Friday, October 14, 2016

Montana: Part 2

Part 2 is a little lot harder for me to write. How do I put into words what it was like to see my dad after having no contact for 30 years? A man that has shown no interest whatsoever during that time.

My parents divorced when I was 5 years old. I believe we only had two visits with him immediately after they split. I remember sitting at a coffee table and coloring at his house. I remember (the best a 5 or 6 year old's memory could be) it being awkward and like he didn't know what to do with us (Sis and I).

At some point, he moved back to Montana. We never saw him again until I was 11, when he came back to Oregon and took us on the infamous camping trip. That was when we met Baby Sis. I was terrified for weeks prior to that camping trip. I was afraid he was going to kidnap us and never take us back home. I don't know why I had this fear, other than the fact that we really didn't know him very well. The two most vivid memories I have of that camping trip are being afraid we'd never see our mom again, and that Baby Sis cried pretty much the entire time. lol

When I graduated from high school, I mailed him a graduation announcement. When I got married, I sent him a wedding invitation. I never expected, or even wanted him to come, but I thought it was at least a way to let him know what was happening in my life. He never responded to either one.  It was at that point that I pretty much wrote him off, and it really never bothered me that much. I don't know why, other than maybe it's because my grandpa and uncles were such a big part of my life and filled in that missing link.

My grandpa and one of my uncles, my godfather, walked me down the isle.

The biggest reason for our trip to Montana was to visit and get to know Baby Sis. Another big draw for me was that I have always wanted to see where the paternal side of my family is from, and where my dad has lived all these years. While I've never felt a part of me was missing by not having him in my life, I did not want to leave without at least attempting to see him. I didn't want to go home with possible regrets, knowing that we were right there! I also wanted to know what he had to say for himself for the lack of contact all these years.

The three of us girls decided not to give him any notice that we were coming. Despite living only a few miles apart, Baby Sis has also had very little contact with our dad over the years, seeing him only a few times. We knew that we had to show up fairly early in the morning to catch him before he got drunk. We also knew the likelihood of catching him at home would be high, because he rarely goes anywhere.

We left all seven kids at home with the guys, and us three sisters drove to our dad's house. All three of us were shaking with nerves. When we knocked on the door, nobody answered at first. After several minutes, he opened the door, looked at us, and asked, "what can I help you with?"

I responded, "well, we are here to visit you."

At that point he invited us all in and we sat in his living room, along with his sister, who he lives with. It was awkward, with choppy conversation and nobody quite knowing exactly what to say. He was stone cold sober. He was full of excuses why he hadn't contacted us over the years. He didn't know where we lived, not good on the computer, doesn't like talking on the phone and not very good about writing, yada yada yada.

Sis and I gave him our addresses so that he couldn't use that as an excuse anymore, fully knowing that we would probably never hear from him again. He already knew where Baby Sis lived and had her phone number, but never reached out to her either.

Overall, it was an awkward but good visit. Baby Sis and Sis got to get things off their chests that they had always wanted to say to him. My curiosity over where he lived and what it would be like to see him was fulfilled. He had very little to say, but his sister filled in all the awkward gaps. She talked a lot actually, mostly all about pretty mundane stuff, but it did fill in the awkward silences.

We ended our visit by getting a picture with him, which I am glad about. He is the connection between us three girls. He told us that he would like to see us again before we left Montana. We still had a few days left of our trip, but didn't make any plans for that to happen.

After leaving his house, the three of us went to a park to take a deep breath and talk about our visit. Our emotions were pretty raw at that point. I had never really thought I'd ever see my dad again. I'm still kind of in shock that it actually happened.

We saw him on the Wednesday of our trip. On Thursday, he called Baby Sis and asked if we'd come visit again before we left. He said that we had shocked him with our visit and that he had felt like he was going to have a heart attack the whole time, that his heart had been pounding the entire time we were there. He told her that he had thought he would never see Sis or me again.

Our plan was to head for home on Friday afternoon, but the three of us decided we would go back for another visit Friday morning before we left, because who knew if we'd ever get the opportunity again. This time, he was well into his cups when we got there. He said he had gotten drunk so that he could be more himself during our visit. It definitely did help him to talk a hell of a lot more.

We all asked a lot of questions, trying to get to know him, and to learn more of what happened between our parents. Baby Sis was only 5 when her mom and him split up, just like I had been. Early on in our visit, we asked his version of what had happened between him and my mom, he inadvertently said some pretty hurtful things about Sis. He said that they had never planned on having kids so close together. There's five YEARS between us!!! He said that they had talked about giving her away, and he said that if it hadn't been for her, they probably would have stuck together.  What the bloody hell!?!!

My sister has always felt his absence way more than I have. She craved a connection with him and only wanted to know she was loved. I was so angry on her behalf to hear him say these things. I piped up and said, "well that's not very nice." Sis started crying.

Once he saw her crying, he started backtracking and saying that we misunderstood what he was trying to say. He said that wasn't at all what he had meant. It upset him to see her crying. He apologized and gave her a hug. Things ended up getting smoothed over, but it definitely left a damper on the rest of the visit.

We asked questions about his time served in Vietnam. We knew that he had fallen in love with a woman over there, and rumor had it that he had another daughter with her. We learned that the baby was not his, so no, we did not have another sister somewhere out in the world. We also learned that he had overdosed on heroin while in Vietnam, and they had sent him to Germany to get cleaned up. I have always known he was an alcoholic and smoked a lot of pot. I didn't know he had also been heavily into heroin and cocaine.

