Here I am in my room, listening to the acoustic version of "Skeletons" by one of my favorite bands (the Yeah Yeah Yeahs)...and I'm finally ready to write down what's been happening lately, something I've been trying to avoid. But something I can't continue pretending isn't happening.
My family is falling apart. My tiny family of three, consisting of only my mother, father, and I. My little family has always been close, we're all we have. Although my mother has family in South Korea and talks to her sister on a weekly basis, she hasn't been back since she left in 1989. I don't know if it's because her parents passed and she doesn't have an obligation to - or if she really doesn't care to revisit like she's claimed before. She did live there for 33 years after all...I suppose if I lived in Fontana for 33 years (not happening), which could be comparable to Seoul though it isn't a "big city," I wouldn't want to desperately revisit it either. But at the same token, after twenty-one years? Well, maybe.
When it comes to my dad's side of the family, it's your quintessential dysfunctional train wreck of relations. Everyone has family secrets. But the Garners have more than your average messed up family. I hardly know any of my relatives on the Garner side and, to be quite frank, I wouldn't want to meet a few of them either. My dad was raised by my great-grandmother (whom I never met considering my dad is 71) until he was 7 - only infrequently visited by his mother. My grandmother (who died when I was 3) was, as my father often puts it, "a crazy woman." Fiery, rebellious, she got pregnant with my dad at 19, married the man (first husband Garner), divorced him after she found out he would rather abort my father and dumped him at her mom's for whatever reason until she got remarried. The only love my father ever knew was from his grandmother - he's told me this multiple times. From his mom's second marriage he gained two brothers, Stanley and Mike, who have always been a big disappointment to my dad for as long as I can remember. When Stanley was born, my dad was 9. 11 when Mike was born. My dad was more like their caretaker than brother. My grandmother, being who she was, would frolic and have her fun, often leaving my dad to do her job - that is cook, clean, watch over Stan and Mike, change diapers, clothe them, do laundry, and whatever other so-called "feminine things" mother's are known to do. His stepfather was a cook in the Navy, and my dad was a military brat for most of his childhood. Stan and Mike's father was simply a provider and "semi-father" to his biological sons, and nothing more than a solid provider to my dad. My dad used to always tell me that his lack of a father drew him closer to God, that although he didn't have an earthly father, he didn't lack a heavenly one. There's a lot of things I won't know about my dad's childhood - those things parents choose not to tell their children. What I do know is that regardless of his family, he did thoroughly enjoy his childhood and misses it from time to time, like anyone with a good childhood does. But why am I writing all this down? To gain a perspective on what's happening now.
I don't know exactly when his drinking problem started, or how or even really why - all I know is that he has one now. And it's almost a daily battle in our household, an honest poison leaking into what I once thought of as a near-perfect family.
When I was younger my dad was working two full-time jobs. So I didn't see him as much as some people might have seen theirs as a kid (or quite the opposite) and of course we did go on family vacations, and occasionally do father-daughter bonding things (like when he took me fishing at Seal Beach and I caught my first and only fish at 7 or to the San Diego Zoo or, of course, when he'd take me to Disneyland), but as a youngster I saw my dad as this dear, dear figure whose mere presence filled me with this kind of impalpable joy. Not to say that I loved my father more than my mother, etc, it was simply different between the two. I felt such admiration towards him and craved his approval. Growing up, I wanted very much to be like him. Living in our old apartment in Los Alamitos, I clearly remember my dad coming home, dressed to the nines in his military uniform, all professional - something about that uniform, the way my mother and I took it to the dry cleaners every week, how he'd let me unfold his Air Force hat and place it atop his head - it just made me that much more proud and happy that this important person was mine. I would just light up as a little girl - happy my dad was home with my mom and I. When I was young, my parents never fought. I never heard them even once argue. The first time I heard my parents fight was when I was 13, and that was heart shattering as anyone whose experienced it knows. But it was only that once. Gradually, they started "bickering" more - just little disagreements that were settled within minutes. But other than that, nothing more. Both my parents are very religious, and we used to go to church as a family up until we moved to Fontana when I was 9. That's when my dad started working not only weekdays but weekends, to help pay for our new house since my mom didn't work. Being that age, I didn't realize the stress my dad was going through to make those mortgage payments and pay the bills. My dad rarely showed if he was stressed. It wasn't until I was 15, 16 that my dad started to "act his age" - in other words, he grew more sentimental, got hurt easier - they "toughen up" (get more stubborn) and they also become less mature and super sensitive with age ironically - at least in my experience with my father. If I was spending too much time with my friends or boyfriend, he would tell me "Well what about me? What about your dad?" And ever since then it's been the same thing - ever since I was 15 I've known my dad felt unappreciated a lot of the time. As a teen, I KNOW I spent way more time with my parents than most of the other kids my age. My parents and I would go out almost 2-3 times a week, watching movies, eating out, going to Starbucks, just talking or staying home and spending time together as a family. When I went to college at UCSB...I didn't consider that life at home would be different if/when I came back. When I was away, my parents fared well without me, even though they missed me. When I transferred home it was like the floodgates of misfortune decided to rain down upon me. Not to waste more space about my past relationship, but getting over it really took its toll on me. I didn't want to be at home, where all I'd do was think about why it failed, how miserable I was, so I made it a point to go out and do something everyday. Open up, make friends, and I got so carried away I was hardly and, to be honest, am still hardly ever home (not to mention school and work). My mom got a job, one she still has, and she's hardly ever home either. In fact, my dad is the one who's home most now - alone. I didn't think this could ever turn into a bad thing but it did. What I found out is that my dad is weak-minded. That the person I held so much high-esteem for was...not who I thought him to be. In his drunken stupor he spouts that I set too high of standards for him, that he's not perfect, and he feels so justified about drinking it makes me sick to my stomach. I'm not going to go into detail because there's just so much to be said, and it will only make me feel worse about this whole situation, but my family is on the rocks as it were. I've tried everything and as far as what happened a few nights ago, I'm only just recovering from a huge falling out with my dad. I can't change him, my mom can't change him. God help us. I know a lot of people go through this, in fact I know a lot of people who have - and my friends are really my rock right now. I can't thank God enough for them and for how much strength they've given me. I keep telling myself that this will make me stronger - just like my last relationship did - but just like that scenario, the damage is done. Except now it's family. I can make this work, but my dad needs to be willing. I used to think my dad and I were made from the same cookie cutter but I am a lot unlike him than I once thought. I won't ignore his problem, I'll scream and kick and yell everyday if I have to. But I'll never give up, I'll never stop even though he's unwilling - I have hope that one day he'll realize what he's done/what he's doing - and honestly, that's all I got.