Sunday, March 08, 2009

Good Riddance

My father’s dead.

Three tiny words that add up to nearly four decades of disappointment starting with “you were your mother’s idea, I just signed the paperwork”. I don’t remember when he told me that, but I do recall it was about then that I stopped caring about the annual week-long visit to him and his latest girlfriend, probably circa 1987.

I did try, at the end. A few months ago, I went home to see him. I got to spend three hours with him and his bitch of a wife. Instead of having a nice, restful time to remember the few peaceful moments we’d had over 38 years, she spent the entire time reviling me because of “Liberals are ruining this country, abortionists are killing black babies, and I HEART SARAH PALIN therefore you suck!” Don’t ask, it’s the most logical she’s ever been.

It wasn’t a lot of fun. At that point, I decided I wasn’t going back again. I didn’t, either. I made one more stab at connection when his CaringBridge page went up during the final hospitalization. Being truthful to myself, I simply posted good wishes and admitted I really didn’t have memories to share.

Because I don’t. I have one positive memory of him on the closing night of the musical my junior year, he showed up with roses. That was it. He didn’t attend my high school graduation, nor my college graduation. I never got a birthday or Christmas card from him post my parents divorce. That may be fine when your parents divorce when you are an adult, but I was seven.

Every other moment I could have had with him was spent with the bitch he married who never liked any of his family. She’s one of those people who will say she loves you with all her heart as she hugs you, and as soon as the door closes will turn around and say, “Whew, do I hate her.” Her response to my post was “Yes, you do have memories now post them or I shall guilt you again.”

Here’s my memory. I did gain some insight from that last meeting. Watching her intrude for the umpteenth time I realized he was a weak man and a terrible father. He had no center, making it easy for her to invade his hollowness and push out anything that might have been allowed to grow there. For someone who loved gardening, he was afflicted with a sandy, acidic soul that inhibited life and love.

I looked at his huge house, that looked very much like a model home. A beige house, interior in shades of beige, even the new remodeling looked empty. There were almost no books, no evidence of hobbies. Even his gardening was now reduced to a quarter-acre plot surrounding the house and some potted geraniums on the deck.

When he was married to my mother, we had acres of strawberries and a huge kitchen garden, not to mention the five greenhouses where he plied his green thumb. According to my brother’s eulogy, it was Eden and Dad was God. The only Dad I ever knew was a sarcastic, spiteful chain-smoker who had long since forgotten what a day in the Garden felt like.

There was a man who taught me to load shotgun shells. There was a man who stomped and roared about how much he hated cats…until I found him murmuring endearments to a tiny ball of fluff in his lap. There was a man who took in his relatives’ kids and fathered them as well as he could, meanwhile being an excellent father to his own children. There was a man who taught me right from wrong by example, not decibel level. There was a man who cried when he was sad, and laughed when he was happy, believed in his God and believed more in his wife.

He taught me to fish, which is easy, and how to remove the hook from the fish, which isn’t. He taught me getting up early has its rewards, and that sometimes the only reward of ice fishing is, well, ice fishing.

He wasn’t my dad, though. He was my uncle. If there was ever a man who the vast majority of things a dad should do for a youngster, it was my father’s brother.

I’m not going to miss my father much, it’s hard to miss someone you never knew, because they never cared to make themselves known. I’m quite relieved that he’s not out bragging to his golfing buddies about his daughters’ achievements anymore, because he had nothing to do with those outcomes, and in my case, significantly set back my graduation by several years. I had always planned to forgive him once I paid off my student loans. Now I don’t feel obligated to forgive, which is another relief. It wouldn’t have mattered to him either way, anyway. Whatever he did was the right thing and whatever I did was the wrong thing and I’m okay with that influence being gone from the world.

I’ve also gotten a world of shit from many of my family members for simply being truthful about my experience. Which, to be fair, they have always made a concerted effort to deny. I guess they learned something from Dad after all. “Make sure badphairy feels unloved, unsupported, and out of place” will most likely be his legacy, from my oldest brother for sure. Apparently, I should be eternally grateful for all that fathering he did before I was ever born.

I didn’t go home for the funeral, I wasn’t told when it would be until after the fact, in case I might show up. Yes, I’m feeling the love, aren’t you? Yet my “family” wonders why I don’t seem to like them very much.

I am grateful that this is very nearly the end. All my grandparents are dead now. My father is dead and my mother is in good health. Most of the adults are married, most of the rest are small children. There will be no weddings or funerals for a long time. Hopefully long enough for me to forget them as thoroughly as they wish to forget me. It’s the only equality we can offer each other, now.

I’m single and childless because I think family is overrated. Now you know why.

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