Forgiving my Father

I was 18 years old when I had to bury my father. I wouldn’t wish that on anyone. I still remember hearing the news. My heart dropped in my chest, and I was sobbing but no noise was coming out. I could barely stand. I’ve never felt more pain in my entire life. I could feel my heart being torn apart.

I read all of these articles about people losing fathers, but very rarely did they connect with me. You see my father was different from a lot of other children’s. He was an alcoholic. Some people may be mad at me for saying that, but he was. People try to act like it’s some big secret. NEWSFLASH, nearly everyone knew that my father was an alcoholic, they just didn’t want to admit it. I was taught by my family and by society that it was shameful to have a parent who was an alcoholic. But that was my life. 

I had to grow up with him forgetting to pick me up from school because he was passed out and watching him lie about it to my mom. My senior year of high school I had to hide from my peers and my teachers what was truly going on at home. That my parents were going through a messy divorce, that my father blamed me for “taking my mom’s side,” and that my life was turned completely upside down. Imagine having to go through that while you’re in the process of filling out college applications or studying for tests while trying to maintain your extracurricular activities. 

Flash forward to my freshman year of college. I moved in on my eighteenth birthday. The day before, my father and I had gotten into an argument. I was so frustrated that he still was not seeing the damage he caused to me and my family and that he wasn’t taking responsibility for his actions. I didn’t talk to him after that until thanksgiving. I was so hurt, couldn’t he see what he had done to us?? The holidays were very uncomfortable because I didn’t want to be anywhere near him. I couldn’t understand why he chose the path that he did. 

I saw my father on February 13 of 2016 at my brother’s show choir event. That was the first time in a very long time I had seen my dad completely sober. We had a nice conversation, and I thought to myself, “Maybe this is it? Maybe this is the turning point for my dad, and he and I will begin to mend our relationship?” 

A couple weeks after that I got the call that my dad was at the University of Iowa’s hospital. I knew in my chest what was wrong. I just knew. I can’t explain how, but I did. When I went to see him he refused to tell me what was wrong with him. I went to the nurses’ station, bawling my eyes out, begging them to tell me so that way I knew for sure what was going on. I even offered to donate part of my liver if that’s what he needed. They couldn’t tell me because my dad wouldn’t give them his consent. Shortly after that he checked himself out of the hospital and came home. 

The last time I got to see my father while he was coherent was the end of spring break. I went to tell him goodbye and that I loved him. His response was, “I love you sweetheart.” After getting back to school I got the call that he was in the hospital again. Because he was no longer able to make medical decisions for himself my grandmother and I had to give our consent to various things. After nothing seemed to be working, they told me to come say goodbye.

Saying goodbye to my dad was one of the hardest things I have ever had to do and that I will ever do. I was saying goodbye a man whom I loved more than anything else on this planet. He was in the end stages of liver failure and he couldn’t speak because of ammonia being released into his body. I held his hand and I told him that I loved him so very, very much. I told him that I forgave him for the alcohol, for everything. I wanted him to go at peace. A tear escaped down his cheek, and he said, “You too.” That in itself was a miracle because he wasn’t supposed to be able to talk, let alone understand what I was saying.

A couple days after that, on April 1st, 2016, my father passed away. This feeling of numbness washed over me. I received so many texts and messages from people giving their condolences and I felt like a robot when I responded to them. My siblings and I had to sit down with our grandparents and uncle to plan the funeral and visitation. I honestly don’t remember much from that week of being back home. Everything is just a slow blur. The only thing that has stuck out to me was the love I received from both friends and family during that time. I knew I had a solid support system to fall back on, yet I felt so alone. 

I was so angry that this had happened to me. I blamed myself for such a long time. I thought that I was unworthy of love because of the fact that I wasn’t good enough for my father to put the bottle down. I wanted to die. I wanted so strongly to not be here anymore. I actually started cutting myself. I felt incredibly empty inside. 

It took months, and some counseling, but about mid-July I felt myself actually being able to breathe for the first time in a very long time. I felt like a weight had been lifted off of me. Like when you come up from under water and you take that first deep, gulp of air and you can feel your lungs filling up. I was happy with my life. Losing my father forced me to figure out who I was and what I wanted out of life. It forced me to grow up even more than I had to already. It taught me who I needed in my life, and who I didn’t. It helped me grow as a person, and find my own worth. It taught me confidence in the fact that I am worthy of love and I am worthy to live here on this Earth with my friends and family. Losing my father taught me that I’m only nineteen years old and that I have so much life left to live. 

I am no longer bitter or angry about my dad. I know that what he had was a disease that he couldn’t control. You heard me right, his alcoholism was a DISEASE. He loved me as best as he could. My self-worth had nothing to do with the fact that my dad couldn’t stop drinking. He could not resist the urge. I will never know why my dad became such a heavy alcoholic, I just hope that wherever he is that his demons are no longer bothering him. And that he’s happy. I am able now to talk about my experiences without that cloud of shame clinging to it. 

Just because my father was an alcoholic does not make him a bad dad. He always tried so hard to support me in whatever activity I was in. Some of my favorite memories of growing up include him. One that stands out right now is the time we were in a hotel room together, on a trip to St. Louis. I’m not sure how old I was but he went down to the vending machine and came back with Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, which were his favorite. And we sat there on the bed and split them between us while sharing laughs and lots of hugs.

