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Yes Dad.
November 9, 2011 6:40 AM   Subscribe

“I remember so much of your childhood," he says. "I remember running you around the leaves in the wheelbarrow. Or the time you were so sick we took you to the hospital. I remember walking in the fields.” I nod, because the moment’s not about me. “Yes Dad,” I say. “There were a lot of good times.” No, there weren't. Which is why we both escaped: He into the bottle; I into the nerd.
posted by jbickers (70 comments total) 25 users marked this as a favorite

 
Devastating. Thanks for this.
posted by pts at 6:45 AM on November 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


Site down?
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 6:51 AM on November 9, 2011


Having problems with the link too.
posted by francesca too at 6:51 AM on November 9, 2011


Great stories end with redemption. Most stories end with pathetic attempts at redemption.

My own dad has quit drinking, I've quit, my brother quit, my sister quit for fifteen years but has picked it up again. Mom never drank, or I should say, drank in the sense that the rest of us with my paternal grandfather's gene for it did.

There are things that are as bad as drinking. His dad could have been playing World of Warcaft all day. Ultimately, it's the same thing, just without the cirrhosis.

Spend time with your kids. Waste time with your kids. And don't be such an asshole that they don't want to be around you.
posted by Xoebe at 6:52 AM on November 9, 2011 [8 favorites]


Nerd with less-than-Cleaver-family childhood has huuuuuuge chip on his shoulder. Film at 11.
posted by Thorzdad at 6:54 AM on November 9, 2011 [4 favorites]


Reading this made me feel like I should sit with my son more often while he plays Minecraft, but the way the game moves really makes me feel sick. Maybe I could wear sunglasses and keep my eyes closed.
posted by stinkycheese at 6:58 AM on November 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


Nerd with less-than-Cleaver-family childhood has huuuuuuge chip on his shoulder. Film at 11.

I guess I wonder what's on your shoulder to make you so smugly dismissive of this obviously painful story.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 7:01 AM on November 9, 2011 [51 favorites]


The newly neutered Google Reader brought me this a couple days ago, I missed it's sharing features MIGHTILY while I read this.
posted by DigDoug at 7:01 AM on November 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


Nerd with less-than-Cleaver-family childhood has huuuuuuge chip on his shoulder.

We didn't read the same link.

Frankly, I find it amazing the guy still even pretends to love his father, let alone had tears welling up.
posted by DU at 7:04 AM on November 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


Nerd with less-than-Cleaver-family childhood has huuuuuuge chip on his shoulder. Film at 11.

Nerd with less-than-Cleaver-family realizes being right is a lot less important than having some comfort in your twilight days. Moving testimonial behind the link.

Nerd missing-the-point snark available right here on this one.
posted by DigDoug at 7:07 AM on November 9, 2011 [20 favorites]


Wow. Thank you for posting this.
posted by zarq at 7:14 AM on November 9, 2011


DU, it's an incomplete picture. I get the impression that his father drank, but was, despite the yelling matches mentioned, not terribly abusive. The first ten, eleven, twelve years of a person's life are so formative (the embarassment of his household sounds like it's lasted a lifetime) and with a parent who may not have involved himself that much but might have been a somewhat decent human being, personal failures aside, it would be easy to feel love for them. The father might not be the only one re-writing history here...

Do you have kids, DU? I do and in twenty years I'll be very interested to hear what they thought of their family. I hope that there will be a lot of positive in their memories - my wife and I have done much to ensure that - but life is such a subjective thing.
posted by ashbury at 7:15 AM on November 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


I so wanted him to tell the old man to fuck off, but I was mildly satisfied he played along for his dad. My kids are now well into their teens and my big fear now that I am divorced is that they ignore me and hate me in my old age.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 7:18 AM on November 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


Nerd with less-than-Cleaver-family childhood has huuuuuuge chip on his shoulder.

I know, right? I mean, EVERYONE has such a shitty, scream-filled, pass-out-daytime-drunk for a father, don't they? EVERYONE leaves home at 15. Everyone has home too embarrassing to invite your best friend over to. What a whiner.
posted by 23skidoo at 7:22 AM on November 9, 2011 [12 favorites]


> Nerd with less-than-Cleaver-family childhood has huuuuuuge chip on his shoulder. Film at 11.

Julian is not a guy with a huuuuuuuuuuuuuuge chip on his shoulder -- he's a thoughtful, well-spoken, well-adjusted guy with kids of his own who runs a great gaming site for mature adults. I'm glad to see this article getting exposure beyond GWJ, and I think it's a good reflection of what differentiates GWJ from, say, Gamespot.
posted by ellF at 7:22 AM on November 9, 2011 [4 favorites]


Brutal. Glad to hear some real shit from nerds, who need to acknowledge that their culture is inherently an extension of desperate childhood escapism. I know my nerddom was. I admire this guy for his honesty with his readers, and for his dishonesty with his father for its charity. He's wrong though, it is about him--if he can forgive his parents while they are alive, he can prove that it's never too late to break cycles, and that the dude's awful parenting didn't ruin him.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 7:23 AM on November 9, 2011 [7 favorites]


Nerd with less-than-Cleaver-family childhood has huuuuuuge chip on his shoulder. Film at 11.

