Today is Mom’s birthday; yesterday was Dad’s. Dad died when I was 29, Mom when I was 31. It’s been interesting to see how these birthdays make me feel as I’ve lived more and more years without parents (long enough that I don’t remember their voices). This year the feeling seems to be “they did the best they could with the hand life dealt them”. 

Was it ideal? Absolutely not. Was it awful? Sometimes. Were there good days? Yes, for sure. 

What I’ve noticed though is that human nature seems to have the ability to blot out the good days with the laundry list of bad days. Dad made this particularly easy for us; he drank too much, he squandered his money, he allegedly had another family in another town, he became violent when he drank, etc. I cannot and will not give up on the fact that there were good days too. I cling to that no matter how much people want to focus on what went wrong. 

He passed away when I was 29 years-old just as I was coming to grips with my own concepts of being a man – I barely had enough emotional energy for that, let alone try to empathize with a father that I hadn’t been given a chance to know. 

When I was 3 or 4 years old Mom finally got the gumption to leave Dad which was obviously her choice and likely the best thing she could have done for her own safety and happiness. At that time the only way a woman could get a divorce without her husband’s signature was to be a resident of Nevada. Halfway through kindergarten in Michigan, off we went to live in Nevada and that’s when he became an absent father. 

I had a few chances after we moved back to Michigan to spend some time with him as a teenager but the chance to get to know him, to bond with him, etc had passed long before that. Being a teenager is tough enough as it is, being clear-headed enough during that time to see the opportunity to get to know one’s father too is a bit too much too ask to be honest. Those weekends I just felt trapped in a stranger’s house counting the time until I got to go home. 

The time between leaving Dad when I was a toddler and when I had to spend the weekends with him as a teenager I had heard SO MANY horror stories about him, that it has taken living my entire life to be able to give him a break and empathize with him. All the dark stories I had heard blotted out any good experiences that I had had with him before we left.

On his birthday the year I was 41 years old, it dawned on me that that was the same age he was when I was born, and that he had EIGHT children by then, and at that same age I didn’t know if I wanted the responsibility of having a dog, let alone EIGHT children. It was in that moment that i started to see life through his eyes a little. Did he make bad choices? Yes. Have I? OMG absolutely. But I’m doing the best that I can, and so did he.

I’m 51 this year as his birthday passes me by and I wonder if he’d like the man that I’ve become. My decision to not have children has a lot to do with him, because if my dad was so awful as I had been taught, then I thought that I was likely to be the same, and I wanted to break the cycle. As I sit here today I wonder if he would be proud of who his 51 year-old son has become. 

When it comes down to it, I’m doing the best that I can, just like my dad did.

6 thoughts on “I ‘m Doing The Best That I Can”

  1. I wonde the same thing about my parents as well Drew – particularly my dad. Mom was still alive when I started working at Kinder Morgan but dad had been dead 11 years by the time I started here. Yesterday was the anniversary of Mom’s death and Wednesday will be the anniversary of Dad’s. I wish they were here to see what we’ve all become.

  2. My mom was the abusive person in my parents’ relationship. My dad ended up running away to California the Christmas I turned 13 – his own mother had died in the spring that year. I always wondered if he would have stayed longer had she not died then. Well into my 40s, I wondered why he didn’t take my brother and me with him, or at least me since my brother was my mother’s favorite child. Why wasn’t I good enough to go? At some point I stopped wondering and caring – it was what it was and it was done and over with. I was very much a grown up before I could empathize with his situation. I never talked to him or saw him again after he left – he died in California six or seven years ago. My mother died twenty years ago.

    Would they have been proud of the person I became? I have no idea. I’m satisfied with my life as it was and is now, and that should be all that matters. The need for parental approval, sadly, does not die with the parents.

  3. Hello Drew,

    I was always glad for the time we had to share at shows. And I have always known you to be doing the best you can. I have come to terms with the same things, different stories but same thing. I am now 2 1/2 hours from my home and grandchildren staying with my 92 year old mother. Only took 47 years of therapy to get here. Hugs, Jo

  4. This was so touching Drew. I’m so sorry for what you went through in your childhood. And yes….he would be very very proud of you. And so would your Mom. Your children are your pups so you make a great father also❣️ I wish I could write as beautifully as you just did. I felt your words straight through to my heart.

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