I'm no poet, but when emotions are swirling through my mind and my head is crowded with thoughts, poetry provides an amazing release. I sit down and write a poem probably once or twice a year, but this was the first time that I'd ever shared any of my work.
Poetry allows a writer to express and explore raw feelings. No reasons. No stories. Pure emotion.
Our emotions are what unifies us as people. Regardless of their race, ethnicity, religion, sex, social status, sexual orientation, intelligence, education--everyone experiences love, happiness, passion, ecstasy, fear, nervousness, sorrow, pain and suffering. The words to describe these emotions, the causes that evoke them and the way a person deals with his/her emotions may differ from culture to culture and person to person, but everyone feels.
The holiday season always sends my emotions into over-drive, but as I grow older, the resentment, anger and sadness I am used to feeling time of year has given way to a much more powerful emotion, guilt.
My parents separated when I was just two-years-old. I have just one single memory of their brief time together. I was sitting at the top of our chocolate-brown carpeted steps, watching my parents through the wooden rungs of the banister, with my knees tucked into my chest and arms wrapped around my shins. I could hear yelling, the sound of glass breaking, and then I saw blood. Or, at least what I thought was blood. Turns out my father, in a fit of immaturity, had doused my mom with Heinz 57.
After my parents divorced, I lived a dual life. My mother and father shared dual custody. I had two very, very, very different families. My mom's house was the type of house that children should grow up in. In her house, I was encouraged, disciplined, loved and cared for. I wouldn't say I was spoiled, but I sure never went hungry.
At my father's house my life couldn't have been more different. He remarried three times, twice to the same woman (who he apparently just recently divorced again). With his wives came step-siblings for me, and with their inevitable divorces I would once again become an only child. He introduced me to the dark-side of life--to motorcycle gangs, a plethora of drugs, over-doses, criminal life and jail. By twelve years old, there wasn't a drug I hadn't seen done, and by the time I was sixteen, there wasn't one I hadn't tried myself. He was too fucked up to see anything wrong with doing hard drugs with his pre-teen daughter. He was too fucked up to remember to buy groceries. He was too fucked up to keep his promises and too far gone to love me.
Throughout my childhood, I bounced back and forth between these two worlds. Sometimes I would get tired of being hurt, and I would swear-off my father, his home and lifestyle. I would stay with my mom and wait for him to call. He never called.
His parents, my grandparents, used every Thanksgiving as an excuse to force my father and I together. He would make empty promises that things would be better if I came back...he wouldn't talk down to me anymore...I could have a kitten...There would be no more fighting...no more drugs.
Every year, I believed him. And, every year I was let down. My anger, resentment and sadness grew until is consumed me. I hated him and everything that made me think of him, including the holidays.
Now, I find myself consumed by a new emotion, guilt. I am no longer angry at my father. I feel sorry for him. He is financially ruined and in poor physical and mental health thanks to the bad decisions he's made throughout his life. I haven't spoken to him in a couple of years now. It hurts to much. Hearing his distant and faded "junkie" voice repeat the same things over and over, makes me sick to my stomach. The last time I stepped foot in his house, I literally threw-up. The last time I spoke to him on the phone, he blamed me for our failed relationship. I guess he has to lie to himself to live with himself.
I feel bad that I'm not strong enough to look past the past. I feel guilty that I don't try to have a relationship with my father. I feel horrible that I know he won't live much longer and that doesn't make me want to reconnect with him. I feel selfish because of my need for self-preservation. I feel frigid because I'm not sure I have any love left for the man who calls me his daughter. All of these emotions combine together to create a guilty feeling that eats away at my soul.
PS - Thanks to all of you who left comments on my poem. Your insights and support inspired me to write this post. Writing helps me understand and cope with my thoughts, and hearing from all of you reminds me that I'm not alone in my experiences. Thank you!