MeFite hipster with less-than-average reading skills has a huuuuuuuge need to be seen as cool and snarky. Film at 11.
posted by FfejL at 7:26 AM on November 9, 2011 [11 favorites]


...their culture is inherently an extension of desperate childhood escapism.

Piffle.
posted by DU at 7:31 AM on November 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


Glad to hear some real shit from nerds, who need to acknowledge that their culture is inherently an extension of desperate childhood escapism. I know my nerddom was.

It could also just be that we enjoy things. I know I do.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 7:34 AM on November 9, 2011 [3 favorites]


One of the hallmarks of being an adult is the ability to finally see your parents not only as your parents but also as fellow human beings, with their own tragic flaws and struggles and triumphs. And, hopefully, to come to terms with and try to forgive them their shortcomings.

This is not that. This is some guy on the internet exposing the old wounds of his childhood to show us his geek cred and publicly call out his old man for past transgressions, with the knowledge that his audience will applaud him for his bravery.
posted by Chrischris at 7:38 AM on November 9, 2011 [8 favorites]


> Glad to hear some real shit from nerds, who need to acknowledge that their culture is inherently an extension of desperate childhood escapism

Or, you know, we're well-adjusted adults who enjoy playing video games. There's no monoculture here; loading up a few hours of Dragon Age or Halo doesn't define a person, or limit them, or make them into whatever stereotype you're imagining.
posted by ellF at 7:40 AM on November 9, 2011 [5 favorites]


DU, it's an incomplete picture. I get the impression that his father drank, but was, despite the yelling matches mentioned, not terribly abusive. The first ten, eleven, twelve years of a person's life are so formative (the embarassment of his household sounds like it's lasted a lifetime) and with a parent who may not have involved himself that much but might have been a somewhat decent human being, personal failures aside, it would be easy to feel love for them. The father might not be the only one re-writing history here...

A screaming drunk for a father doesn't sound at all easy to love, like, at all, regardless of whether he was abusive or not.
posted by 23skidoo at 7:40 AM on November 9, 2011


Things have changed a lot in two decades, as far as nerds go. We'd do well to keep that in mind. When I hear that 'nerd culture' is escapism, I think - well, of course it was - the dominant culture at school considered you a punching bag or the butt of jokes. It was a counter-culture because jocks and popular people were the loathsome norm.
posted by stinkycheese at 7:42 AM on November 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


Wow. I had to double check and make sure my husband wasn't the author of this article. I guess a lot of unhappy families are alike, in fact.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 7:52 AM on November 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


A screaming drunk for a father doesn't sound at all easy to love, like, at all, regardless of whether he was abusive or not.

23skidoo, no argument from me on that score. Don't get me wrong, this story pulls at my heartstrings; all I'm saying is that we have an incomplete picture of the events of this person's childhood. It's entirely likely that day to day life was filled with yelling and screaming and the sounds of breaking glass but it's also possible that the father simply wasn't there for him, didn't behave as a father should, offering guidance, a shoulder, direction and active love for his son. It looks to me as though our author misses the father he never had and the potential of a childhood that was more positive. I think it's quite possible to love the potential in a person, especially if that person is a parent.

DU raises a good point: why were tears welling up?
posted by ashbury at 7:56 AM on November 9, 2011


> This is some guy on the internet exposing the old wounds of his childhood to show us his geek cred and publicly call out his old man for past transgressions

"I want to tell him that the only time I was ever grateful that he was my Dad was when he would drop me off at the arcade with a $5 bill and leave me alone.

I want to tell him all the true things.

But instead, I say, “I love you dad.”

I see a guy recognizing the limitations of his father, and forgiving him. I read it as an article written from the heart, ending with an assertion of love, and published to a community of people who have (generally) some understanding of the same generational gulf. Good writing always always reaches for emotional resonance, especially when one's audience is pretty well known.

Marginalizing that as trying for some kind of cred is ad hominem weaksauce.
posted by ellF at 8:03 AM on November 9, 2011 [6 favorites]


This is not that. This is some guy on the internet exposing the old wounds of his childhood to show us his geek cred and publicly call out his old man for past transgressions, with the knowledge that his audience will applaud him for his bravery.

Well said. This article can be summed up cleanly with "My dad was a neglectful dick, and I had an unpleasant, isolated childhood. But mostly I really, really love computers. And grudges."

