Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Rare Serious Post

"One owes respect to the living. To the dead, one owes only the truth." -Voltaire
This is all true.
Several weeks ago, on a Tuesday, my father died. Before you get all sympathetic and kind and start making with the internet hugs, I was estranged from my father, who was an abusive alcoholic. I hadn't seen him in 15 years (not since I was 17) and hadn't spoken to him in more than 8 years.
See how I do that? I don't want your sympathy and kindness because I don't feel like I deserve it. I had to stop myself when dealing with the doctors at the hospital from telling them not to waste their time and bedside manner on me, I'm FINE. Just make with the end-of-life options and skip the hand-holding, ok? I'm not a daughter, grieving the loss of her father. I'm angry and beleagured and bitter, going through the motions and trying to make things as simple and straightforward as possible.
None of this is simple and straightforward though, is it? I'm both the grieving child AND the put-upon distant relative, aren't I? Maybe one more than the other. But the ratio of one to the other is constantly changing. Sometimes from minute to minute.
When nosy people would ask why I didn't see my father (And note to nosy people: unless you are very, very close to someone? This is none of your fucking business. It will probably become clear from the context at some point if you hang out with them long enough. And if you bug the person enough times, they'll probably stop hanging out with you at all because you're an asshole. And I know normal people reading this are like, "What are you talking about? Who would do that?" People do. Trust me), I would usually say, "Because he sucks" and change the subject. But that wasn't always the case.
When my brother and I were little, my father was an ok dad. At least, he seemed ok to his kids, who I don't think really analyze that kind of thing. He would play with us, read to us, make up stupid songs about poop to the tune of Christmas carols, build forts in the living room with cardboard boxes and blankets, let us eat candy bars for dinner when my mom wasn't home, let us sit in his lap and "help" him drive, and would play a much-loved game where he would swerve the car around all crazy called "Drunk Driver."
Oops. That's getting into the not-so-great stuff. But you know what? The bad stuff is easier to remember. It's the good stuff he did that I can't bear to think about. The fond memories, like when I was very little and we were walking around somewhere and I would hold his thumb because his hands were too big for me to comfortably hold them, that chew at me and make me incredibly angry. Because my father could never overcome his demons, stop drinking, stop abusing the people in his life, act like a productive human being. He might have tried, but it didn't seem like.
My father was not a man, apparently, who believed in sparing his children anything. In a lot of ways, his death was no different. It was messy and inconvenient and painful. My last duty as his daughter was to handle the disposal of his body, the donation of his organs, filling in the information on his death certificate. I wouldn't have necessarily called it ahead of time, but all of these final duties were incredibly painful. The kind of thing that while you're doing them, you're thinking, "Man. That's gonna leave a mark."
I hope he's at peace, finally. I really do. His life was not peaceful, both of his own doing and from circumstances outside of his control, much of it things that I will never know.
Almost a month has passed since all this happened. I wrote a lot of this blog entry the week he died, while this stuff was still fresh in my mind. As with anyone's life, a lot has happened since then. My anger and pain are starting to move into the background. My grief mostly consists of regret and wistfulness for things that, barring a time machine, will never be. My father's ashes are sitting in a green box in the laundry room until we decide what to do with them. (I don't think anyone would mistake them for Tide, so don't worry about that. We use high efficiency liquid detergents anyway.) He always liked this poem, so I guess that's as good an epitaph as any. I never cared for Emily Dickinson's poetry much, but hey. That seems appropriate too.


Anonymous said...

Oh Bea... I would never ask YOU but you know I would ask Mame :) (which I did not, by the way....but I would)

I heard about your Dad and for what it is worth, I am sorry. And that sorry is for whatever YOU need it to be. You are a splendid person whom I am grateful to know I can call upon to traipse into my parents attic to walk down memory lane.... Hey, its a way to spend an evening, right?

We all have battles and struggles... alas, so do I. It is in speaking about them, which takes MUCH courage, my friend, in which we heal a little each time. So keep on speaking and heal a little faster :)

Be well, Bea. Hope to see you under pleasant circumstances in the New Year.

Much Love,

Dolly :)

PS: It seems that the blogging community as a whole is serious this week. Have you read The Bloggess entry a few days ago?

Sorshanik said...

You know me and my situation as I continue to grieve my screwed up chidhood to this day. I make no judgements. I'm just always here for you, whatever that is at that time.