Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Hi Dad, Long time no see

Many people reading my stories have asked about my dad. Did I ever have contact with him? What became of him?  Why did he have nothing to do with me?  This post should answer your questions.



As I said earlier, my mom's Last Will and Testament wasn't even close to being the watershed event that determined how I feel about her...


My mom died quite a few years ago. There were some things that she insisted on in her will and in person before she died. One of them was that she was to have no funeral or memorial what-so-ever. She was to be cremated and sent off without any fanfare. My brothers knew she died, my family knew, and I made sure her immediate friends (there were few) knew.


One of her life long friends was a woman named Wanda. I somehow found her phone number in another state and called her. During our conversation she asked me if I'd ever been in touch with my father. I told her what my mom had always said to me. That he had another family and didn't want to ever see me again. She said that was too bad and we got off the phone.


Three days later my phone rang, it was Wanda again. She told me she gotten in touch with my dad and he told her to have me call him. The piece of paper with his phone number on it, sat on my kitchen counter for over 3 weeks before I mustered up the courage to call him. When I called, I was expecting him to say pretty much what my mom said. That he had a new life and didn't want to talk to me. After 35 years of no contact, I still wanted to see him. He did in fact sound a little distant on the phone, but he agreed to see me if I came to Kentucky.


I left LAX on a cold and rainy day. Not sure what I'd find, or even exactly why I was going. My flight was not direct and I had some layover time in Louisville, to further wonder what in the hell I was doing there. At that point it was easier to go on to Lexington than to go back home, so that's what I did. When I got off the plane and walked into the terminal, I spotted a man who looked somewhat familiar. He spotted me, at about the same time. He immediately bent over at the waist and started to cry. It was my Dad...


With him at the airport was his son-in-law, Ricky and his grandson, Jimmy Lee. We had a pretty quiet ride through the cold and rainy Kentucky night into Frankfort, where he lived. When we got there, I was introduced to his wife, "Tootsie" and daughter, "Valerie." There was quite a bit of small talk for a while and my dad was getting visibly more upset with every minute that passed. He sent everyone out of the room and told me something that ripped the heart right out of my chest.


If you remember, my mother told me that my dad had re-enlisted into the military, this time the Army. He now had a new wife, new children, and wanted nothing to do with me. Well, here I was sitting in the same house, with all these people feeling like a total outsider. I guess I should have waited a bit longer to ask the obvious, but I couldn't. Why did he leave? Why didn't he ever talk to me? Why didn't he take me with him? I can barely even type his answer. He said "I didn't contact you because your mother told me you weren't my son! She had cheated on me, while I was in Korea."


He said he fought the monthly allotment that was sent to my mom as child support, but he lost every appeal. He also said that his "new" daughter, was actually his step daughter and that all these years he thought he never actually had any children at all.


At least that's what he thought until he saw me at the airport.  When he saw that I looked just like him, he knew everything my mother said, had been a lie. The 35 years lost, hit him all at once and that is why he broke down at the airport. So it turns out my loving mother hated my father so much, that she ruined my childhood to spite him.


It was getting late and I was shown to a bedroom to sleep in. As I lay in bed I thought about the events of the day and of my life. I thought mostly about my mother...


She lied to both of us and she took the truth with her to the grave. You can not imagine the thoughts and images that raced through my mind, while lying in my father's house. It was dark and stormy, but as dark as it was, it couldn't begin to approach the darkness of the place in my mind, where my entire life played out over and over and over and over. The face of that insane, abusive, miserable excuse of a mother, was imprinted on the ceiling, on the wall, and on the insides of my eyelids. If she had still been alive, there is no telling what I'd have done.


Sometime before dawn, I gave up on sleeping, I quietly got dressed, went out the front door, and started walking. Because we had arrived there pretty late the night before, I had no idea where I was going. It was pouring rain, but I just kept walking. It was as if the sheets of rain were trying to wash the pain and anger off of me, out of me. If you've heard the phrase "shit or go blind," I guess that would be perfect for that place in time. I didn't know whether to shit or go blind, and I really didn't care which way it went.


At some point, an hour or so after I left, an old pickup truck pulled up along side me. The window rolled down and an older guy yelled to me over the sound of the rain. I couldn't really see him, because it was very dark and I couldn't hear him clearly over the rain. I took a few steps to the truck and saw it was my dad. He looked me up and down and said "you look like you could use a ride." He said he would take me wherever I wanted, or needed to go. He hoped I would go back to his house, but he totally understood if I didn't want to. I didn't know what to do really. Hell, I didn't even know where I was at.