Why did this need to be shared with the public? To demonstrate that the author is really, truly absolutely a geek who's always been into computers, and is also stone cold. Like Aspergers, man!

Talk about your bad dad with your spouse or friends. Calling your dying father an asshole in public is in poor taste unless he was several degrees worse than an abrasive, distant drunk who cleaned himself up 25 years ago.
posted by Mayor Curley at 8:04 AM on November 9, 2011 [4 favorites]


I appreciated reading that. I don't know what it meant to the author to have written it, or home much of it is true or false, or what prism we are looking through to his childhood. Mostly, it was a good reminder for me that I have been awfully lucky to have the parents I do, warts and all. I need to write them a letter.
posted by AgentRocket at 8:11 AM on November 9, 2011


Wow, very painful.

I guess growing old and ill doesn't always buy you forgiveness.
posted by cacofonie at 8:13 AM on November 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


I don' t get the angry-dismissive response to this piece. The author is not asking for your pity; he's telling you a story about his life. You don't have to read it, or care, I suppose. I found it honest and, at the end, redemptive in the sense that he doesn't confront his dad with all the dad's failures. He lets his dad misremember a better life than he actually had, in order to die peacefully. He drops enough hints that you know he's now grown, has a life, has kids who he loves and knows in a way his father never knew him. Which is hopeful.
posted by emjaybee at 8:14 AM on November 9, 2011 [11 favorites]


Talk about your bad dad with your spouse or friends. Calling your dying father an asshole in public is in poor taste unless he was several degrees worse than an abrasive, distant drunk who cleaned himself up 25 years ago.

This didn't read like a call-out to me. This read more like removing the shame from living in that sort of household. zarq posted a great comment to another fpp about the isolation that comes from living in a household dealing with addiction.
posted by bfranklin at 8:20 AM on November 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


all I'm saying is that we have an incomplete picture of the events of this person's childhood. It's entirely likely that day to day life was filled with yelling and screaming and the sounds of breaking glass but it's also possible that the father simply wasn't there for him, didn't behave as a father should, offering guidance, a shoulder, direction and active love for his son.

I don't see any reason to believe that the person is lying about his dad being a screaming drunk while her was growing up. Maybe it wasn't every single day, but if the best thing you can say about someone is "Well, he wasn't a screaming drunk ALL the time, sometimes he was just a father who didn't offer guidance, direction or love for his son", that STILL sounds like the kind of dad a grown man can think was a shitty father.
posted by 23skidoo at 8:21 AM on November 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


emjaybee, I think the problem with this piece is that it doesn't quite ring true. It reads to me more like a fictionalizing of his childhood and relationship with his father than what might have happened. And as I've said, I think that there is a lot missing in this - it's like a photograph that leaves a lot of clues to the events surrounding what's captured in still life, but like all such things, we can only guess at what's really going on.
posted by ashbury at 8:22 AM on November 9, 2011


It reads to me more like a fictionalizing of his childhood and relationship with his father than what might have happened.

Why does it read as fictionalizing? If he really did have a screaming drunk for a dad, how would you expect him to describe his childhood relationship with his father?
posted by 23skidoo at 8:27 AM on November 9, 2011


I'm gonna give my dad a call.
posted by humboldt32 at 8:37 AM on November 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


not terribly abusive.

No, he was just a LIIIIIIITTLE abusive, and THAT was probably totally fine!!
posted by liketitanic at 8:38 AM on November 9, 2011


Talk about your bad dad with your spouse or friends. Calling your dying father an asshole in public is in poor taste unless he was several degrees worse than an abrasive, distant drunk who cleaned himself up 25 years ago.

This. Not just a lack of taste, but also a whiff of smug narcissism (look how bad I had it! Look how forgiving I can be in spite of it!). If one feels damaged and needs closure, then--by all means--get help. But don't use your trauma to move product.
posted by Chrischris at 8:41 AM on November 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


> don't use your trauma to move product

What product is being moved here?
posted by ellF at 8:43 AM on November 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


I don't actually disagree with anything you're saying, 23skidoo. My first read of the article definitely made me sad. I also was heartened by the fact that his father showed him the way not to be as an adult and that he (the author) had a certain amount of self-recognition, had placed some thought into who he is and what values he deems important.

After re-reading the piece a few times, some of it just wasn't as clear as I thought it could be and seemed designed to resonate in a certain way. Maybe I should rephrase what I said: his current relationship with his father along with the way he depicts his childhood seems fictionalized, in a "based on a true story" kind of way. Not that it's untrue, just that there is more there than meets the eye.

not terribly abusive.

I am not condoning abuse in any way, be it by quantity or quality. But there are degrees of abuse, aren't there?
posted by ashbury at 8:43 AM on November 9, 2011


Talk about your bad dad with your spouse or friends. Calling your dying father an asshole in public is in poor taste unless he was several degrees worse than an abrasive, distant drunk who cleaned himself up 25 years ago.

