What is family?

The question of family has been in my thoughts for many years, something that has nagged me as I read accounts of others describing the loyalty they felt towards family members, or the hurt they felt when their family did not live up to their expectations.

When I was very young, I think I may have felt a certain closeness to my family, but as the years past and I understood more of what was happening around me, that feeling began to wane.  At first the distance between my Father and I began to widen, as I realized how damaged he was, an alcoholic, verbally abusive to my Mother and my Sister to a small degree, I realized quickly that although he had much anger to spend on me it always seemed to focus more on the women of our household.

How far do we go when we say we need to “understand” others better?  That we need to withhold judgment on them because we cannot possibly understand all that they have gone through in their lives and so must show patience and kindness, to help them find a better path by virtue of living a good life ourselves.

But what do you do when no matter what you do, when no matter how long you have been patient, no matter how much you UNDERSTAND their reason for being how they are, they refuse to change or even attempt to work on their problems and so trap you in a vortex of anger and negativity so great it drives you to bestial screaming and waves of tears?.

Does my Father deserve more patience simply because he is my Father?.

This has driven me mad over the years, the constant warring in my mind over whether I am the guilty one for wanting nothing to do with him, and so I have gone back and forth, putting distance between us and then attempting to close the gap as I have gotten older and thought I could do more to help him move past his pain. And he has every right to feel pain, he grew up in an even more abusive family, a drunkard Father who beat on his Mother and his Brothers and Sisters, a rough life, poor and surrounded by gangs, having to flee at 17 to the United States because he got on the wrong side of a criminal, moving from place to place until his late 20s, and being a drunken philanderer the whole time of it.

All of my Fathers family ended up as alcoholics, broken, but my Father managed to hold onto my Mother for 15 years, had my Sister and I and somehow did not become the physically abusive monster his own Father was, and this is not even mentioning some other terrible things that happened to him.

A rough life indeed….but how far do we go for family?.

Perhaps it was due to dealing with my Father for so long on my own after my Mother left and then my Sister, but eventually I just stopped feeling much to a certain degree, took on an analytical view of life, and family just stopped meaning much of anything to me. Yet as I have grown I have realized that it is not that I do not feel anything, more that there is so much emotion trapped within me that I am terrified to let it all out.

Over the years I have given my Father repeated chances to change, staying with him at his place so that he is not alone, and each time he has driven me to leave, incapable of dealing with his drinking and anger. The last time, around 6 months ago, I thought I could deal with him, I was older and wiser I told myself, I just had to do my own thing when he was drinking and I would be fine, instead on two occasions he drove me to such rage that I lost control completely, screaming in a way I do not remember doing since I was a child, as well as crying somewhat like a madman.  At that point I realized I could not do this anymore, that in trying to be near him I was becoming him, losing myself to a torrent of anger I could not control.

And so I left, this time for good. I cannot completely remove him from my life, but it is as close as can be at this moment, and I feel quite relieved by it. The caveat is that if he proves to me he has gone a year without alcohol and is in a program to get help, I will give him another chance.

I still wonder if I am in the wrong, if I should be there for him as his son, to help him through it, but how can I? he does not want to help himself, and I have so many of my own issues to deal with it I know it would damage me more.

So…what is family? what does it mean to be tied by blood? does it mean that no matter how much someone hurts us we must stay by their side, even if it destroys us?.

I ponder this question, yet I have made my choice, I have chosen myself, because to be a better person I need to focus on my own issues and not be dragged down year after year by someone who is stuck in their past even after 30 years of being free of it.

Perhaps I have made the wrong choice, but its a choice I can see no alternative too.

3 thoughts on “What is family?

  1. I went off the grid from my father for over a decade. I didn’t even let my brother know how to contact me or where I lived because I knew he would rat me out and my mental health depended on it. Good for you for putting yourself first. My family comprises of the people I choose to call family: friends, their parents, my husband, etc. I used to feel guilty about it, then I had a friend tell me, “if he died tomorrow, it doesn’t make him any less of an asshole while he was alive.” Point noted. Thanks for sharing your journey. Peace.

    Liked by 1 person

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