Listen on Spotify: https://anchor.fm/malia-beer/episodes/The-Men-Ive-Loved–Pt–1–Daddy-e14mmit
I can count the men I have loved in my lifetime on one hand. There have been men who have passed through my life that I have dated or teetered on the side of dating but never truly crossed over. Men who were my friends (with benefits) and men who I saw potential in but they could never commit or timing wasn’t right so we never took flight. I don’t count those men, even though I may have felt some form of love for them, I didn’t give them my heart. I have also felt puppy love in my younger years and in retrospect they were just boys and I was just a girl with a crush. What I am talking about here is passionate love. The kind where you think about them every day, where you make changes to your life to include them and where you are completely vulnerable. This type of love forever changes you. It sculpts you into the person you choose to become. I say the word “choose” intentionally because this type of love can make or break your spirit but you get to make the decision which way to go. I believe that people come into your life at a certain time to teach you something and heartbreak can tear a person down or it can be used as building blocks to create the future you desire. I will be the first to admit that after heartbreak I will allow myself to fall apart. At least for a moment in order to process the pain. I have never been one to quickly jump back on the horse, or into the proverbial sea. I know a lot of people who bounce from one relationship to the next and that has never been me. I know people who use distractions to avoid processing the pain. My one weakness has been to use alcohol to numb the pain but oftentimes that just makes the tears flow faster. This can be good or bad depending on how long I let it go on but I also feel like every man has a certain amount of tears I am willing to give him and once I run out, it’s time to pick myself up and grow. At which point I make a deal with myself that no man will ever have the power to destroy me and I choose to become something greater. Every broken heart has resulted in me bettering myself in some profound way. Therefore I am grateful for the experience and I use it as fuel to achieve my next big goal. I know the energy needs to be put somewhere so it might as well be productive. At the end of every relationship after a few weeks (or months) of reflection and solitude I will have a huge spike in my self growth. Followed by an average of 3-5 years before I get into another relationship. I like to think this is because my true partner is also working on himself and we both need to grow into ourselves before we are ready for each other.
The first man I ever loved was my father. He was a kind and gentle soul. Him and my mother met when they were in their early 20’s through one of those mail in dating programs. He was in the National Guard and my mother was a single parent with my sister being about 2 years old. I haven’t spoken a great deal with either of them about their love story as they are not together anymore and my mother never had nice things to say about my father so getting her perspective would have been difficult to bear. When I was on a short road trip with my dad a few years back I took time to ask him a few questions about her and he told me that she was the first woman he ever fell in love with. I asked him what made him fall in love and he just said he remembers the moment he saw her he thought she was so beautiful and it was all history from there. My mother was indeed a beautiful woman and did a bit of modeling in her day. She was also a lot of fun to be around…until she was not. My mother had a drinking problem but more than the drinking she was emotionally unstable and the drinking brought out the worst. This blog isn’t about her however so I’ll save those details for another time.
My father loved my mother and dealt with her as long as he could. They were together for the first 5 years of my life and he even adopted my big sister. I don’t know a lot of the details and honestly don’t remember a lot from that period of my life… other than a food fight between them and a repressed memory that just came up a couple years ago where my father had kicked in a window and had to get stitches on his inner thigh. I wonder often if I repressed memories to protect my psyche. I have very few memories of being a young child and most of them revolve around the horses my mother and grandmother owned because I loved them dearly. I also remember glimpses of being in foster care and group homes during their divorce. I am not sure why my sister and I had to be in foster care at all during that time but I can imagine the state determined that neither of them were fit to care for us while they went through the motions. Between the age of 5-7 years old I went to about 12 different schools and bounced between homes. I remember never having a chance to make any friends and the one time I did make a friend they seemed to pull me from that school the next day and move me somewhere else. For this reason I tend to be very quiet in new settings where I don’t know anyone, which is not like me. I am usually the life of the party and have a great social presence when I am comfortable but when I am the “new girl” I tend to observe everyone and everything and won’t speak up until I know my place in a room. The worst part was when they separated me from my sister and we went to different homes. I felt truly alone and had no one to protect me. I had to learn how to protect myself but mostly I just kept to myself and avoided the other kids. My father ended up getting custody of both my sister and me after their divorce proceedings. I am not sure why the courts decided this considering the system typically favors the mothers and since my sister wasn’t even his biological daughter.. But I assume there was a reason