It sounds like you have never carried the weight of a lifetime full of secrets and shame for the people who are supposed to be your guardians. The first time you stare into the eyes of a parent who had enough money to buy themselves drugs or alcohol, but not enough to pay the rent, or get you good school clothes, or a good dinner, it permanently changes the relationship. Sure, the guy cleaned up, years after his son could have used a good father. No one gets points for showing up to work after the doors have closed.

Personally, I'm glad to read that someone else has the same idea of what a healthy relationship is. The son had the power to hurt his father back, but instead he chose to be compassionate. He's decided that while giving his dad the third degree in person may give him closure, or self-realization, or whatever clinical term is popular these days for being a prick, that he would instead express his conflicted emotions in writing. That's something worthy of praise, not contempt.
posted by deanklear at 8:45 AM on November 9, 2011 [17 favorites]


This didn't read to me like a revenge piece, like a piece to sell something, or like a way to shame someone. It read to me like someone coming to terms with the unchageable nature of the past, the recognition that his father is also a flawed human, and that there's no good that comes from being mean to someone as they're dying.

In the middle of a huge fight I had with my mom, years ago, she said, "Do you want to be right, or do you want to be happy?"

The two aren't always mutually exclusive, but pursuing the need to be recognized as Correct on this Issue! can sometimes cause more damage than it's worth, at least when it comes to personal relationships. When she was dying, what good would it have done either of us for me to make her acknowledge that she treated me badly as a kid in the following circumstances? At that point, we both knew well enough that neither of us were perfect, and that we had both done really awful, hurtful things to each other, and that we wished we hadn't. And there were good times, lots of them. I would rather remember that we talked about happy times, or times that could be remembered as happy if you squinted, than to look back on the last few months of her life and know that I said "No, that's not how it happened," or "No, you weren't around for that because you were drunk."

Maybe I'd feel differently if my childhood had been more fucked up; I don't know. I know that this is kind of how I was with my dad when he was very very sick (though he wouldn't die for another decade). We made non-specific apologies to each other, and said kind things about my childhood. Parents dying can put things in a very different perspective.
posted by rtha at 9:10 AM on November 9, 2011 [4 favorites]


Calling your dying father an asshole in public is in poor taste

I dunno, being well-adjusted enough to not scream back at him for a lousy childhood seems pretty good taste. Like most times we turn the other cheek, you gotta vent somewhere. My Yankee-ness also says a public forum isn't the right place, but if that's where the author feels most among friends, I'm hard-pressed to tell him otherwise.

Me, I'd just whisper it into a beer bottle. But that might not help here.
posted by yerfatma at 9:20 AM on November 9, 2011 [4 favorites]


I'm neither angry at nor dismissive of this person but reading this I can't escape the impression of someone who at the age of 15 made a decision - and no doubt in its context an understandable and reasonable decision - that he would never invest another iota of his real self into his relationship with his father - and has stuck by that decision no matter what. But I can't ignore how he glosses over the apparent decades of his father's sobriety and attempts at amends and reconciliation with a few detail-free, dismissive sentences. His fathers apologies? Going "through the motions" of an AA step. His father, sober? "A complete stranger". Well, yeah, that's kind of the point. I'm not judging him, you know, I'm not making a moral pronouncement. It just doesn't sound so one-sided to me. And I fear he may ultimately regret not making more of a bid for a real relationship with his father - whatever it might have been given this history - when he had the chance.
posted by nanojath at 9:36 AM on November 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


Fuck me, this thread got undermining, judgmental and guilt-trippy all of a sudden.


Kind of like being home for the holidays.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 9:40 AM on November 9, 2011 [4 favorites]


The recent Judge Williams thread made me think of my own childhood, which then led me to talking extensively to my Daddy at our recent visit. Oddly, he remembers himself as a bad father that was not patient enough (my sister was a little bit difficult) or that he did enough. Odd how we really can't rely on our own, or anyones, memory.
posted by saucysault at 9:53 AM on November 9, 2011


(IMO, people get dramatically hostile to this kind of article because they are on some level terrified of being perceived as weak - so they are driven by the need to tear down anything that could taint them. Geek says something that might make him look weak or silly or just plain lets some feelings show on the internet even if they're not correct "mature" feelings? Have to distance yourself from that shit, or someone might think you're like that person.

Mercy comes from confidence.)
posted by Frowner at 10:02 AM on November 9, 2011 [3 favorites]


I thought he was crying over the realization that he had transcended his crummy childhood: tears for what he'd suffered, yes, but also for the recognition that he wouldn't do this to his own kid(s). The cycle of "the sins of the fathers" actually stopping for once.
posted by wenestvedt at 10:04 AM on November 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


> don't use your trauma to move product

What product is being moved here?