All I knew about him was what I remembered from the age of four to five. He was in the Navy and not around much for the early years. But I remember a lot about that one year we were together as a family, everyday. He was very playful and I loved him like any young boy loves his dad. Then he was gone.


My dad had no clue at all about my life. He felt screwed by the system because he was forced to pay money every month, for the support of a child that he thought wasn't even his. He didn't really know what kind of a woman my mom was. He didn't know what she was capable of doing and saying to us, I didn't tell him either. He seemed to be a happy man and I couldn't bring myself to poison it, with the rage that was running through my veins. So I went back to his house with him.


While I changed my clothes he started making breakfast. I don't know where his wife was at that moment, I think he must have told her to give us some time. The image is still vivid. I was sitting at the small table in his kitchen, drinking coffee, while he fried eggs, bacon, and made a stack of toast. Whenever I think about that moment, the first image that comes to mind, is that there was not only one can of Crisco sitting by the stove, there was also a can of butter flavored Crisco as well. A different world...


You know, My dad did look familiar to me at the airport, but not because he looked like somebody I'd seen.  It was because he looked like the person I saw in the mirror, everyday.


 I stayed in my dad's house with him and his family for several days. The longer I stayed there, the more love and respect I had for the man, and the more hatred I had for my dead mother (if that was even possible). My "new" step mom and "new" step sister absolutely adored my dad. I can't leave out his step daughter's son Jimmy Lee. He and my dad were clearly  best buddies. All Jimmy Lee did was talk about how his "bampa" took him fishing, played ball with him, and how they just talked about stuff.  My dad was loyal, friendly, and strong. Although he was now a Kentucky State Trooper and fit the mold exactly, he was a dedicated, strong, and gentle family man.. My life in hell, with my mother, was the exact opposite.


I would have loved to have my dad in my life, I would have loved it even more if I had grown up with him. As fate would have it, my dad died about a year after we got back together. I only saw him a couple more times and talked to him only several other times, but I got a good feeling as to the cut of the man.


As I may have said earlier, I lived in Kentucky (Peak's Mill) also when I was very young. My trip back to my dad's was the first time I'd been back there since we moved. I took my family there for a family reunion shortly afterwards. It was pretty interesting. My interaction with my family was also interesting. In a nutshell, it was like going back in a time machine. Small town Kentucky isn't all that different now from what it was a hundred years ago...




I didn't really know the man, but I still miss him today...

43 comments:

Lily said...

Made me cry for you, for your Dad.

Anonymous said...

Hey Patrick! I didn't have my father either. This story was truly touching. I know Kentucky and California are like two different worlds. Frankfort hasn't changed a bit, Peak's Mill is the same, but I sense that you are just as fond of this place as you are of your Father. I enjoy your writing!! Keep it up!
Your Kentucky Tillett cousin,
David Williams

Melissa Norris-Paladino said...

Pawpa....I love you...I am truly blessed to have u in my life now for 17 years. You make my life complete and just want to say thank you for being such a strong, caring, compassionate and gentle man. The world is lucky to have you and we are lucky to have you as part of our family. oxox

Joe Cap said...

I love this...very moving.

Pat Tillett said...

Thanks Joe, it was certainly one of the biggest days in my life.

www.askelly.me said...

Tillet...I cannot wait to read you forever.

My oldest brother is only so by half...he didn't find out until he was in his 20s. He found out by me. He threatened to take away my drugs (I was 17) so I called my dad to find out something that I could hurt him with. See, he and dad never quite saw eye to eye. Dad did some deductions of his own - a timeline, if you will, and the true was found. Dad never treated him different, even though he knew all along. I'd always wondered if it were true...I'm still sad I went that route. There'll be a blog about this...one day.

Pat Tillett said...

Thanks Kelly,
Family dynamics are amazing. I wonder what my life would have been like, had I been raised by my dad instead.

www.askelly.me said...

I gave up on the what ifs long ago for I found that I am, unfortunately, unable to change the past. I thrive on the because ofs.

Pat Tillett said...

