I’ve always had a love-hate relationship with my father.
I love him because he’s my father. And he was relatively good to us.
However, I hate what he has become, an invalid trapped in the prison of his own body. I hate his current situation because I think he had a choice. I think he let himself become imprisoned and this has also shackled my mother to his hospital bed. I hate this prison because he can’t play with my kids. I hate it because I bought a house within a mile of his and he’s never been able to set foot inside of it. I hate it because I’m afraid I will become just like him. I hate it because I feel the same weaknesses inside of me.
I hate it because I fear it’s inevitable.
So part of this journey for me is exploring that relationship with my father. What is genetic? What is inevitable and what can I fight? Part of this journey is to ensure that the sins of my father are not passed on to my children. Part of this is to not do to my family what my father has done to mine. Part of this is to learn what traps my father fell for. Part of this is to see if I can learn to forgive him for falling for those traps. Part of this is to give back to the world for all that it has given to me. Part of this is to fight the laws of entropy and gain one inch for the forces of light and energy.
My father has always been heavy. He claims he was heavy as a young child, and I’ve seen some pictures where he looked a little soft but only in that kind of baby fat sort of way. He wasn’t obese as a child. And by the time he was in high school, he was interested in riding horses. And the military and he was quite trim. He went to the Citadel for college and was of course, in even better shape. And then he served in the army in Korea and Vietnam which is where things might have gone wrong although my father never spoke about it very much. I know he suffered some traumatic experiences in Vietnam, especially his heart was on being career military. He loved the military ever since he was a kid. But his experiences in Vietnam convinced him that we were not there to win. There were political games afoot that disillusioned my father.
After a number of tours and some successful operations my father resigned his commission and moved back to America. He married my mother and struggled to find a job he enjoyed. I can honestly say the only time I really saw my father happy was when he was with his horses. He never seemed happy at work. He tried being an insurance salesman and working at a hardware store, but eventually he started his own real estate business. He met with some moderate success at one point owning a number of different offices around North Florida but he eventually consolidated down to one office and a few salesmen. And by the time I was in college, he decided having salesman wasn’t even worth it. So he just ran the business by himself with one administrative assistant.
During these years, he gradually gained weight. He tried to do things to lose it, but it always came back. I remember we bicycled to New Orleans when I was 13 and he must have been about 44. That was an almost 500-mile bicycle ride that we did in five days. But I remember him being overweight and nearly bedridden once we were done. He would make grand gestures like that about losing weight and then fall back into the trap of alcohol and sugar.
He relied heavily on alcohol every night. He never did anything terrible like beating us or cheating on my mother or missing work. But he was most certainly addicted to alcohol and when he drank he would often indulge in a bowl of ice cream. I think these were his forms of self-medication for a life that disappointed him. He sometimes struggled financially but not because of actual poverty but more because it seemed like he bought things he didn’t really need. At one point we had a beach house. At another point we had a lake house. He had a lot of expensive things that had to do with the horses. All of these things put stress on him. And when he was stressed he would drink and eat, which caused him to gain weight, which caused him more stress.
And now, here we are, bed-ridden, morbidly obese, with no energy or will to free himself. Can I learn from his mistakes? Can I find the key to his prison? Can I save myself or my son? And how will my son look back on my life when he is my age?