The guy is a gamer journalist publishing a regular column (From the Basement) on the website. One presumes he is either paid for his participation or receives some other sort of remuneration. If not, I retract my statement.
posted by Chrischris at 10:06 AM on November 9, 2011


I didn't really get a skeevy vibe off of this piece at all. I thought it was well-written and touching. This is a guy talking about his geek roots - not flashing his geek cred - and exploring how it all ties together with the relationship he has (and had) with a sick parent. As for why he's tearing up? So many reasons. It's hard to watch someone suffer, especially when they're trying so hard to make things right in their own way. It's hard to think back over all the stuff that sucked. It's hard to let go. It's distressing to be confronted with just how little your parent knows about who you were, who you are. These things are tricky. I'm glad he wrote it. It seems a good venue for something that a lot of people can relate to on a lot of different levels. Or, you know, it might be a stone-cold geek profiting off his rocky parental relationship. I dunno. I would find it personally very difficult to write something like this in a public forum - that he's done so seems brave to me.
posted by lriG rorriM at 10:17 AM on November 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


He wrote a column that did not review or push a game. Writers who get paid to write are always, in some sense, pushing a product (their writing), but it seems peculiar to accuse him of pushing a product as if he'd been all "My childhood would have really sucked if it hadn't been for ZombieShooter!"
posted by rtha at 10:18 AM on November 9, 2011


>This is not that. This is some guy on the internet exposing the old wounds of his childhood to show us his geek cred and publicly call out his old man for past transgressions, with the knowledge that his audience will applaud him for his bravery.<

It’s tricky putting anything out in public. We as customers can’t know the true intentions of someone. Maybe he’s being completely straightforward and honest, but expressing himself badly. I really don’t like to criticize when someone writes something personal like this (I actually did write a bunch of critical things but decided not to post them), but this one just seems really odd.
posted by bongo_x at 10:19 AM on November 9, 2011


I, for one, am glad for this piece. I find elements of both father and son that I identify with. I hope that reading this kind of thing makes me a bit better at being both.
posted by No Robots at 10:22 AM on November 9, 2011


I enjoyed this, because it reinforced the wisdom of my decision not to have kids.
posted by Decani at 10:28 AM on November 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


It reads to me like years of hurt dealing with the regret for a unforgiving past and a future that never will be.

My own father was an alcoholic, and my mother was a rage-aholic. For me, the emotional neglect and familial disconnect was and is worse than any beating I received of which the bruises and tears have since long faded.

The body heals itself with time: blood vessels reconnect, swelling and knots absorb back into the surrounding tissue, and limps un-limp and cradled arms swing free, all within a fairly short period.

The spiritual wounds: the fear, the anger, the insecurity, the emotional disassociation, those are the wounds I would reopen time and again when I saw a happy family, visited a friend's for Thanksgiving, heard someone say words I couldn't fathom or understand: "I miss my mom!" or "I'm so excited to see Dad!"

Still, it's been years since I relied on my parents for emotional support, decades longer than that since I've last felt the stinging heat of a broomstick handle or fist. The emotional wounds that remain now, those 20-years old sores which have not healed, only bleed through self inflicted reliving. So I let them go, to the best of my ability. Forgave where I could, asked for patience and perseverance where I can not yet. Resentment and shameful secrecy were (and are) the infecting poison in those wounds; poison I chose to inject willfully as I came to rely on those emotional wounds as I should've relied on my parents. Instead of mom and dad, I called on pain and the anger. They were among the few true emotions that came easily and were always freeing and consistent.

Thankfully, I am able to use the past tense for many of those emotional wounds. I have a good relationship with my father now, after not speaking with him for nearly a decade. I rely on him for advice with work, women, and visit him several times a year. I am trying to build a better relationship with my mother, and have made some headway, but whether I am successful or not, I feel my life is made better simply for the effort.

I am glad to have read this, as it is a picture of what might have been for me....
posted by Debaser626 at 10:28 AM on November 9, 2011 [4 favorites]


He wrote a column that did not review or push a game. Writers who get paid to write are always, in some sense, pushing a product (their writing), but it seems peculiar to accuse him of pushing a product as if he'd been all "My childhood would have really sucked if it hadn't been for ZombieShooter!"

Fair enough. The currency he (like any regular columnist, be it Xeni from BoingBoing or David Brooks in the NYT) traffics in is attention. That attention is monetized (hell, it could be argued that fundamentally the Internet in its current incarnation is pretty much just a vast mechanism designed to make human attention fungible), even if indirectly.
posted by Chrischris at 10:30 AM on November 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


He lets his dad misremember a better life than he actually had, in order to die peacefully.

