Friday, February 14, 2014

The Heart-Brain Paradox

Humankind holds that the brain is the center of reason and the heart is the center of emotion.
We all know differently, but on a day like Valentine's Day, brain shaped boxes full of chocolate truffles just wouldn't be as romantic.

Twenty-Three years ago today, my father died.
I was so very relieved for him.
He had suffered his entire life
Born to an unloving mother and an alcoholic father, he joined the Marines the first chance he got.
They shipped him off to the South Pacific during WWII, during which he was forced to kill a woman.
The only story he ever told about any of the war was that one, and only in a depressive stupor late in his life.
One time. 
It messed him up in a really big way.
I never heard that story again.
I'm certain that he saw many, many more horrible things.
Things the light and lovely movies of the 40s and 50's about the war did not convey.

He had carried on in his father's footsteps and become an alcoholic.
He was also bi-polar.
He smoked like a chimney.

He was a sick man, mentally and physically.

You'd think my childhood would have been wrecked by living with a man like that.
It wasn't.
He somehow managed to hold it all together for most of my growing up years.
He was a functional drunk.
He didn't miss work, he never got a DUI, he didn't beat us or yell at us or break things.

He took me hunting and fishing and mushroom hunting.
He loved me--truly, madly, deeply.
I loved him--truly, madly, deeply.

It was seeing a therapist that broke the delicate balancing act he had carried on his entire life.
It was then that he let the atrocities of the war and his childhood came to the surface.
It broke free like a monster and ate him alive.
He could no longer hold it at bay with alcohol and pills.

His marriage to my mom fell apart.
He quit working.
Smoking and pills and booze finally caught up to him.
He died (alone I think, I'm trying to find out) in California.

When I found out that he had died, I was so relieved for him.
So happy he was done with the suffering and pain.
At the time, I was also terribly mad that he hadn't "pulled it together".
Being mentally ill carried a stigma and wasn't considered a real thing.
I got over that.  I just wish I had gotten to say so.

Many years have come and gone since he died.
Some years I barely think of him at all.
This year, this day, is not one of them.

Here is when the Heart-Brain paradox comes into play.

My heart wants a few 'do-overs'.  
My heart wants to say I'm sorry.  
My heart wants to have said "I Love You" before he died.

My brain knows the reality of all that happened in the time my dad and I shared together.
Reality says that we did the very best we could.


  1. You have me sitting here crying. Mental illness is a very real thing and really very hard on everyone.

    Hugs, Carla. This was a brave and wonderful post!


    1. Didn't mean to make you cry. :) Mental illness sucks! It's worse when someone has it (like my dad) and doesn't really deal with it. He just let it consume him instead of fighting back.

  2. I love this post very much. Thanks for sharing.