Hey dad, I’m writing to you
Not to tell you that I still hate you
Just to ask you how you feel
And how we fell apart
How this fell apart…
When you lay your head down
How do you sleep at night?
Do you even wonder if we’re alright?
But we’re alright
My brother turned me on to Good Charlotte back when The Young and the Hopeless first came out. It’s still in my top 25-ish favorite records of all time, because my music taste defies genre (and, by the standards of many, decent taste). I used to skip over “Emotionless” because it was such a sad-sounding song, but when everything did fall apart in 2004 I turned it on and turned it up – on constant repeat.
Tonight, I’m doing it again.
My dad called me while I was packing Friday night. I let it roll to voicemail, since we have (now less than) two weeks to get everything ready to go. What did he want? To know if I would do his taxes. Only after he told me what I could do for him did he add, a mere afterthought, that he hopes Arthur and I, and “that guy [I’m] married to, what’s his name” (a pathetic joke), are doing alright.
It’s been a long hard road without you by my side
Why weren’t you there all the nights that we cried
You broke my mother’s heart, you broke your children for life
It’s not okay, but we’re alright
I remember the days you were a hero in my eyes
But those are just a long lost memory of mine
Now I’m writing just to let you know I’m still alive
I’m still alive
I wish I could go back to the time in my life when I didn’t know – or could ignore – the conditions he places on his love. I have to go back a long way…further than even my memory will take me. It seems that his fondest declarations of love came out of a bottle or a jail cell. The rest of the time, I think we were just the little people in his life who just needed more from him than he was willing to give.
When people would ask me who my dad is, I would tell them the story of how he took up a collection at work after he read a letter to the editor in the newspaper about a little girl whose birthday money was stolen from a public restroom, where she left it on the counter. But that man…that man doesn’t jive with the picture of my father I have in my head. A gunshot hole in the wall by the stairs. A pointed finger jabbing into my sternum. Hate in his eyes. Staring down a gun. And now, it’s only ever about what I can do for him.
There’s things I’ll take to my grave, but I’m okay…
I don’t know the man who wears my daddy’s face and speaks with his voice. I ache to have my daddy back, to believe that he really wants to know how I’m doing, that he really cares. More now than ever before, as Brian and I take our first fumbling steps into parenthood, I think that I could really use my daddy. But I don’t think he was ever really there.
And now I mourn at an empty grave, in a quiet spot that exists only in the corners of my mind – like the man I thought my dad was.
And sometimes I forgive
Yeah and this time, I’ll admit
That I miss you, said I miss you…
All I want is to say goodbye.
(Italicized lyrics from “Emotionless”, written by Benji & Joel Madden and performed by Good Charlotte, (c) 2002)