband. I’m SO sorry.

As horrible as my husband has been these past five months, I was overwhelmed with sorrow and shame for how my dad was speaking to him. I was *this* close to telling my dad, Dude, keep the money and enjoy it but don’t ever contact me again. But I thought of my kids and how they might benefit from the money and kept my mouth shut.

Dad hung up on us. I went into the bathroom and started crying and crying. Because, let’s face it, everything comes down to this man. Whether genetics or what he put me through as a child, you don’t need a PhD in psychology to see my behavior and choices with men all come back to this piece of work.

ALL the men I get involved with fall into one of two categories:

Highly intelligent men who are emotionally stunted or unavailable (this is my dad when sober).

OR, abusive, volatile men with substance abuse issues (this is my dad when drunk).

So there I sat on the bathroom floor weeping. Look… my choices are my own; my actions are entirely my responsibility. But my mind traced through time all the guys I fucked, or who abused me, like a sad numberline with my dad as patient zero.

My husband came to the bathroom door. I’m okay, I said before he spoke. I’m just SO SORRY he spoke to you like that.

My husband laughed and was surprisingly light hearted. Don’t worry about me, he said. If someone wants to call me a nigger for X dollars I’ll be smiling all the way to the bank.

The next morning my dad called at exactly 8am to apologize. My biggest surprise is that he remembered anything. Like me, he is prone to alcohol induced brownouts. I’m fairly certain there are large segments of my childhood he has no memory of.

Don’t worry about it I repliedmy voice was so gentle I barely recognized it, and I hung up the phone with infinite sorrow.

2 thoughts on “Patient Zero

  1. It’s amazing – the residual leftovers that our parents imprint on our lives. If they only knew what they do to our self-esteem, our emotions, and how quickly our inner, scared child surfaces …. perhaps they would learn to control their words and actions.

    Your dad sounds like my brother-in-law; a highly functioning drunk. I honestly think that if my BIL stopped drinking, it would kill him. And to think I was in love with him as a teenager. If I knew then what I know now ….

    I’m sorry you had to be subjected to that kind of abuse, once again. I hate it for both of you – but at least your husband took it in stride.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Your dad seems similar to how my dad was. He was a very intelligent functional alcoholic with difficulties with emotions.
    I fell for a lot of distant, highly intelligent boys/men back in the day. It was as if I had a special radar for them.
    Funny how life works. Sorry about your dad. I am going through the verbal abuse stuff now with my sister, who is an alcoholic, but not always a functional one.

    Liked by 1 person

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