Wednesday, October 21, 2009

My Faux Pas...

So tonight I got this really interesting voice mail from my dad who lives in Kentucky.

He said, "Hello, it's dad calling. I just wanted you to know that I'm in the hospital. I almost drank myself to death tonight. The number here is, xxx-xxx-xxxx."

There were voices in the background telling him the number as he repeated it over the phone.

I didn't call him back.

My Frigging Idiot Father
You might have read previous blogs in which I talked about Mark K and Jonathan competing in The World's Dumbest Smart Guy championships. Well, despite all their qualifications, my dad's got them beat by a country mile.

My dad grew up in Finland. When he was fourteen and his father was overseas in the US, the Russians invaded Finland making it impossible for his father to return until the end of the war. So, my dad tutored calculus to college students in order to help pay the bills.

When he went to MIT to study electrical engineering, he would take advanced math classes for fun. He would complete the supposedly impossible-to-complete three hour final exams in just a couple of hours and then go back through his test and enumerate the steps required to get each answer. The professors would then post his exam as the answer key as he never missed even one question.

A Brief Interruption
Excuse me a moment, it's Mark K calling on Skype...

OK, I'm back! As I conversed with Mark, I typed everything he said... He gave me some advice regarding my dad, told a couple of jokes, interrupted our call to talk to Vadim (trying to include Vadim by holding his iPhone up to his computer's camera), and generally said things like:

"No... see... what I understood is... No, I don't have a theory or interpretation, but, well, umm, his actions... uhhh... So, a man and a woman both buy tickets on an overnight train via the Internet..."

I said, "Mark, when I type everything you're saying, it becomes immediately clear that you never actually pursue a train of thought to it's conclusion."

Mark said, " I just want all of you in the blogoverse to know that Teflon is trying to get me to write his blog for him. Now may I please talk to Iris...

Back to Dad
While cruising through MIT, my got a summer job in Manhattan where he met my mom who was studying music at Columbia. My mom was from South Carolina, her family having been there since the 1600's. My dad was just off the boat from Finland. My mom was a singer who couldn't do math to save her life. My dad can't carry a tune in a bucket, as they say. My mom was an extrovert. My dad the silent type. She was the queen of the prom. He was a nerd. They were pretty much polar opposites. It was a marriage made in heaven.

I'm not sure exactly when my dad took up the pastime of consuming as much vodka as possible before passing out, but I can remember different incidents as a young teenager where he would just seem out of it and get really belligerent.

My mom grew up Southern Baptist and a teetotaler. So, we didn't talk about alcohol, let alone alcoholism. As a kid, I was instructed not to mention things like beer and wine when we visited my grandparents in South Carolina. Even as we shipped my dad off to rehab at Hazelden, my mom wouldn't say that he was an Alcoholic. So, it was pretty much up to the kids to do something about his drinking.

When is Enough Enough?
I can't count all the times I've bailed my dad out of a touchy situations, cleaned up after him, reconciled his finances, sorted his paperwork, appeased those he'd offended, got him into programs, found people to help him, and generally navigated his wake.

I can't estimate the number of relationships he's burned through: people who were good friends who finally gave up or were simply afraid to have him around. Over the past five years, he's pretty much exhausted the good will of everyone in his life. At times, it's come down to just me and Iris.

The crazy part is that my dad doesn't seem to appreciate or have any gratitude for any of our help. Every once in a while he seems a bit humbled by his past actions and their effect indicating that he holds a lot of judgments about them, but he never says, "thanks".

When he does get himself into trouble, he expresses entitlement. He calls or has the doctor call or has the cop call expecting me to do something.

I think that this time, I'm not going to do anything.

As you might have noticed, I'm feeling a bit emotional about this whole thing. I feel sad. I feel angry. I also have a sense of determination and a feeling of freedom.

What do you think?



  1. from my experience with a family member who also 'choose' to self-medicate with alcohol to numb ones senses from the habit of experiencing a lack of joy/happiness.....what you write of your Dad fits quite a common pattern for what is referred to as 'functioning alcoholics' I gather he's never motivated himself to explore option... bw
    ps did you ever hear of the special done on the predominent Finnish psyc. by was it W5 or the other reknowned investigative reporting show?

  2. I'm confused,(nothing new;)) Is this written by Iris, her bio? It shows as from teflon(Mark)though talks of being interrupted by Mark, and what Mark said, etc???

  3. Hi BW, the Mark I refer to is Mark Kaufman.

    Interestingly, I think my dad has taken at least 10 programs at the Option Institute, the first just after my mom died.

    The programs had an amazing transformative effect albeit short-lived. My dad would seem to really get it for a while. He'd drop his judgments, let go of religiousity, and really come to life. He was a new man.

    Then slowly, he'd start reincorporating judgments into his life. Judgment led to regret. Regret led to depression. Depression led to drinking.


  4. Programs are great.
    Each makes their own choices though, moment to moment.....sounds like there was lots of dialogue opportunities. Some find dropping the me victim hat difficult, or perhaps threatening, scary.......?

  5. BW, I'm reminded of the Marianne Williamson poem that Nelson Mandela recited at his inauguration. Essentially, it's our strength that we fear, not our weakness.

    When we dismiss our own potential for strength, we often dismiss it in others as well.

    It seems to be a cycle in one way or another.

  6. Fear, doesn't exist, its simply a lacking of love/trusting......Quality of choice follows in kind....Creatures of free choice, to change or to not, I celebrate...

  7. Getting off topic, intent was to encourage being with your father(s) whilst you have the opportunity, with your continuing learning with option, how to be loving......I sense his lonliness bw

  8. The blog was very thouching - interrupted my the funny and very accurate Mark K part.

    And then the comments reminded me of the blogs on "why do people keep comming back to work on the same issues as last time".

    I'm looking forward to my next trip to the Berkshires and the great people - many of who I have seen made continiously changes.

    Love Joy

  9. Joy, which blogs were they?

    "the blogs on why do people keep comming back to work on the same issues as last time".

    What comes up for you in your understanding of this? bw

  10. Hey Joy,
    Now that you bring it up, this thing with my dad is a recurring theme for me.

    What's different and what's the same?

    Well, I still find myself getting a bit emotional about this kind of stuff when it happens. I think I see myself as somewhat responsible for doing something about it and at the same time feeling it would be a waste of time.

    One the other hand, I process everything much more quickly. What used to be a pervasive sense of responsibility and not doing enough became an something that would occur occasionally (perhaps lasting for days or weeks). Now every once in a while, when my dad's doing his thing, I may get into a funk for a bit, but it lasts only a few hours.

    Just the same, only different.

    Really looking forward to seeing you soon.

  11. What perhps is useful, is identifying what is different about the beliefs chosen which lead to a diffent experience for one. For me a biggie would be increasing ability to accept, that 'Dad' is doing the best he's currently aware of, to travel a path that is 'known and comfy' rather than dare to explore the unknown of doing himself differently. bw

  12. For me, it's not believing that I'm responsible for someone else's actions or behaviors no matter how much they or others would want me to believe it.

  13. lol, right on....years ago I stumbled upon a wisdom that I often remind myself of....what another says or does,(believes,) is none of "my business"

    I'm learning to accept and to celebrate everyone's right to choose for themselves.....all I might ask occasionally is, how's it working for you? from a place of awe, and respect. bw


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