It's so curious: one can resist tears and 'behave' very well in the hardest hours of grief. But then someone makes you a friendly sign behind a window, or one notices that a flower that was in bud only yesterday has suddenly blossomed, or a letter slips from a drawer... and everything collapses. ~Colette
I've been thinking a lot about my dad lately. There are always random instances where I think of my father, though it's usually in the vaguest notion of having a dad rather than the actual man. In the past, I longed for the idea of a father there to protect me much more than my dad, who has always been a mythical figure/ghost in my life.
There are small moments I remember. The man was crazy obsessed with me playing sports and got himself ejected from some of my soccer games. I would have to listen to him go on and on about why my team lost on our drives home, but then he would take me for ice cream or to Springdale Farms, just the two of us, and we would talk. I remember him taking me to the local private high school and telling me that one day I could do whatever I wanted with my life as long as I worked hard for it and that I could go anywhere I wanted (which, of course, made me all the more bitter when my mother was quite the opposite about things). I remember his temper and how I used to live in fear of him finding out if I was bad. I remember little bits of good and bad, but he was just daddy. Not a real person with flaws and passions and his own bucket of issues.
It's understandable. I was eleven when my father died of cancer and even when someone would share a memory of him, it was their story to tell me, not my own. I didn't know the man. It's sad, for both us.
I used to ask my mother about him, but she got annoyed so I stopped, and she rarely brougt him up herself except when she was drinking and then it was never *good* things. Instead she would tell me these things that just made me wonder what the hell was wrong with the both of them and why they ever got together at all. Sure, there were random humerous moments like when she found out that I was a democrat and she said, "You and your bleeding heart liberalism! Your father is somewhere laughing about this!" Mostly, it was just better to avoid the topic all together.
I only ever got glimpses of who he was through other people's eyes, like my godmother or his best friend, Norm, who used to help my mother around the house. I only discovered that he shared my love of writing when we packed up my childhood home and I found some of his stuff. I really miss that connection or understanding of where I come from. I feel like there is this whole half of myself that I will never know about, a part of me that might not feel so alien because hey, maybe I'm not weird; maybe I just have my dad's snarky sense of humor and perception of life.
It only became evident to me since starting therapy and dealing with my numerous issues, that I never grieved for the man at all. Or for the little kid I was who grew up without him and the adult I am who is utterly clueless to most things where he is concerned.
While he was sick, I remember little glimpes of things. I remember him and my mother having really bad fights. I remember various trips to the hospital to see him to say "goodbye" to the point that I asked my mother, "Are we sure this time? Because I've said 'goodbye' a bunch already and it's getting really tiring." I remember the last Christmas he was alive and how, even as a kid, no matter how much everyone tried to make it seem somewhat normal, I just knew that everything was about to change and not in a good way. And I remember my mother waking me up in the middle of a February night to tell me that my dad had passed away (I always think of George Carlin with this - passed away...he died...he didn't pass away or expire or whatever else) and asking my sister and I if we wanted to see him before he was taken away. I chose not to and went back to sleep. I feel bad about that sometimes, even though he was already gone, and that I was likely protecting myself the best way I could at eleven.
Since my mother died of a heart attack in 2009, I've run the gamut of emotions, all within the same hour at times, and it dawned on me that while I'm grieving her - the good, the bad, and the ugly - I need to grieve for my dad too. I have to allow myself to get angry with him because he left me with her. I have to feel sad for myself because it wasn't fair and it's okay to think that. I have to say it's okay to cry about it now because I was always so afraid to do it before, because I had to be brave and strong like everyone told me. And I need to see him the way I do my mother. I put so many of my issues and anger on her shoulders because she was always there. It's not fair to either of them. They both had faults, they both let me down in a lot of ways, and they both took care of me as best as they could.
It's sad, really. My therapist calls it a breakthrough and thinks it's good, but it's hard to be in these moments. I feel almost guilty writing this out, worried about what people might think, but I'm so sick of living that way. I've spent my entire life worried about protecting everyone else, trying to be that good, strong girl, and I buried my own emotions. My mom and dad let me down in the worst way in that regard - they were the parents and I was the kid - and I'm allowed to feel this way.
I just wish I had someone around, other than my therapist, to tell me that it was okay.