and knowing my mothers instability it could have been a number of things. We lived with my father and his new girlfriend for about 6 months and I loved that time with him. He worked a lot but I was happy to be back home with my sister and family. He would take us to do fun things like fishing, boating, riding go carts around his shop and going to arcades. One day we were supposed to visit my mother but my dad was asleep and wouldn’t wake up to take us. So my sister, being older than me, decided we would take the bus to see my mother. My sister was 11 and I was 8 and somehow she was able to navigate us safely on public transport to my mothers apartment. When we arrived my father called to ask her if she knew where we were and my mother blatantly lied in front of me and said she didn’t know and criticized him for losing us. She made a whole scene about it to punish him. I thought in my little brain how hurtful that was and for the first time I saw how vindictive my mother was. We never went back to live with my father after that. I am sure my father tried to stay in our lives at some capacity but my mother wouldn’t allow it. I didn’t see my father again for years and I remember thinking of him every single day. I still remember the pain I felt wondering if I would ever see him again. Then one day I was playing outside and I saw a man walking up the middle of the street who looked like my uncle. I was confused but as he got closer I realized it was my dad and I ran as fast as I could, jumping into his arms. All the pain was gone and I had my father back! My mother welcomed him inside for a cup of coffee and as my sister and I were catching up with him my mother excused herself. A short while later the police arrived at the door and arrested my father. I know my dad got into trouble and must have had some warrants but that was a low blow from my mother. To have my father arrested in front of me knowing how much I missed him was horrendous. She never seemed to care about how her vendetta against him impacted us. I cried a lot that day and then didn’t see my father again for another several years.
When I was 19 and newly pregnant I was living back at my mothers home. I had ran away from her when things got really bad and lived in a group home from age 16-17 then moved in with my aunt from 17-18 but once I was over the age of 18 I tried once again to mend the relationship with my mother so I moved back in with her on the terms that I was now an adult and she could no longer control me. One day she yelled down to the basement for me to come upstairs, my father was on TV, she said. Sure enough there was my dad on the news being busted for a meth lab. My mother had a smile on her face as if to say “See I told you that your dad was a bad guy”… but I was smiling because now I knew where he was and how to reconnect with him. I went to visit him in jail right away and told him that he was having a grandchild. I wrote him letters for the 4 years that he was in jail. I didn’t care what he did, I just wanted my dad in my life.
My dad had a rough go at life. He is the second oldest of 6 total siblings. When he was only 19 he joined the military and while on duty he got a phone call that his father shot and killed his mother. My dad hopped on the first plane home and by the time he landed he got word that his father then killed himself. I can only imagine what that trauma does to a person. After my mother he fell into drugs and got himself into trouble. He was married to a woman who was also involved in the meth lab and when they both got out of jail, they stayed clean and moved to Alaska together. I think sometimes it takes rock bottom for people to get their lives back on track. A few years ago she killed herself and he found her body in the house that they built together. My dad doesn’t talk about this stuff much, probably because it’s hard, but I know he is a strong man to have been through so much and still be kind and positive about life. My father now has a good job painting boats, a new wife and is a practicing Jehovah’s Witness. He has settled down and stays out of trouble. The only thing he ever does now is drink the occasional beer. It’s ironic that after all the efforts my mother put into keeping me away from my father, I have a stronger bond with him today than with her. He may have not been good for her but he as always kind to me. He was a good man. He wasn’t abusive … He just wasn’t there. On the flip side, my mother was both emotionally, physically and mentally abusive. I haven’t spoken to her in 12 years and plan to keep it that way.
My father is not old but as a life long painter he has been exposed to a lot of chemicals and is beyond his life expectancy for his profession. I want to spend as much time with him as possible while I have the opportunity. I took my kiddos to visit my dad in Alaska last year and we had a blast fishing like old times, seeing the glaciers and spending family time on the beach! We are going on a road trip next month to see my sister and her kids. Growing up without my father has made some lasting impacts on my life and relationships. I still struggle with abandonment issues. I love deeply and when I feel like someone is leaving me it brings me back to that helpless little girl who felt alone and unprotected in foster care. It’s hard to trust men to protect and care for me. I often feel like I have to take care of myself because no one else will. I have recognized my areas for growth however and have been making strides to reprogram my brain, like allowing a man to treat me to dinner, open my door or letting go of my need to be in control. I’m learning to be vulnerable and accept gestures of love, while not feeling obligated to give anything in exchange. It’s taken a lot of books on childhood trauma to overcome my circumstances but I am grateful for how I was raised as it has ultimately made me a stronger woman.