On this special day, It’s time to publicly forgive my Father for things beyond his control. To say our relationship strained is an understatement. He died from complications of Cancer treatments in 1985. I was home on leave from the Navy for the passing of his physical body. What made him a person was already gone. How does one feel when someone who holds a title so import and cultural powerful dies a stranger? It’s something I’ve struggled with until 5 years ago. An adult rewritten the hurt of the inner child and teenager with new knowledge of the how or why. I remember the moment.
It when the news of Junior Suah’s suicide brought into the light of the NFL dirty secret. I had watched him play with a reckless abandon absent in the sport at the time. It had been a fleeting dream in my childhood in the Texas football religion. But large kids become interior lineman. The anger of injustice never fueled my play. Bad coaches and bad teams. It was the bitter dregs of next time. My father played the same position in the 1940s. Which is at the heart of our uneasy relationship.
When I became the keeper of the family pictures after my mom passed, I saw them with different eyes. The bunker mentality created by my father’s unstable personality meant these captured moments have no emotional connection for me. My memories are of the times of temporary escape. The man who played the role of my father was not the boy he was. Life can do this without added conditions of brain injury. He was writer. Report for the school paper. Active in the community youth center. Officer in multiple school organization. In the ROTC. With Hollywood looks, a very popular boy in social circles. And a star football player. And that was the killer of his dreams.
My grandfather moved the family to the boomtown Houston was becoming. He was a man who worked with his hands. Whatever feed the family in the Depression and Dust Bowl years. Then his son starts having blackouts. Missing school. Painful headaches. Classic symptoms of a concession. Interior lineman in leather helmets. Medical advice of the time was a drier climate. His lost year. During which Pearl Harbor was bombed. The former ROTC member is now 4F. The defining moment of his generation passes my father by. The last picture of this handsome young man was from Hawaii 1942. He has a DOD tag on his shirt. My Father is smiling. An expression I rarely experienced outside in the private life we shared,
This is where the mystery that was my father starts. He was married before. A life he never spoke of. It was both my parents second marriage. A barren one until my adoption in 1964. Those pictures of a smiling open dad are equally unknown to me. Compound all this was increasing depression, Bi polar was an unknown thing in the 80s. Didn’t every teenager think daily of hurting themselves or dying? That was the reality I saw on TV. Isolation became my companion. Still is on many days. The medication helps the crazy but not long standing behaviors. Didn’t every father and son have a violent argument during their teen years? A rite of passage from childhood to something else. Those were some of my thoughts waiting for a husk of man who I should have feeling for die in the next room?
After the funeral, I returned to the Navy. An action taken to escape that man. My ship was geographically has far as I could find. Guam. Deal with the grief? Didn’t have time. Came back to Houston by default. I hadn’t planned that far ahead. All I wanted was out. Military life was a bad fit for an adopted boy who was like his father in temperament and interests of his younger self.. Writer. Loved the theatre and plays. The stages of grieving happened about the sometime my chemical imbalance went into overdrive from stress. It has taken years to except small bits of the role he played in my life. The past 3 years of concession research to understand the profound mental and physical dangers from concessions, has allowed me to put all the pieces together..
Many letters filled with hurt and anger. Now I’m at peace with a relationship never possible. Living in a community filled with fathers and sons that stay in one place for decades has helped me create a different framework to hang our difficult relationship. On this Father’s day, I very publicly forgive mine for being a man unable to be the person he desperately wanted to be. William Mathis Lipscomb was a prisoner of an inner life that trapped him in life contrary to his bass personality. He provided for his family. Played the role of respected community leader. And died wondering why someone could love him. His spirit still inhabits the world. The Jewish tradition that a person still lives so long as someone remembers their name strikes me as good guide to healing. Now you know his name. A flaw man dealing with his demons who did the best he could. That is the best lesson I learned form My Dad.