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Here’s what you need to know right now:
I grew up with a disabled father. I’ll explain more about it in an upcoming chapter – for now, it’s enough to say that I didn’t have a “normal” Dad growing up.
My Dad’s condition created it’s own gravity in our family. His disability limited the kinds of jobs he could take, necessitating my mother working, and placing us in that “we have the essentials but nothing more, and barely” socioeconomic status. My Dad’s situation often put me in the position of middle man / explainer / translator between him and Joe Q. Public.
Every public outing with my Dad created a huge moral dilemma:
Do I try to explain to this person what’s going on with my Dad?
Do I just try to keep him quiet and rush through this interaction as fast as possible so no explanation is necessary?
I’m kind of embarrassed. Am I a bad son?
He can’t help it. He’s doing the best he can. It’s still weird and hard.
How is HE feeling right now? (For some reason this consideration was so heavy that I could hardly entertain it in real time and usually brushed it aside).
The back and forth debates over how to be in public with my Dad were soul rending.
Even something as mundane as ordering a burger was surprisingly challenging – and not just because it was outright hard to do, but because of the layers of inner conflict and questions that I’d have to wrestle with during and after.
This business of helping my dad interface with the public was a surface level concern. things got much darker.
In private – I used to fantasize about hunting down the person who I thought was responsible for my Dad’s disability and killing them. Slowly. I would cry in fits of rage and curse them to God. Countless times. Sometimes I didn’t fantasize about killing them, I dreamt of badly maiming them to the point of permanent disability. I felt the they robbed me and my family of a “normal” life and I was unspeakably furious about it.
And then, there’s my mother… being married is a challenge enough, even under “normal” conditions. I can only imagine the exquisite, unspoken and multiplied frustrations my mother must have endured. I know about some of them, and they are more than I can share right now without collapsing into tears in this coffee shop where I’m writing. Struggles are like cockroaches – for every one that you see, there are two dozen that will forever remain hidden. I am confident that such is the case with my mother – a hundred mysteries that will probably never leave her heart.
My Dad was a very good man – as good as they come. That being said, his disability was a black hole: full of unknowns, possessed of it’s own tremendous gravity field, and emanating vast radiation that, although unseen, most certainly affected everything within it’s reach.