Dear Broken Forever,
Having people yell at each other may be normal or it may not. Having one of them do it when they're drunk is not. Then it's not the person yelling, it's the booze, and you can't really argue back against a substance. It has no memory and it doesn't try to make a point; all it tries to do is hurt other people.
Somebody like your mom who was married to a drunk, even a wonderful drunk, which is the way you see your dad, have a rival in the marriage. The booze is in constant competition. Generally, the longer the competition goes on, the more the spouse loses, and the more the booze wins. The drinking spouse cares less and less for the non-drinking spouse and more and more for the booze.
It isn't particularly strong to stay in a marriage like that. By getting out when she did, she was able to preserve your good feelings for your dad, which is an incredibly important gift to you. We know that because you actually still have those feelings for your dad, and they aren't terribly badly affected by whatever things your dad did at home with his drinking. You've been protected.
That is strong. That's a powerful example of a strong and nurturing mother for you, one who was willing to protect her child from a potential disaster by taking action.
If you love your father, she's had a part in allowing you to preserve those loving feelings. When you reach out to him to see what sort of relationship you can or should build with him, you'll have your own chance to evaluate what else there is to him beside that special connection you made with him as a child. You can build an independent relationship that has its own plusses and minuses.
Right now, I'm guessing that you don't live with him and that your mother has to do the day to day work of parenting with you. That means not only showing love the best way she can — and for many of us, that's only to shaky a skill anyway — and trying to keep things straight between you from the adult side of the equation. This is something that almost always doomed to failure. If it weren't, how could any child ever bear to leave home? She's taking the risks and the knocks. Your dad gets to get the fond idealizations.
It couldn't hurt to get some good girlfriends to talk with about stuff like this, and it couldn't hurt to get a glimpse into other homes, to see what other families are like in comparison to your own. You might be interested in checking out any local al-a-teen meetings, or al-anon meetings. I suspect that you'd find at least some of these folks talking about familiar topics, some worse that the stuff you know, some better. The meetings are free.
Sincerely, Bob Kaven