Devin Dearing Preston: NYC writer, playwright, and storyteller

Merry Fucking Christmas

December 21, 2011

Dear Dad,

I didn’t get you anything this year. Because you always hated when we got you presents and because you are dead. Sorry.

It wasn’t until I was 13, the ripe old age where wisdom meets experience, that I understood why you hated the holidays so.

We had been driving around the Woodlands in the festive 60 degree weather some Sunday in December, searching for the last Drug store to carry the filters for your Kool non filter cigarettes which you smoked in that 1920’s- esc plastic holder, to differentiate your self, I suppose, from the other nicotine and alcohol abusers you ran around with. I can still see it perched between your teeth, smoke rings circling your balding head, as you methodically eyed the end of the shuffleboard table, for the game winning shot, that you landed or blew depending on how drunk you were. I always suspected this finicky smoking behavior also helped protect your precious stash of cigs from poachers because no one wanted to bum a non filter menthol, no matter how bad their craving. Am I wrong? You selfish fuck.

Anyway, you were beyond agitated because there were no filters to be had at any of the three drug stores we visited. Your foul mood was ruining the visit that I had shamefully looked forward to, leaving me wondering, why do I put myself through this. Running errands with you on Sundays wasn’t my ideal activity of choice, but at that point, I put up with anything to see you, my imperfect father. Especially since your visits were becoming fewer and farther between. I basically settled for whatever I could get.

Why this round of errands stands out so clearly in my mind follows. Having struck out again, you stewed in the driver’s seat. You had had it, and were pissed that you had come this far out of your way for nothing. Feeling pretty bad about my company adding up to, well, nothing and in attempts to lighten the mood, I said “Maybe I’ll try to get you some for Christmas. ”

You cracked a mean smirk and hollered “God Damn it, Dev! Ah told you already. Don’t git me inything,” in the booming baritone that could shake a decent sized room.

I felt squashed, but sheepishly pressed, “But I want to get you something. Why do you hate Christmas so much?” I am still shocked at my boldness. My adolescent rebellion was in full swing, I suppose.

You turned your red face toward the passenger seat, looked at me dead on and confessed “It was never a good time, growin up, Dev. Your gramma and grandpa liked to get extra drunk and beat the shit out of each other. ”

Said so plainly, to your 13 year old daughter, with a glistening in your eyes that could be mistaken for tears. The weight of your tone heavy and it pressed firmly on my heart. I finally got it.

A pregnant pause filled the cabin of your black pick up truck that afternoon and this truth wormed its way into my core. Oh, my dad’s not a total asshole, I remember thinking. I saw you in that moment. Really saw you, there in the parking lot out side of Walgreens in the Panther Creek shopping center, AM talk radio jabbering on in the background. The real vulnerable you shifted into focus, for one of the only times in my knowing you. There you were Flynt, mean, but exposed.

That one statement helped me put it all together. My father is really just a sad little boy who only got to see the ugly drunken mess of the Holiday’s. I saw that defeated rascal in your eyes somewhere hidden behind the contact lenses and deep laugh lines. The presents and decorations were never special enough to disguise the emptiness that predominated the most wonderful time of the year for you, little Flynt, growing up.

My 13 year old sage got it.

There is a giant hole in this man’s heart where his childhood use to be. And in that moment, we understood each other. And I became an adult.

I know those memories of your drunk parents verbally and physically laying into each other tainted not only your joy for celebrations, but life as a whole, Dad. Because I too have scary memories of out of control adults, ruining the essence of peace, love and joy. The New Year’s Eve we spent at Bob and Teresa’s still weighs heavy on my own heart. You hated Christmas, and life (if we are being honest) because you had to see the ugly side of it far too soon.

I think you took some sort of sadistic pleasure in removing the veil of innocence from my own eyes, giving me the same gift of a brutal perspective that Christmas, when most little girls my age received a Boom Box or a “Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego” computer game.

At 13, I knew that common ground we shared, but didn’t fully know how it would begin to shape my own character, over all disposition and general disdain for the month of December almost from that point forward.

When my Christmas plans looked like unwrapping a meager smattering of school clothes and cosmetics I had picked out myself, a tradition created to save Mom from the guilt of failing to get us what we wanted, while we called extended family members scattered all over Texas, that we never saw. A trip to the movies, followed by a rushed dinner of Chicken-Fried Steak with all the trimmings that Mom slaved over instead of sleeping before she had to leave for her night shift at the local Hospital. Only to conclude with a journey into Houston for a night of warming a bar stool at Gaiters’ Holiday Pot luck, watching dutifully while you shot shuffleboard, and drank your way into oblivion. I’m not surprised at all that Christmas has become an event that holds nothing but dread and, well, more dread for me. Still, to this day. You shouldn’t be surprised either.

These aren’t really traditions I feel compelled to keep alive. They weren’t terrible, mind you. Although no one should really close down a bar on Christmas, especially not a 12 year old. Every moment just smacked of how disconnected from each other we had all become. Going through the motions of celebration, because it was the expected thing to do. But as much as they left me cold and wanting, I can’t seem to let them go either. Create new happier holiday times. Relive the good traditions and bid farewell to the rest.

You died before you had the chance to be your own supportive parent, a tool they invite us to use in ACOA (adult children of alcoholics) You were one of those. That little boy was never rescued from those horrifying holidays. I’m finding it hard to parent my lost little girl as well. She wants nothing more than peace, love and joy this season. And a pony. But giving her the care and attention you failed to, is no easy task as my adult life marches forward, full speed ahead. Any time her naivete or youthful wonder or helpless vulnerability comes bubbling up, I admonish her instead.

“Dreams get destroyed, little Devin. There is no such thing as Santa Clause, or Baby Jesus, or blind generosity. If you insist on being childish, I will punish you and Santa will put a big lump of coal in your stocking. Because the world is mean and hard and scary, and is not safe when blinded by such foolish, wishful thinking.

Mommy has to work. Daddy has to drink. And you are probably getting socks this year. Fuck the miracles of Christmas. It will be a miracle if you make it to 18.”

And it is a miracle I made it to 18, graduated college, and am now happily living my bohemian life here in New York City. You weren’t as lucky. To die at 55 of complications due to alcoholism, is probably not how you saw things going. We were all shocked. Our denial of your disease so thick by that point alien abduction seemed more likely. But it is a truth I sit with, especially around the Holidays when I’m forced to recall all my Jolly memories. You are drunk in all of them.

But this year I welcome the chance to morn. I invite the sadness. I will embrace the empty spot that use to be filled with worry for you and your sad inner child, drunk somewhere to dull whatever pain you refused to look at. This Christmas, I don’t have to worry about you any more. You are dead.

And as fucked up as this is about to sound, that’s the greatest Christmas gift you ever gave me. Merry Christmas Dad. I love you. Always.

Devin

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Categories: Letters I Will Never Send

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