Saturday, February 17, 2007

Drunk Bar Man

Justin and I went to our local watering hole last night. We each ordered a drink and settled it at the bar to talk with a couple of our friends. Justin looked down toward the end of the bar and there was a man ordering a drink that looked like my Dad. Justin saw the man, snapped his head around to me to tell me, "You know who that looks like..." and then Justin stopped because he wasn't sure if he should point the man out to me or not. But at that moment I saw him too.

The man was shorter than my Dad was but let me tell you, he was the closest person that I've ever seen in the past (almost) 3 years now who looked like my Dad. The hairline, my Dad's eyes, his eyebrows, his nose, he even had a graying goatee. Immediately I had tears in my eyes. I had no intention of talking to this man. I just stared for a minute while his drink came.

I had no idea he if he was a local or not and not many people know that my Dad committed suicide. It is not something that I hide but I don't want that to be "my story" – "oh, Melanie, yeah did you know her Dad shot himself?" So I have kept it pretty quiet here in Fernley.

As fate would have it the man for whatever reason made a beeline straight down the bar, making a comment to each person in turn (there were only three of us sitting at the bar…our friend Steve, then Justin and me). When he got to me he asked (and by the way was completely drunk at 7:30 pm) what was wrong (because I was in tears and starting to cry and laugh at the same time). I told him that he looks like my Dad who passed away.

And in a true drunk fashion he said in a loud voice, "No shit! I look like someone?" I said, "Yes, my Dad." He said, "You know I'm not your Dad, I'm somebody's Dad, maybe I could be your Dad…hell, I'm your Dad" and was laughing. I started crying more now while the conversation with me (sober) and him (drunk) continued in that manner for a minute or two. Then he said, "Is your Dad still around?" And I said, "No, he committed suicide a few years ago." I was trying to explain that I was upset for a reason and that my Dad meant to end his own life. I felt foolish crying at a bar full of people to a man whose only burden (at the moment) was that he looked like a stranger's dead father.

At that point he started trying to make comparisons and said, "Did you Dad smoke?" I nodded. And blew some smoke towards me while laughing…and he continued with "I look like somebody, I'm not your Dad, but I could be like your Dad." Then he asked, "I'm an alcoholic, was your Dad and alcoholic?" I replied, "Yes". All the while I'm still crying and laughing. My laugh that was not a "oh, this is so funny" but a "oh, this is unbelievable...funny, yet not…happy-ish yet so sad."

Now I need to mention that this man was not doing any of this to be malicious, he was drunk and was a happy drunk. He was just pleased the he knew he looked like somebody. Then he asked again if my Dad was alive. I told him again, "No, my Dad died almost 3 years ago now, he committed suicide." He said, "I've thought about that, drinking myself to death." And knowing what I have been through but also knowing that he was drunk and that most of what I said he wouldn't remember anyway I started to tell him all of the reasons why he shouldn't kill himself. I don't think it got very far with him considering the circumstances that he was drunk talking to a crying stranger. If I were him, I probably wouldn't have put much thought into a pleading stranger to not kill myself either.

During this whole conversation, Justin was sitting right next to me and he interjected here and there, but mostly he sat there listening, fighting back tears (and not doing such a great job at points) and just shaking his head a lot.

Then there was a point which this man asked, "How do you feel about your Dad now?" And not that it mattered that I answered the question for this man, but it mattered how I answered this question for me. I took a deep breath and I said, "I feel sad, very sad that my Dad was in so much pain." And he gave me a happy hug. It was all very surreal.

[I noticed that my answer wasn't: angry, bitter, resentful, cheated, cynical, etc. It was simply: sad. I have spent the past few years trying to answer the question of "why" and being mad at my Dad, that I don't remember when all of my anger and bitterness and questioning just turned to sadness. I can attribute a lot of it to my Discovery Seminar (see past blog) but I can't tell you for sure. But I can tell you that I have never been happier that I am now sad. Because by being sad I am edging slowly toward complete acceptance (without playing the victim) and may be able to look back at my Dad with happiness. I don't know how long that will take but for now I am happy to be sad.]

Back to the man who looks like my Dad…I finally, after quite a few minutes, had to tell him that it was very painful to continue to have a conversation with him because of how much he looked like my Dad. I wished him the best and he left to sit at the other end of the bar.

After our one drink, Justin asked if we should leave. And for a moment I contemplated staying but decided that I was so emotionally exhausted that I wanted to leave.

In the car on our way back home I couldn't believe that encounter happened. I told Justin at points it seemed like my Dad was channeling through this man – because his mannerisms and things that my Dad would have said, this man said…surreal is a complete understatement. Even recalling the events of last night to write this blog it seems like last night was a complete, 100% dream. I'm honestly going to have to ask Justin when he wakes up if it was real.

As painful as last night was, I am grateful. Grateful for: (1) if that was my Dad channeling through this random, look-a-like stranger, I had a moment with my Dad to tell him that I felt so sad that he was in so much pain (2) that there are no accidents and I was able realize that I am sad and not angry anymore (3) that Justin was there with me the whole time. I must say that Justin is my rock. He is so steady, I'm grateful that he is always there for whatever it is that I need.

There are no accidents. I just hope I am able to take away from this what I need to in order to help heal my soul without my personality getting in the way. I'm sure by writing this for all of you to read is step one. Thank you for listening, really, thank you.

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