“You’re just like your father.”

If my mom wanted to drive her point home, that’s what she said. It wasn’t a compliment. Every time somebody would say, “she looks just like Jeff”, my mother would cringe.

My Grandmother once said that my father was the biggest con artist she ever met. And to be honest, by her account, my dad took a lot of money from my grandparents right before he bolted. My uncle told me that my Grandfather’s  only comment after he met my dad was “don’t buy a car from that man”. Ironically eventually he sold cars.

Most of my memories of my father are not good. Some are pretty violent, like when he hit my mom in the stomach when she was pregnant. That is my first memory of my dad.  The next is him hitting me because I threw my doll in the fish pond outside our home.

After he left my mom he moved back to California, I didn’t see him a lot. Maybe once every two years. Turns out that was a blessing. I was blessed enough to have an outstanding Mother and Grandmother (in spite of them being neurotic).  I thank G-d everyday for my mother, in spite of her hang ups, she was amazing. Without her, my sister and I would have been a hell of a lot more screwed up than we already are :). And surely we wouldn’t have laughed as much.

The last time I saw him, I was fifteen.  I found his stash, and I just wanted to go home.  I never saw him again, and rarely spoke with him. By the time he died I hadn’t  spoken with him in 20 years. But then a lot of people hadn’t.

My history with my father involves every type of abuse possible. Stuff that if you’re lucky to survive mentally, then you’re just lucky.  His legacy to me was a history of self-loathing, Bulimia, compulsive eating, self-doubt, emptiness etc. Even as a teenager I was so scared of him that if I broke something or messed up I would lie about what happened. To be honest, I was traumatized.

For years I believe that I was the problem. He did the things he did because I wasn’t good enough, smart enough, pretty enough, or any of things kids think make their parents love them. I was simply undeserving of his love or anybody else’s.

It’s taken a lot of painful therapy to work through to the truth. My father was a broken man. He was drop dead gorgeous, oozed charm and wit, but I doubt he could look himself in the eye and smile.  I’ve had to work through fears of becoming my father, because after all I have half his chromosomes. I mean he gave me life, I must carry remnants of him.

On Wednesday the circumstances of my father’s death became clear. After leaving his second wife and my siblings he fell apart. He moved to the South and died alone and a pauper. His body was unclaimed in the hospital for several weeks. He became an agenda item at a city council meeting.

My life will not change because now I know for sure what happened to him. All of us will go on, as we have, without him in our lives. That was the decision he made. If he had only reached out, said he was sorry, and made amends I would have forgiven him. He was my father and regardless of anything and everything he did to me, I loved him.

I know I am not my father. I know that his demons are not mine. They belong with him buried in a pauper’s grave.

We must never stop trying to reach out and say we’re sorry. We must love each other unconditionally. We must never stop saying I love you. I tell my children 100 times a day. I say it so they’ll never feel like they are less than 100% perfect in my eyes.

To the people in my life that I love, you are perfect in my eyes.  I love each of you for the glorious people you are, with all your faults and because of them. I wish just once my father had said that to me.

I love you Dad, I just wish you’d loved yourself.  Rest in Peace.