My childhood was not a happy, classic story. In today's world, it isn't even uncommon. Sadly, my childhood was marked by physical abuse of my alcoholic father committed against every member of our family. When my dad was not drinking, he was a nice guy, which is why he could win people over for a period of time. But alas, the demons would never leave him alone and before long he'd be off drowning the pain, memories, fears - with alcohol and that person was NOT a nice person. He was violent, angry, physically abusive, mentally abusive. Many beatings were received for what ever reason he had convinced himself of at the time. And my mother took the worst by standing between her children and her husband.
In one night of a haze of violence, my Father was gone for years. Life became lean and simple, but it was quiet and safe. My dad would pop in and out of my life over the next 30 years. Always sober at first and drawing us in with his fun personality and stories, but it was always short lived. The pull of the alcohol always won him back. It was a vicious cycle that eventually killed him in May 2003. We had ended our relationship several years before and Rick and I were not part of his service. I sent flowers and a picture of Rick that was put into the coffin with Dad.
You do what you do....you go on and you live your life. Part of me always wondered why Dad could not give up the alcohol. I often wondered why he never apologized for his actions. I think he felt that because he was an alcoholic that was explanation enough. It wasn't, not for me. For my entire adult life, I wondered what happened to my dad to make him so broken and tormented him so badly that he drank to escape. Every little girl wants to feel loved and protected by her father. Looking back, I think he was so broken, he didn't know how to love his wife and children.
A few weeks ago, my Uncle David, came back into lots of Cope Family members lives via Facebook. A wonderful thing is going on there. I am learning so much about my father's family, getting to know family members and loving it. Discovering cousins who have much in common with myself. Yet, the one question I hadn't asked of my Uncle David was tell me about my dad, the good, the bad, the ugly. I was ready to see if I could finally make some of the puzzle pieces fit, find clarity and some answers to what broke my dad and maybe understand why he was the way he was.
My Uncle David was kind enough to write me a long, detailed email (and I'm sure doing that brought many painful memories back to him, as well). His email put some of the missing puzzle pieces into the puzzle of who I am. As I had suspected, my grandfather was a mean man - my dad left home early and joined the army and went to the Korean War. He was in and out of their lives too. Sober for a while and then the drinking would always resume and he would be gone again. When I read those words, I cried and my heart broke for this family. The siblings fought and held grudges, going for years without speaking to each other. I see the same pattern wanting to repeat itself in this generation. It needs to stop. I pray it will stop. Carrying grudges doesn't hurt anyone but ourselves. Bitterness and unforgiveness will destroy only ourselves.
I listened to the words of this song by Nicole Nordeman - called Someday. Cope Family - there is still ink in the pen of our family story. We can't change the past, but we can make the future better.