He drank a few more beers while we were there during this visit. He told us several times that he was "a bad, bad man."

I can remember a few things from when I was a kid and my parents were still together. My mom said that I had adored him. I remember him having tea parties with me. I remember dressing up wearing his work boots. I remember him playing with me when I was little. I asked him what his favorite memory was of me during that time. His answer was that his favorite memory was before I was even born. It was when he found out he was going to be a dad for the first time. I'm not going to lie. I was disappointed that he couldn't even come up with an actual memory of doing something with me, you know, when I was actually OUT of the womb.

He did say that he had received my wedding invitation. He said that he had really wanted to come but he had just started a new job and couldn't get the time off, and that he didn't have the money. Ummmm, I would have died if he'd actually come to my wedding. I hadn't sent it to him with the intention of actually WANTING him to come, but just as a way to say, "hey, here I am and this is what's happening in my life!" I had never even known for sure if he'd ever gotten my graduation announcement or wedding invite, so it did make me feel better that he at least acknowledged getting the invite. Although, it would have meant a whole lot more if he'd maybe sent a card or something at the time to just say congratulations.

Several times throughout this visit, he asked me if I was going to cry. It was almost as if he wanted to see that emotion from me, like he wanted me to cry. Sis had cried at the start of our visit when he said those hurtful things, and Baby Sis got a little teary a time or two. He kept looking at me and asking if I was going to cry too, right up to the moment we said our goodbye's. The funny thing is that I wasn't even remotely close to crying while we were there. I rarely ever cry in front of anybody. That's not to say that I don't cry, because I'm a huge sentimental sap and cry all the time. I just don't generally let people actually SEE me cry. That could be an entire blog post all by itself!

While I don't have any deep rooted feelings for the man that is our father, both Sis and Baby Sis do. His absence has been a bigger hole in their hearts than it ever was to me. They both craved a connection with him. They both can still say they love him. I definitely can't say that. While I don't feel any love for him at this point, he is still the man that gave me life. He's the person that gave me my freckles and the reason I'm not very tall. I may not love him, but I am still interested in him. He's still capable of making me feel turmoil as I sit here and write this.

Without a doubt, I can say that I'm glad that I got to see him again. What I can't say for sure is how I feel about that visit. If we had left it at just the first visit, I could say that it was awkward, but overall a good visit. After the second visit, I left with a feeling of distaste. I'm mad that he hurt Sis so much, when all she'd ever wanted was a relationship with him. I also saw firsthand what a drunkard he is. However, due to his loose tongue from being drunk, we did learn a lot more about him and were able to fill some gaps in our own history.

When it comes down to it, I'm just so incredibly thankful that he wasn't in my life. With the amount of drinking he has always done, and the drugs he had so heavily been into over the years... With my mom also being a drug addict (clean now for many years), I can only imagine the kind of childhood I could have had. I have a renewed appreciation for my mom's family and the normalcy they brought to my life. I will forever be grateful for them being there for Sis and me when our parents weren't.


  1. Dear Amber, thank you for sharing this post. You and your sisters have shown such grace and positivity in a tough situation. I hope you can all take something good from the experience. Jen

  2. Amber, you have such strength and grace. I am glad you got the chance to visit your dad, although I am sorry that you and your sisters didn't exactly get the warm fuzzy feelings you might have hoped for. ❤️💙💚

    1. Thank you so much Stacie. We didn't walk away with warm fuzzies, but I'm forever grateful that the three of us girls had the opportunity to visit him together.

  3. Oh, Amber!!! My heart just aches for you! I am shocked and upset over his comments to Sis! How incredibly hurtful to her and bless your heart for letting him know. I am so grateful that you got a picture with him as there is love there for you girls from him, he's just such a mentally sick human being with all of the drugs and drinking through the years that it is hard for him to show. You girls though are all VERY STRONG women, loving and nurturing (I may not know Baby Sis, but it shows in her comments and the pictures) and I pray that you all find a peace from having gone for both visits but especially the 2nd one. Neither were easy. I hope some day he reaches out to you 3 first so that you can maybe accept that he does love you all, just doesn't love himself so he can't love the 3 of you well. Love and a great big hug, Auntie!

    1. You wrote the perfect thing. Thank you for giving me a different perspective on him.

  4. Wow I have no idea what this would be like but it sounds like you handled it best as you could and were there for your sisters. You ladies have turned out to be fabulous women and mothers though and that is wonderful! I am so sorry it didn't go better for all of you.

    1. We think we turned out pretty great too, despite him! It was nice to show him what he's missed out on all these years. Thank you so much for your kind words.

  5. Wow that must have been really tough on all three of you. I'm so sorry that he wasn't around for you guys and that's terrible that he didn't live that far from your baby sister and never saw her. It sounds like maybe you got some closure from the visit?

    1. I don't know if it really brought closure exactly, at least not for me. It might have if not for the second visit and his words to my sister. I do know that Baby Sis did get some closure, so I am grateful for that because it was really important for her to finally be able to say the things to him she's wanted to all these years.

  6. Wow. What a powerful post. It's just so crazy. I have two sisters. I can't imagine how a father could just abandon his girls like that. I can't. I'm so proud of you for going and seeing him. That took a lot of guts (coming from me who despises awkwardness and confrontation). I've said this before to you, but I'm so glad you have these photos. <3

    1. Tony says the same thing, that he just can't comprehend how a father could walk away from his kids. It pains him to leave for work every Monday (after seeing them all weekend), let alone not seeing them for years!