Beyond Blue

Beyond Blue


Love the Person, Hate the Behavior

posted by Beyond Blue

“The Way I See It #199,” on my Starbucks coffee cup Saturday morning (a quote by Berkeley Breathed, the cartoonist and creator of “Opus”): “I’m not sure about people anymore. They’re responsible for some pretty nutty stuff. Individuals I’m crazy about though.”

In recovery language, we say “Love the person, hate the behavior” (or disease–like alcoholism). I needed that reminder last Saturday.

Once a year my sisters and I pilgrimage to Small Town, Indiana, to do our version of the Stations of the Cross–we remember our dad and celebrate his amazing vision, incredible determination, and business savvy as we meet with the fellow shareholders of a company he started with three guys when we were babies. Even if we held one teeny share in the company, we’d continue the tradition, because it makes us proud to be a “Johnson girl.”

Each year is a bit like a wake–it’s bittersweet.

As more and more time elapses between now and the January night my dad died, the stories about him grow more imaginative–the trout caught on the Michigan fishing trip is that much bigger, and the Mexico excursion even more hysterical.

As death often does to memory, snapshots of my dad have been touched up with Photoshop. (Like how Scarlett Johansson has absolutely no cellulite on her legs in that Vogue cover shot.) Anyone eavesdropping on the testimonies might think we are talking about Ronald Reagan, Abraham Lincoln, or John F. Kennedy.



I saw and appreciated all those positive characteristics in him, too. But when my dad’s former business partner asked me for some photos of him, I had to tell the truth–I didn’t have any.

That made me sad.

I’d love to have a collection of photos of my dad and me at picnics and museums and piano recitals and high school and college events. But I don’t. And as much as I respect him for building his company and pursuing his dreams, it did come at the cost of our relationship.

That makes me even sadder.

How do I remember my dad? He was incredibly bright, driven, witty, charming, determined, creative, insightful, sensitive, and loveable. Let me say that again. Very loveable. But he was also selfish, stubborn, and at times self-destructive (or sick). The latter three adjectives are why I have few photos to share with my son David, who asks me from time to time about his “other grandpa,” and why I’m empty-handed with regard to Dad’s ex-business partner’s request.

I loved my dad, but boy did I hate his behavior at times. I was (am) crazy about him–but his actions…they left a few scars.



  • http://iamradiogirl.blogspot.com Alison Whittington

    Once again, a wonderful post comes at a great time for me.I hope that you realize what a wonderful thing you do with this blog, Teresa. Even when I get caught up in other things and can’t check it regularly, even when I’m NOT feeling depressed and think all is well, even when we have different perspectives, I find great strength in your writing.

  • http://HASH(0xcf1c214) Annetta Kabler

    What a great message – being perfectly honest, I usually don’t have or take the time to do as much reading on the internet as I would like to. It caught my eye tonight because I am going through some situations where I love someone so very much but they can’t see their own destuction. Please keep up your work because I am confident their are a lot of people that need your insight and encouragement.

  • ISABELE

    I HAVE NEVER PUT DOWN IN WORDS MY INER FEELINGS EXCEPT IN MY DIARY.TODAY I READ SOME OF THIS PAGE, I REALIZED I HAVE NO ONE TO LISTIN. I HAVE A STORY. READIND THIS STORY ABOUT LOVE FOR A FATHER MADE ME THINK ABOUT MY DAD. I AM A RECOVERING ALCOLIC. MY DAD DIED FROM THIS DISEASE, HE KILLED HEMSELF TO COVER HIS PAIN. I DO THE SAME.WHEN I WAS TWO MONTHS OLD MY MOTHER DIED OF BREAST CANCER. SHE LEFT THIS MAN BROKEN WITH FIVE CHILDREN TO RAISE. I HAVE ONE BROTHER AND THREE SISTERS. DAD COULD NOT DO IT HE HAD TO GIVE UP FOUR OF US. HIS OLDER BROTHER ADOPTED THEM. DAD WOULD NOT LET ME GO, SO I GREW UP IN YONKERS WIHT HIM. AS I GREW I WATCHED THIS MAN SLOWLY DIE. A BROKEN MAN.IT WAS A LONELY CHILDHOOD, I NEVER SHARED A CHILDHOOD WITH MY BROTHER AND SISTERS. I DID HAVE ONE THING I WOULD NEVER OF CHANGED, THAT WAS MY DAD. THERE IS SO MUCH MORE TO THIS STORY BUT I’M GOING TO END IT FOR NOW.I HAVE ALWAYS WANTED TO WRITE A BOOK, I FEEL THIS STORY HAS NOT ENDED.

  • Larry Parker

    Therese:
    I had no idea you had such “daddy issues.” For a girl, in a different if equally sad way compared to a boy, it’s devastating.
    Do you think you will, at some point, have the courage to revisit this in more detail? I know we all would learn so much from you …

  • Valerie

    I can relate to “And as much as I respect him for building his company and pursuing his dreams, it did come at the cost of our relationship.” My dad (still living) has spent his whole life being successful. And while I respect and admire him for his goals and achievements, I can’t help but be saddened (perhaps angry/bitter?) about his lack of relationship with his children. (saddened, I guess more resolved that it will never change)
    As far as the pictures–you know what? I think memories are so much more important than pictures. It’s so much more important to be in the moment and enjoying yourself with another person/people than to be stuck behind a camera recording an event/occasion. I’ve often spent a lot of time hiding behind a camera trying to capture particular moments on film (Wow–film–that ages me, doesn’t it?) rather than being present and enjoying the moment. I realize though that catching an occasional picture of yourself growing up with your dad is quite different than being stuck behind a camera for a whole vacation.
    I agree with Larry or second his request about being able to possibly revisit the “dad issue” some time in the future. I think most of us have either dad issues or mom issues, if not both!
    Thanks for sharing yourself so freely with all of us. Giant box with a big red bow–thats’ what you are–a real gift! Thanks.
    Love VAlerie

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