Myself also (sort of). That is the only subject I wonder about. The rest of my time in hell, made me who I am today. I'm okay with that. I'm odd, but okay...

www.askelly.me said...

or perhaps I should have said the in spite ofs instead of the because ofs. :-)

mrscolombo@yahoo.com said...

I'm sure your dad was very proud of you then as he would be very proud of you today. This story made me cry more than any other. The thought of your father bending over in tears at the airport because he could see that you were his son... sheets of rain...washing the pain away... the vision of your mother on the inside of your eyelids... powerful images, Pat. How old were you when you met your father? What year was it? Wow...

Pat Tillett said...

Toni,
I went to Kentucky and met up with my Dad in 1991. I was 40 years old. It was an amazing few days. He was a great guy.

mrscolombo@yahoo.com said...

BTW: Love the pictures! AND wow do you ever look like your dad.

Pat Tillett said...

Yup, he was a handsome brute! LOL...

Lisa Marie Miles said...

Pat, this brought me to tears. I'm so sorry for what you went though, and not knowing your dad like you should have. I hope this is great therapy for you. You're a wonderful writer, keep it up!

Pat Tillett said...

Lisa,
Thanks so much for reading this.
It took me years to deal with all of it. I'm happy to say that I'm fine now, and live a great life.
thanks again.

Cal's Canadian Cave of Coolness said...

Wow. What a moment. I was very moved by your story because mine is the exact opposite. My father who passed five years ago was the greatest man I ever knew. I could not imagine my life without him in it. He had two of the most obstinant, outspoken, unbreakable kids ever born and though he was a soldier he resisted the urge to do anything but support us in everything we ever did. Me and my sister could kill a person and our father would have helped us hide the body. He made me laugh and supported my hobbies and obsessions. He left school at 15 to join the army and leave his dead end town and from what I know now about my hillbilly relatives, it was the greatest thing ever. When we lived in Europe for five years he made sure we saw everyting and did everything. When I graduated high school he got his GED so we could graduate together. He even took classes in criminal justice at the local college my first year so we could share a class. He didn't just audit either. He wrote the papers. He told me once that the thing he liked doing most with me was solving the crime on the Law and Order type shows. In another life we could have been Batman and Robin. Every year for 40yrs he hunted the toy aisles for action figures to add to my collection. My heart breaks when I tell you this because everyone deserved what I had. What happen to you was monstrous. I hope I didn't make things worse but I needed to respond to your story in this way. To celebrate a good man like your father is. Try not to hold onto the hate because if you do that is all you will ever have...Kal

Pat Tillett said...

Kal, thanks for taking the time not only to read mine, but to share so much as well. What little time I did have with him, I loved. He was great guy.
I've managed to get it all behind me, but I always feel like I need to get it all down on paper, before I forget it...He was a Kentucky state trooper when I reconnected with him. Smokey the bear hat, big Ford LTD, mush mouth, and everything else you'd expect.

I think he would been like your dad. A dad I could have been friends with...
I'm happy as a clam now!! Took a while though.

Wings said...

Thank you for giving me the heads up to the flip side of the other post.

I am glad you had that moment, glad you had some answers, some closure, in a way.

I want to say more, but I also don't want to. This is your story, your journey, and I thank you for sharing it.

My best. Peace.

Pat Tillett said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
soft nonsense said...

Also: How the HECK did I miss this post? Maybe my blogger is Broken...

I'm glad you found your closure, Pat. Like you said, I'm sure his presence in your life would have made all the difference in the world, but at least now you know what happened. Plus you get a lot of source material for the blog ;)

Keep 'em coming.

Sarah said...

"mommy dearest" comes to mind when i read this. what a shame for both of you. glad you had the chance to meet him before he left this world. can't imagine how manipulative the woman you called mom was.

She Writes said...

Wow! What a story. At least there are some answers for you. Not satisfactory, but something.

Christiejolu said...

OMG Pat...I can't even begin to tell you how much this post made me cry. I just knew it was something like that. I just can't understand why someone would be so mean to their child...any child. I am so sorry. But I am glad you had your Dad back for a year.

Pat Tillett said...

Thanks for the nice words and feeling what I wrote...

I guess they were my yin and yang, with her being the "yin" and him the "yang."
She taught me nothing postive, she was cold, always in turmoil, evil, and crazy.
My dad was calm, warm, loving, and grounded.
I certainly got the crappy end of the stick on that deal...

Copyboy said...

