Sunday, June 17, 2018

Father's Day: Enough

Dad's not here.

It's Father's Day and this is the first one where he will not be in attendance. I've been thinking about him a lot because I've been seeing things in the stores that I would ordinarily buy and send off to him. But, not this year.

My father and I did not have a close relationship. He was very uncomfortable in speaking with me, so he typically said, when answering the phone to my call, "Here's your mother." We once had a fight about that, and as a result he tried to chat for a bit before turning the phone over but it was a conversation that came wrapped in discomfort and artificiality. I came to wish the fight had never happened and that the idea of 'trying' to talk with someone makes whatever said nonsense.

I visited a few times over his last months and the last time I was there, we both knew it was the last time. Joe and I visited in the early afternoon when no one else was there and I noted a subtle change in the room and with my dad. There was an intimacy and a desire for intimacy. It started with Dad telling us some stories from the war. Turns out my dad was one hell of a story teller. He was funny and had the gift of knowing when to pause and when to deliver a line. We laughed, loudly, listening to him. He was enjoying himself. There was no 'trying.'

When the moment was right, I decided to let go of this wrapped up thing I'd held in my heart for a very long time. There was something I wanted to say to him, something I wanted to thank him for, but it was so personal that I thought that I'd never get to say it. But I did. It took him by surprise, thinking, probably, that I only held anger in my heart with no room for gratitude at all. Then he said that he was pleased because I'd landed right. I was where I was supposed to be, doing what I was supposed to do and living with the man I was supposed to be living with. He called me lucky.

I don't know when he came to that realization, I don't know if it was the hours in the hospital that gave him time to think or if he'd been carrying that too. In the end, it doesn't matter.

What mattered was that I came to peace with my father.

When we left and said goodbye, we knew we'd talk on the phone, but we knew that we'd not see each other again. But while we were both aware that there had been a thousand and seven missed opportunities, we had come to peace.

And, in the end, that was enough.

3 comments:

Rachel S said...

I have problems with Father's Day because, well, my dad's been gone since I was 17. And I desperately wish I could have spent more time with him - I certainly would have, especially if I'd had any clue what'd happen! But I was a teenager and things like parents dying out of nowhere just didn't happen and I was living with my mom...until it did. I didn't have the chance to say goodbye. I'm so glad you did, Dave, I'd give up more than I can say to have had that opportunity. My stepdad is a good man, but I was an adult when he came into the picture - but he isn't a parent to me precisely, you know?

Huge virtual hugs to you.

clairesmum said...

Father's Day has been problematic for me as well, my dad was present but harmful to me and some other family members. I was only able to say what I wanted to say to him at a time that I knew was very close to the end of his life, although what he could hear/understand was very questionable. There was release in saying my goodbye, and in the years since I have come to appreciate some of the gifts he did give me, and that my similarities to him do not make me a harmful person.
Parents and children - it's complicated.

Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt said...

So glad there was time for both of you.

I don't know why people are so afraid of saying, "I love you." That generation, maybe - stiff upper lip, and go do your duty to your country in war, etc., but it was damaging to their children, and painful.

There was this perception that telling children they were adequate, or even good, would give them a swollen head and too high an opinion of themselves. The next generation then praised their children for every little thing, and insisted in giving out trophies 'for participation.'

Both extremes are bad.