How Do You Mourn The Living?

14 Jun

Tomorrow is Father’s Day.

If you’re a fairly regular reader here, you may have noticed that I don’t often mention my dad, and when I do it’s always in the past tense. He’ll sometimes come up when I write about my childhood, but other than that I almost never talk about him. He’s not dead or anything – in fact, he lives in the same city that I do. He’s just not a part of my life.

A few years ago my father became estranged from my sisters and I. There’s a lot of backstory there, but I’m not going to get into the whole thing here. For one thing, it’s not entirely my story to tell. For another, I don’t want to write anything here that might hurt anyone. So I’ll just say that there was a long, protracted leave-taking that involved a lot of tearful discussions, tentative reconciliations, and a slow, steady breaking of my heart, with the outcome of all that being that he is no longer a presence in my life.

I love my father immensely. We were close when I was a kid, and I have about a billion memories of us being hilarious and fun together. When I was a teenager, he was the cool parent and would buy me beer and drugs when I came to visit him. He taught me about existentialism, and encouraged me to read Camus’ The Outsider (his favourite book) for my big, final high school English paper. We shared a love of music, and from him I learned the deep physical pleasure – the sort of secular reverence – one experiences while placing a record on a turntable and dropping the needle into the groove. He was a great storyteller, and listening to him geek out about our family history was one of my favourite ways to spend an evening. He read to me every night when I was a kid, even once I was old enough to read on my own, and would get grumpy if my mother had to read a chapter to me while he was working late because he always became just as involved in all my favourite books as I did. He would play make-believe games with me for hours on end, something my mother, bless her, didn’t have the patience or imagination for. He was the first person to talk to me like I was a living, breathing person with thoughts and feelings of my own. We shared the same dark sense of humour; maybe we still do.

He loved me. I know he did. I’m sure that if you asked him he would tell you that he loves me still. So how do I reconcile that with the fact that he’s hurt me, badly, and has hurt many other people that he cares about? It seems impossible.

You always read about little kids who blame themselves for their parents’ divorce. I was thirteen when my dad left, and was sure that I was old enough to know that sometimes grownups just fall out of love and that’s how life is. I knew that it had nothing to do with me, or my sisters. People change, and my parents had changed in ways that made them incompatible with each other. Case closed. Time to move on.

But lately I’ve been wondering if that’s really what I believe; I wonder if I’ve ever felt entirely blameless. Because, honestly, couldn’t we have done something more? Couldn’t we have charmed him into staying somehow? If only we had figured out the perfect way to be, the way that always made him happy, then he wouldn’t have left, would he? But we could never quite suss out the secret of making my father happy. Or maybe we just didn’t try hard enough, because we didn’t know exactly what was at stake. We never imagined that he’d leave.

And then, years later, he somehow managed to leave again. And I’m left sitting here trying to pick up the pieces, trying to figure out how to live my life without him. And it’s hard.

I told my therapist that it would, in some ways, be easier if he was dead. Not that I wish that he would die or anything, just that I would know the right procedure to go through. I would wear black. I would mourn. I would recall only the happy times. I would keep a picture of him on the wall, and my eyes would well up with tears whenever I saw it. I would love him, perfectly and unconditionally, the way you’re supposed to love a parent. I would know that he’d loved me.

But how do you mourn someone who’s still alive? How do you grieve the fact that they’ve left you, when at any moment they could walk back into your life? How is it possible to feel so angry and so hurt and yet also so hopeful that things might get better? It seems totally self-contradictory. And yet, here we are.

On a more basic level, I struggle to know how to talk about him to people who don’t know what’s happened. When they ask questions about him, am I supposed to answer as if we’re still close? Or do I straight-up tell them that we’re estranged? I don’t want to lie, but I also don’t want to make anyone else feel uncomfortable. Because it is uncomfortable for other people, isn’t it? Whenever I tell someone that my father and I don’t actually talk, I always feel like I immediately have to reassure them. I’ll smile big and say brightly, “It’s fine, though! We’ll figure it out!”

But the truth is that I don’t know how we could ever figure it all out. Not at this point. We might reconcile someday, but our relationship will never be what it was. How do you grieve a relationship that can’t ever be properly resuscitated?