At least you had that moment you craved. And there was some sort of resolution. True you might have regrets since it was later in life, but it sounds like the feeling was mutual. BTW...how is the BBQ in Kentucky?

Pat Tillett said...

Copyboy - I'm thankful for what little bit I got. I don't really know about the BBQ. It's always been home cookin' when I'm there. I'm going to try and get to the Tillett family reunion this summer. Maybe I'll have to try some. In addition to all the other crap I'm in to, I'm also into my family tree. So I'll be taking a laptop and ask for a bunch of questions....

Megan said...

Whew. Must go decompress, now...a very moving post, Pat.

Bossy Betty said...

Another incredible post.... Great stuff, heart-breaking stuff.

Powdered Toast Man said...

That story is heartbreaking. I almost came to tears. I sort of feel for you. I knew my dad but he died of diabetes when I was 12 (I'm 25 now). I wish I had knew him better and wonder what my life would be if he was still alive. I'm getting all choked up now thinking about him.

RawknRobynsGoneBlogWild said...

I have goosebumps and teary eyes, having just caught up with this post. You and your dad sound like the same person. It's beyond amazing how that happens, even despite the separation because of your monstrous mother. I'm glad you did have time for both of you to learn the truth before he died.
Hugs to you again and again,
Robyn

Big Pissy said...

Such a heartbreaking and powerful story.

Thank you so much for sharing your life with us.

I'm SO glad to know that you're living a happy life now. You've sure as heck earned it! :)

Pat Tillett said...

thanks! Sorry that this stuff can be such a downer. It shouldn't go on too much longer.
As unhappy as I was then, makes me enjoy my life now. It's great...
Me and my dad looked quite a bit alike and although we both only have one small tattoo, it's in exactly the same place. That is so weird.

MamaTink said...

Wow what a story! I am so glad you got to know your Dad before he passed. I am sure your mom had her reasons and now she is paying for her deceit. Thank you for sharing that deeply personal story!

Pat Tillett said...

MamaTink - I was so happy to have a little time with him.
She did in fact have her reasons. First, she was insane. Second, she hated me, because she hated my dad.
Thanks for reading and commenting!

ScoMan said...

Wow. I don't even know what to say.

Consider my mind blown.

I don't even know what I would do in that situation. I don't think I could handle it.

Lynne H. said...

Pat-
and the circle came to closure.. Such a sad yet truly uplifting story. I am so glad you had the opportunity to see him and know at least a bit about him as a man. I know you miss him.. but like my Father who has passed, they see us..They really do. So do like I do every morning..I raise my coffee cup up and say, "Morning"..

Pat Tillett said...

Lynne - Thanks for reading and commenting Lynne. I appreciate it. You are so right, I do miss him. I also miss the all years that I didn't have with him. Whenever I did things with my son, (that dads and their sons do), I thought about my dad and how we both missed out on every single one of them. My mother was an evil woman...

Steadfast Ahoy! said...

Patrick, The age-old question about "nature over nurture" is answered here unequivically (is that a word???). Anyway, your DNA won out...you became the man your father was, no matter what your mother did to you. I think that is a wonderful gift you can treasure forever...you were not ruined by the hell your mother made for you. You are a caring, loving person with so much to give others. I hope your life is a long and fulfilling one, leaving a legacy of peace.
Rosemary

Pat Tillett said...

Rosemary - Thanks so much for taking the time to read this story. Yes, I did turn out alright, but I fought a bunch of demons to get here. My life is filled with peace and love now, for that I'm very grateful. Thanks again!

theMuddledMarketPlace said...

respect

i can't even begin to imagine your life

so glad that it's the right way up now though

Pat Tillett said...

theMuddledMarketPlace - thanks so much for reading and comment on this story. All is well that ends well and it's ending just fine!
thanks again...

Jenn June said...

I'm really glad you keep your labels over there on the sidebar so I was able to find and read this. This is such a bittersweet story. I'm was in tears as I read it and realized what your mom had done to you. I'm so sorry she put you through that hell but I'm really glad that you and your dad were reunited. It sounds like Wanda cared about you and realized what she needed to do and that's really a blessing. I wish you guys had found each other sooner. I couldn't help but think of my husband and son when I read this. No matter what my husband does to piss me off, I will never try to drive a wedge between their relationship. My dad left when I was four and the story is a bit different but I can certainly relate to the feeling of growing up without him and it truly sucked.

Take care, my friend.