I looked up to my father in many ways. He was always so kind to everyone, offering a helping hand when needed. He had so many good friends, that he would do anything for and they would do the same for him. My dad was so proud of us kids, he always carried around photos of us to show other people.

I still have voicemails saved from him that I replay over and over again some nights, just so I can hear him speak one more time. I’ve never loved anyone like I love my father. And I miss him every day. I sit back and think sometimes about how he will never get to see me graduate college or get married and have kids of my own. But I know he is looking down on me, and that I have one amazing guardian angel up there. 

If there’s one thing that this experience has taught me is that I am not ashamed to say that my name is Caitlyn Walte and my father is Jeff Walte. Even after everything that happened between us, and all the pain his disease caused, there is nobody else I would rather call dad.  

Written by: Caitlyn Walte of Keokuk

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xo McKenzie - My Darling Catastrophe


  1. This is beautiful Caitlyn. It made me cry because my dad was an alcoholic too and we lost him before my 4th birthday. I was mad for a long time and felt that he didn't care enough to watch me grow up. I guess they told him that he would die if he didn't stop. It took years for me to understand that alcoholism is a disease. Love you and am happy that you told your story.

    1. Thank you so much for your kind words Lena!! Love you too.

  2. We all knew, and I'm very sorry you felt you couldn't talk about it. He did love you, he was incredibly active in your life, more so than many sober dads. Life will be okay, and I'm glad you know you are very valuable now. You are precious. In between his hospital stays I sat with him and listened to him cry over you guys. He missed his children dearly. I could barely stand the smell of alcohol around him, but having known you guys, I sat. I don't understand alcohol or drug addiction either. I don't understand how a person chooses that over their kids. I do know however, that for years my heart ached for your family. Now, in the pain of grief, healing can begin.

  3. I knew jeff. He and my father were friends many years ago. My father passed when i was just 11. But when id see Jeff he always would tell me stories of my father. I always enjoyed running into him because of this. What a great guy he was. Im glad you got the chance to forgive him and im glad he got a chance to hear it before he passed. I know that meant a lot to him cause in addition to stories about my father, i also heard stories about you.

  4. I am so sorry for all the pain that the alcohol caused your family. I was very sad when I heard about your dad. Continued prayers for you and your family, especially for the days he will miss, like your wedding day and hopefully when you have children of your own. I pray that you will feel his presence with you.

  5. Caitlyn, I am glad you can express your feelings. It is hard to find out your parents are not who you thought they were or were supposed to be. Hard being the child parenting the adult. But I am so proud of you for realizing that he was sick and it had nothing to do with you. To be able to value the relationship with your Dad because he was your Father and you had no part in how he grew up or what happened in his mind and body. That you can accept that he loved you and you loved him is all that is important. Be proud of yourself, hold your head high, you are loved by many many people and most importantly by God. You are very wise for you age. It took me 50 years to acknowledge how my parents and their lives reflected in my own. You are ahead of the game. Prayers for you and your family. It doesn't end but your understanding gets clearer. God Bless!

  6. Caitlyn, I don't know you, I happened to stumble upon your post on FB, a friend of a friend had shared it. My mother was an alcoholic also. She died in June, having been sober the last 28 years of her life. Your post brought me to tears. Being the child of an alcoholic is so hard for anyone to understand unless they have been in our shoes. I experienced many of the same things you did, I will never forget feeling so embarrassed and having to lie because her drinking was a secret that we were all ashamed of. I am grateful my mom quit drinking when I was younger (I am 40) but growing up with an alcoholic taught me so many things. I am capable of so much and I know what true forgiveness is because she taught me I could forgive almost anything. I learned at a young age to be self reliant. And most importantly, i know what kind of parent I want to be (and also what I don't want to be) for my daughter. I am very sorry of the loss of you dad and will be thinking of you.

  7. Caitlyn, you more than likely don't remember me, but I remember you and your family very well. Your parents and my parents were very good friends and only living a few blocks away, I remember seeing you quite often. There were several times that I even babysat you. I remember being at Lucky's with my family and playing pool with your dad when I was very young. He was always very sweet to me. I remember how sad I felt when I found out about your dad, and I'm sorry that you lost your father.
    Your writing is absolutely beautiful and I connect with it very closely. I too lost my father at age 18 under circumstances that weren't "normal". We weren't speaking and hadn't spoken to each other in years. It was a terrible situation. I forgave my father on his deathbed for all of the pain that he caused my family and I, but he was never conscious at any point to know that I was there.
    It is never easy to lose a parent, and if you ever need anyone to bounce feelings off of, please get ahold of me.

  8. I know your mom and she is a great person. With that said, my dad was also an alcoholic and it took me many years to admit that that is how he died. Very similar tonyiur story. Secrets, denial and sadness. Tomorrow will be 36 years that my dad had been gone and it still hurts. I miss him. Loved him. Visit his grave to find peace and to cry. You will always miss him. Let other people tell you the wonderful stories about your dad and embrace that. Know he is always watching over you and loves you.

  9. I know your mom and she is a great person. With that said, my dad was also an alcoholic and it took me many years to admit that that is how he died. Very similar tonyiur story. Secrets, denial and sadness. Tomorrow will be 36 years that my dad had been gone and it still hurts. I miss him. Loved him. Visit his grave to find peace and to cry. You will always miss him. Let other people tell you the wonderful stories about your dad and embrace that. Know he is always watching over you and loves you.