It seemed a sad piece to me, for that. The impulse is in one way charitable. But he does not seem to know yet, that his Dad doesn't remember the past differently because his Dad was a liar. He remembers it differently because he's another person, in another skin. The author's own kids won't remember their childhood the way the author does. Things that were important to him won't be important to them; some of them maybe so unimportant they won't remember them at all. Even if the author and his kids both agree that their childhoods were happy.

You can't forgive people if you can't see that, that the fact that they remember things differently doesn't make them liars. And because he couldn't forgive him he never knew him, and has more pity to offer him now than love. It's so sad...
posted by Diablevert at 10:30 AM on November 9, 2011 [4 favorites]


I was a child of the 70's, not much younger than this writer. I felt liberated through technology. I loved my Atari 2600 and I retreated into a meditative bliss writing the basic programs printed in my Atari magazine. Though never a alcoholic then, I've never felt accepted completely by my father or step fathers and somehow on the other side it made me the father that I am.
posted by ShakeyJake at 10:41 AM on November 9, 2011


This writer has nothing to be ashamed of, and I'm horrified to find that there are people who think he has an obligated to stay quiet about the abuse he endured. It's his life, not only his father's.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 10:46 AM on November 9, 2011 [5 favorites]


The guy is a gamer journalist publishing a regular column (From the Basement) on the website. One presumes he is either paid for his participation or receives some other sort of remuneration. If not, I retract my statement.

Then you will be retracting your statement. Nobody gets paid for writing on GWJ. Donation drives happen every year only to keep the site up.

And from the Basement is more of an "irregular column". Knowing Julian (well, as much as you can know someone from listening to their podcast regularly and reading the occasional article/post on the site) and how GWJ works — he posted it there because that's an outlet he has for the kind of essay he wrote. And because he knows the community there will be a hell of a lot more supportive than MeFi.

(Proud MeFi member for seven years, and proud GWJ member — as lostlobster — for three.)
posted by papercake at 10:48 AM on November 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


I thought he was crying over the realization that he had transcended his crummy childhood: tears for what he'd suffered, yes, but also for the recognition that he wouldn't do this to his own kid(s). The cycle of "the sins of the fathers" actually stopping for once.

Whether or not this is why the author of the piece cried (and I personally believe it is), this is precisely the reason the article made me cry.
posted by jbickers at 10:50 AM on November 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


And because he couldn't forgive him he never knew him, and has more pity to offer him now than love. It's so sad...

This puts into words what I was feeling but wasn't really sure how to express. What's sad to me about this is the time between when his dad got sober and when he died, that based on what was written, the author wasn't able to make amends and try to build a new relationship with his father. Maybe he did, and he was rebuffed, I don't know. I'm not going to judge the author, but I feel like he could have expanded on the relationship more, and instead we're left trying to figure out motivations and deeper feelings from a few vague pieces.

I don't know what it's like to grow up in an abusive or "abusively neglectful" household, but my own father basically decided he didn't want the family he had with my mom and myself, and from the age of 5 on I was raised solely by my mother, with occasional visits with my dad. If I have any extreme resentment for this, it's buried deep down; I talk to my dad every couple weeks, and I love him, but he's more an "older peer" than a father figure. He knows this, and I know he has regrets; he went through AA as well, a little over a decade ago. But the article makes me sad because it reads like the author was never able to bridge the gap that developed when he was a child, and once his father's on his deathbed it's too late. I accept that may be my own personal reading of it, based on my own experiences, though.
posted by palidor at 11:31 AM on November 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


While my childhood was largely lonely, both my parents were distant and I didn't know what a hug was before the age of 15...

I had Starquake. Then Pools of Radiance. Then Ultima IV and V. Wasteland. Wing Commander... oh the glories of tagging that ace and returning home with only one gun functional, top of that bar-room leader-board. Then Ultima VI. Then VII and the Serpent Isles, possibly my favourite game of all time. Terra Nova for a change of place. Hours of re-writing autoexec.bat and config.sys files to try to get the latest title to run (Emm386.sys, why is my RAM so small? And Bethesda, why did you fry my computer when I tried to RAMDISK the extra 2 meg? Your claim that your software isn't compatible with Emm386 made me sad), the USA seemingly a light year in advance of our 386 systems (WHAT?! It needs a 486 with 4 meg ram? I'm not NASA!!). From CGA and a 286, through to the final days of a 486 with the required 4 meg of RAM, a soundblaster and glorious VGA. Puberty hit, but I never abandoned the 486 Dx2 (swish!)... even when girls came around.


Then EA destroyed my childhood. Not once, but twice - they released Ultima IX and then canned a studio. We've seen the staff photo with the red circles around it. We know the score.


My family I can forgive... but Fuck EA and the souless devil who made 400 Madden titles... for the Sega Megadrive (hissssss).




