Happy Imperfect Father’s Day – Living Amends in Recovery

I once bought a card that said something like, “to the dad who is always kind, fair…” and a bunch of other positive attributes. My dad wrote back saying, “That’s a lot to live up to.”

fathers-dayTraditionally for Father’s Day, I go to the card store and read a bunch of cards that make me depressed. “Thanks for always being there!” “Thanks for teaching me golf!” “Thanks for being a great role model!” Where’s the “I am who I am despite you” card? Ew. That’s unattractive. One time I tried a more positive approach and bought a card that said something like, “To the dad who is always kind, fair,” and a bunch of other positive attributes. My dad wrote back saying, “That’s a lot to live up to.”

So here it is, another Father’s Day, and this year is a little different than previous ones, in that my stepmom was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and is only a fraction of the person we knew her to be. A couple months ago, my dad had to put her into a secure facility and he’s living on his own for the first time in forty years. My reaction is avoidance. Happy Father’s Day!


I made amends to my dad and stepmom last year. For cool stuff like being unappreciative, for acting disrespectfully as a teenager, and for not staying in touch with them consistently afterwards. They said it wasn’t necessary to make amends. My stepmom gave me a tearful hug and, in the months that followed, sunk quickly into the nightmare of paranoia, fear, and physical fragility that accompanies Alzheimer’s. Time is precious. No time for avoidance.

Many people in the “rooms” suggested that as a living amends, I try to call once a week since I live 3,000 miles away. Some people said call once every two weeks. Some said once a month. Some said email. When things escalated with my stepmom, I called my dad more frequently to offer support. I had to learn to respect his process and not give unsolicited advice. (Hello Al-Anon and powerlessness.) The last phone conversation with my dad felt awkward. It felt like he wanted to get off the phone. Like I was boring him. I told that to a friend of mine who’s not in the rooms and she said, “why don’t you ask him? Or just tell him how you feel.” “What?!” I exclaimed. “Communicate? Are you crazy?”

In the pre-Alzheimer’s days when I would call, my dad would say, “Hold on, let me get your stepmom.” When I’d come for a visit and ask my dad if he’d like to go on a walk (so I could have some one-on-one time) he’d say, “Let’s see if your stepmom wants to come.” I don’t know if this has anything to do with the fact that I used to be attracted to unavailable men. (Hello SLAA.) My therapist once told me that if I’m attracted to unavailable men, chances are, I’m unavailable. The apple doesn’t fall far from the dad. But back to the phone. A long time ago, my dad told me that he didn’t really like the phone. He said it was the bearer of bad news. (That’s how he learned my sister had died in an accident and then, years later, that my stepbrother had killed himself.) So maybe calling him isn’t the way to go. He seems to like email. He’s a writer, like me. But now I’m writing this instead of emailing him. Read more “the fix”…


This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.