Under the Influence: Redeeming My Father’s Past

Guest post by Kate Powers

Today I sat while my toddler played with blocks. He built something then proudly displayed his product, informing me what it was. I love his imagination and creativity. Such joy to engage in these conversations with him, bookended in his loving nuzzles.

At times, it takes me I back to my childhood. A time I dreamt of becoming a fashion designer and the hours I spent drawing rescued me from the chaos around me. A piece of paper and a pencil was all I needed to withdraw from the smoke filled, beer scented air that permeated our home. And yes, where there is smoke there is fire—my father often erupted in drunken rages over minor annoyances.

No speaking during the news at dinner time. Do not scrape your plate while cutting your food. Spilt milk could and did result in an overturned table. Never make too much noise, in case he was passed out at the kitchen table after a long day on the construction site (and too many drinks to forget the day).

I lived in constant fear of causing an explosion, even though many of them were without apparent cause. As a child, I thought I was to blame. As an adult I can better understand. I admit the frustrations of parenthood, the incessant chatter of little voices and how spilt milk at every meal can make you sometimes wonder if the messes are purposeful.  I now know of the adult pressures of bills, work, unemployment, exhaustion from laborious work in the harsh elements, caring for sick family members, and the non-stop care children require.

As I navigate single parenthood, I often think of my father.  By his negativity, he taught me to actively work to not yell at the spilt milk, to encourage conversation during meals, to be predictable, encouraging, supportive and most importantly loving.

My father had another side, one of intelligence, kindness, generosity, honesty, and when push came to shove He did the right thing. I remember early morning chats over tea in our cold kitchen as we sat by the oven to warm ourselves. I remember many early morning fishing trips throughout childhood full of learning opportunities, patience and laughs. I remember flying kites on fishing poles atop the high sand dunes. I remember his calming way of stopping my chronic nose bleeds. His persistence during hours of Latin and Algebra homework.  I remember his willingness to let go with love so his children could experience a world bigger than our neighborhood.

My father didn’t hide his drinking. He was who he was and refused to apologize for that. While I didn’t approve of his choice, I did respect his straightforwardness. He accepted people for who they were without passing judgment. He believed everyone had the right to work hard for a better life. As an adult I had the experience of working beside my father on construction jobs. The conversations, the learning opportunities allowed my alcoholic dad to show some of his best self.

During these everyday moments I learned fundament skills to always show up, always be early, always give your best, never shy from hard work, always lend a hand, always be truthful, always do the right thing. Today I live out these values, modeling the best example I can to my children. I choose to let these lessons be my father’s legacy, never forgetting my childhood but instead forgiving it. Redeeming it.


About Kate Powers: Published author, speaker and coach, Kate shares information, experience and useful tools to help women rethink their limiting beliefs, incorporate their values in all areas, reduce emotional baggage and move forward with confidence and knowing.  Kate has been a passionate advocate for her clients for over 10 years and recently released her second book. 

21 thoughts on “Under the Influence: Redeeming My Father’s Past

  1. My husband grew up in a mentally abusive home. He tells me he resists the urge to ‘fly off the handle’ everyday. I applaud your attempts to overcome what you saw as a child and not let those ‘habits’ affect your parenting. Very poetic post…simply beautiful.

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