[[Sorry. But really. That wasn't a very strong piece, nor does a single mention of Starwars a geek ye make. Tip: never mentioned his mother. Dead? Separated? Not worthy of a mention 'cause she's female? The jury is out]]
posted by Cheradine Zakalwe at 12:13 PM on November 9, 2011


>But he does not seem to know yet, that his Dad doesn't remember the past differently because his Dad was a liar. He remembers it differently because he's another person, in another skin…<

There you go, I’m glad I didn’t post what I originally started to, because you’ve said it so much better and nicer (the whole post, not just that part).

He’s sure his dad is misremembering, maybe lying, yet he’s also sure his memory is flawless, even from when he was a small child. I can’t remember hardly anything from my childhood, so I am biased there. But the author can’t be a young man, and you would think he’d realize you have to account for time, memory haze, and perspective.

His dad has been sober for 25 years and trying to apologize to him that whole time, yet he wants to focus on the man he remembers from his childhood, real or not. The attitude of "I’ll be nice to him, but I won’t forgive" is fine, it’s commendable even if that’s all you can muster and better than the alternative. But it might be you who’s missing out, not the one you’re mad at.

I hope the author is able to let go and actually forgive the real man before he’s gone. There’s no do-overs.
posted by bongo_x at 12:20 PM on November 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


Some of the criticism here seems to come from people who have no idea of what it is to grow up with a "screaming drunk" and finding it necessary to move out at fifteen. That's OK - it's hard to imagine. Looking at the teens I know today, including my own children, it would break my heart to see them fending for themselves. Maybe the author is crying for himself, since obviously his dad isn't. But I'm personally curious about some of the criticism; why are you sceptical of the authenticity of the text? How do you think this guy could be more forgiving than he already is? Why is this offending?
I'm asking because I could have written something similar about my mother who is in the process of disintegrating slowly and painfully after a life of drinking and raging. I help her when she goes to the hospital. I talk with her on the phone (she won't let me into her apartment because she knows I'll call a sanitation company). Sometimes, rarely, I drive her up to my brother's house. I don't argue with her when she is lying (and yes, she is lying, bongo_x: decades ago I began to fact-check everything she says, because I got so confused and insecure from the lying). It's painful, for her and for me, but it's the best we can do. My siblings have different approaches, neither better nor worse.
I know there are worse childhoods and worse parents. And I worry for those who suffer through those. It's not a competition. But when I read the article, I felt a sense of consolation. Here is a guy somewhere who lives the same as me and he seems like a good guy. He's made it to something better than he expected, and he has chosen to have something, even if it is small, with his dad. Good for him.
It's not about condemning his dad in public, we don't know the dad. It's about sharing experiences and coping-strategies. And that is good.
posted by mumimor at 12:57 PM on November 9, 2011 [7 favorites]


Parents who behave in an unloving manner toward their child do not automatically deserve love once the child has grown into an adult. That the writer did not contradict his father's memories and was willing to lie to his father - "I love you, Dad" - speaks to me of compassion, not grudge bearing.
posted by Kerasia at 1:59 PM on November 9, 2011 [3 favorites]


But I'm personally curious about some of the criticism; why are you sceptical of the authenticity of the text? How do you think this guy could be more forgiving than he already is?

I'm not sure if this is directed at me, since I hope I was clear that it didn't make me angry, just sad, but maybe I should explain....There are really, really terrible toxic people in the world. There are people who don’t deserve to be forgiven. I didn’t grow up with this guy. I don’t know him, I don’t know his dad. This essay is merely a fragment of a sliver of a shard of a window into this guy’s life, and maybe my sense of it is wrong, entirely. And many people might feel I have no business having an opinion on the subject, since my own relationship with my parents was not like this.

But I do have people in my life who have this kind of relationship with their parents, and can’t forgive them. And I see how it extends to their relationship with other people. And I do think that while there are monsters in the world, there’s also a scale. Not everybody who has done terrible things stays a terrible person forever, or is a terrible person entirely. It sometimes seems to me that clinging to your truth of things can be a block to forgiveness. Because if you’re wrong about that then your pain would lose its meaning.

I have a friend, A. A went through a fucked up period in her life. She was using. She was irresponsible. She was living with friend B at the time, and friend B covered for her, a lot, with money and otherwise. Eventually, she moved away, stopped using. Eventually she got her shit together. Took years. But see, the thing is, it was when A got her shit together that B cut her dead. Because B’s understanding of that period in A’s life was: You are a fuck up, and I saved your life. And A’s understanding of that period in her life was: I was a fuck up, but I worked to cure myself. And B remains insulted that A doesn’t see it her way, that she doesn’t value what B did for her the way B does. And she can’t forgive her for that.

