Bittersweet Thanksgiving Dishes
A baking tray for mini-cupcakes was among the post-Thanksgiving washing-up.
It reminded me of when my daughter was little. She loved to bake cupcakes with me. “Dad! Let’s bake cuppycakes!” she’d say.
And we often did.
And I was most often drunk as I baked with my child. And when I talked with her before bed. And when we’d catch fireflies in the yard on a sweet June night.
Too many times though — each time that I can remember — I’d shoo her off to watch TV or play videogames so I could focus on drinking. Literally sitting in the garage, chain-smoking and chain-drinking, rather than cherishing every possible moment of her childhood. Tears welled up as I scrubbed the mini-cupcake pan tonight.
My last drink was sometime in the early morning of January 1st, 2004. After the hangover wore off, I announced I was quitting. My then 11 year-old daughter, who never said anything about my drinking to me while I did, told me that she was glad that I was quitting because she always hated it when I was drunk.
Haven’t touched a drop since.
Mija just turned 25. We’re still homies. Still spend a lot of time together. That is really all a parent can ask for. Now I immerse myself in each moment, knowing how unique and beautiful they are.
Being drunk or hungover for the bulk of my daughter’s first 11 years is a peak in the mountain range of ill shit I’ve done over my almost-47 years. The harm that I’ve done to my parents, to my little brother, to complete strangers who had the misfortune of crossing my path when I was drunk and in the mood to hurt someone, to society — those mountains are all connected to Mt. Shite Dad along the way.
And yeah, things could have been worse. Tragically, my sloshed early fatherhood would be a hellova upgrade in the lives of far too many kids. I could have hurt even more people than I did. I could have remained in hate groups longer than seven years, doing even more damage.
None of that takes any sting off though.
What does is forgiveness.
Having experienced the grace of shaking Shad’s hand before he died, and having learned so much about life from so many who have lost everything from limbs to domain over their own bodies in the form of rape or kidnapping, to brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, and children, I now understand that every second spent in regret is a second that could have been spent engaged with life via love. It is clear to me that my self-forgiveness is essential to being the best dad I can be now, and to cultivating forgiveness among our great human family, which means more dads will bake more cuppycakes with their kids, fewer miserable suffering racist assholes will attack people, and our collective social consciousness will heal and progress beyond systemic fear and loathing and the violence that entails.
As much as my heart aches for the time when my daughter was little and as much as it kills me to think of turning her down in favor of alcohol, I share this with the aspiration that someone else may make the decision to stop drinking or otherwise transform for the better today. With the hope that someone else can realize the transformative power of forgiveness, and gratitude.
It’s all there for all of us as soon as we realize we’ve been ready all along.