That’s what this essay reminded me of --- the author’s insistence that his Dad’s memories of things going well between them are and can only be lies. I don’t doubt him, let me be clear. I don’t doubt things were fucked up between them, that his father caused him tremendous pain and is in denial about that. But both things can be true: That his father was drunk who raged at him and whom he hid his mind, his self from, in games and stories. And that he was once a boy in autumn, joyfully barrelling through the leaves. Lay the pictures side by side: the crack between them lets the light in.
posted by Diablevert at 2:55 PM on November 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


The author isn't saying "I once had fun playing in leaves" is a lie. He's saying "My childhood is filled with lots of good times" is a lie.
posted by 23skidoo at 3:57 PM on November 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


Diablevert, thanks for replying my question - it wasn't specifically directed at you, but at several commenters. I think it is important to discuss issues like this, because the children who are growing up under similar circumstances today need understanding and caring adults, and I think someone like myself isn't really good at being that adult, because seeing kids going through the same ignites a lot of anger. If the author of this piece fails to connect to and inspire those who can make a difference, we all need to know why.
Your comment made me think of one thing: you need to remember that children are entirely dependent on adults - at least till they are 6 or 7 or something. Completely, entirely dependent. Your friends are adults and have chosen to be friends and have made choices good and bad. A small child has no choice - he needs the love and care his parents provide. Millions of children are born into harsh conditions where the parents can't provide much, in cultures where physical violence and harsh restrictions are given. These are truly terrible childhoods, but as I understand it, many of those who grew up under these conditions appreciate the love and the effort their parents truly gave. Growing up with someone who actively chooses his or her addiction over you is something different.
Coming home from school to an empty refrigerator and a new set of gin and vermouth. Or plain whiskey for more modest days. (also being the only one you know who knows real hunger). Finding your parent blacked out in the toilet. Trying to prevent your parent from calling random people at night. Never, ever having friends at your place. Cleaning the whole house on your own, because it's too disgusting, at 12. Wearing clothes several sizes too small, because all the money went to booze. Knowing nothing at all about normal family life, because your parents are always in a huge over-sexed over-boozed fight. Being lonely because of all of the above.
And then the lying. THis is a separate issue, and a very important one. As I understand it, lying is an integral part of addictive behavior. People who use substances or gamble or have similar issues lie all the time. Again, there is a huge difference here between those who choose to make friends with users as adults and dependent children. When you are a small child, you love and trust your parents, regardless. And when you are consistently exposed to lies, you do not question the source, you question yourself. One of the really tough things to deal with as you grow up is to learn to trust your own senses.
My own favorite is that my mum once went to the hospital for several months, and the three of us were placed with three different families. Every day, we went to see her at the hospital, but for some reason, my mum was angry with our grandmother, who brought me there. So she claimed I never even once visited her. So as a 12 year old, I had to deal with a conflict between my own experience and what my mother told me was real. If it were now, I'd get the hospital to register my presence. I do that now. But at the time, I was helpless, and in the end started doubting my own experience - literally going crazy. Later, when I confronted her, she tried some "cute" thing about being a bit off because of her illness. "cute"?? With your daughter?? After almost driving her crazy??? Another fine day, my mother and stepfather forgot my little sister at a tourist destination. Obviously, it's an even crazier story, but it's not mine to tell. This is the alcoholic parent in a nutshell.

Leaves in the autumn? Bullshit! Naturally, I don't know the exact circumstances of the posted story, but if my own experience has any value, there is not one crack of light there.

Please don't misunderstand me. I am not an angry or bitter person, and I don't normally go about blaming my mum or step-dad. I'm generally very happy and pleased that I have a job and two wonderful children. But I can relate to people who have had this experience, and I can understand it when the anger takes over for some people. It is a fact that everyone who has grown up this way needs to think a lot more than others about perfectly simple things like buying fruit or arranging birthdays or just hanging out with friends and family.
The author here is attempting some sort of forgiveness, and I can understand why he wants to share it and share the pain of it. He didn't learn as a child how to deal with pain or love or forgiveness in a sound way.
posted by mumimor at 4:08 PM on November 9, 2011


Like I said, I really don’t want to judge this guy or his story, I don’t know him. I’m using this story more as a discussion topic.

My point of view is that 25 years later people are literally not the same people. Being mad forever hurts you more than them. If they are still an asshole now then so be it, be mad at the asshole now, but carrying a grudge about a person from the past is a heavy weight. If they’re not an asshole anymore then who are you mad at? That person is gone.

The memory thing is always tricky in my opinion.

My parents had flaws, but they did a good job and I’m totally willing to write off some things under the category of "they did the best they could". I’ve been very close to people with crazy and/or abusive parents and they’ve had a hard time with it, but most of them have come to a similar conclusion and made peace, very much like the story in question except with true forgiveness. For their sake, not the parents.
posted by bongo_x at 5:19 PM on November 9, 2011


The article, and this discussion about it, made me think of a John Barth quote:

"We are all necessarily the heroes of our own life stories."
posted by BitterOldPunk at 9:43 PM on November 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


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