My father has met my son twice. The first time was on a rainy day when Theo was about four months old, we ran into my father on the street corner. He peered through the stroller’s rain shield at my fat, sleeping baby and said that he was cute. He shook his head and said that he couldn’t believe he was a grandfather. He promised to call me. He didn’t.

The second time was when Theo was two. My sister and I had agreed to have coffee with our father, and then out of the blue I asked if he wanted to meet Theo. We all went to the museum together. Theo and my father had a great old time together, drumming out rhythms in the second floor gallery, choosing favourite fish in the aquarium. Afterwards, we promised to keep in touch, to try to set up another meeting. It never happened.

These days Theo is very interested in familial relationships. He’ll sometimes refer to me as “your wife” when speaking to Matt, and he’ll call his grandmother “Anne’s mother” instead of Gran. So the following conversation was bound to happen sooner rather than later.

Theo: Who’s your dad?

Me: His name is F____.

Theo: Where is he?

Me: Well, he lives here in Toronto, but we don’t get to see him very often for a variety of reasons. But I know that he loves you very much!

Theo: … Is he not a nice guy?

Me: He’s a nice guy. We – well, we just don’t get to see him very much. But he does love you.

Because I’m sure that, in some way, he does.

At the end of the day, I’m left wondering which father is my real father – the one who sat on the floor and played dolls with me for hours and hours, or the one who didn’t just flat out didn’t respond to the email announcing my pregnancy? The answer is both, I guess, but that truth is a lot to wrap my head around.

I miss my dad.

Anne youth photo0014

 

 

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44 Responses to “How Do You Mourn The Living?”

  1. Julie Gillis (@JulesAboutTown) June 14, 2014 at 7:34 pm #

    I have so much love for you right now.

  2. Victo Dolore June 14, 2014 at 7:46 pm #

    Great post!

  3. AmazingSusan June 14, 2014 at 7:49 pm #

    Yes, it’s hard. Parent/child relationships are often conflicted. Correction: ALL relationships are often conflicted.

    I’m sorry for the empty space left in you and each and every one of us by the departure (of whatever kind) of those we once loved and still sometimes do.

    Here is a poem to my mother: http://myalzheimersstory.com/2014/05/01/i-see-you/

    XOX

  4. bluestgirl June 14, 2014 at 8:04 pm #

    I’m so sorry. I am estranged from my mother, and it makes Mothers’ Day full of emotional minefields.

    As far as “what to tell other people that won’t make them uncomfortable,” I think that there are enough stories of absent fathers, that if you say something like, “my father isn’t in my life,” and appear unconcerned, people will have a story to fit it into, and not ask more questions. It is a little misleading, because it’s more complicated than that, but for people who aren’t close to you, it’s not really their business.

  5. Sherry June 14, 2014 at 8:06 pm #

    Oh, girl, that hurt to read.

    If he were dead, I’d say, “I’m so sorry for your loss. My father died, too; I understand your sorrow.”

    But this? “I’m sorry for your… situation?” I dunno. This is a sucky deal, and I hate it for you.

    [Insert correct platitude here.]

  6. AmazingSusan June 14, 2014 at 8:31 pm #

    Reblogged this on a dog's breakfast and commented:
    A great post about parenting, love, loss, and being conflicted.

  7. katiefindsjoy June 14, 2014 at 8:38 pm #

    My husband is estranged from his father and this post really helped me to understand how he might be feeling tomorrow (and really, not just tomorrow, but always). Thank you so much for sharing.

  8. swo8 June 14, 2014 at 8:46 pm #

    You are grieving now. A lot of us have some conflicting feelings about one parent or another. You may resolve things before one of you dies or you may not. What is really important is for you to be there for your children.
    Leslie

  9. jimholroyd365 June 14, 2014 at 8:48 pm #

    great post, sorry for your (living) loss…. families can be complicated…

  10. fredericksilva June 14, 2014 at 9:23 pm #

    Nossa Muito bom 🙂

  11. Cathy746books June 14, 2014 at 10:20 pm #

    My father died four years ago today. I was 10 weeks pregnant with my twins at the time. In some ways I envy that your father has met your children and in another way I know that I have closure. This was a lovely, emotional post. I miss my Dad too. Love to you x

  12. bveltrop72 June 14, 2014 at 10:37 pm #

    In answer to your question as to how to answer people about your dad, it is no one’s business and you owe no one an explanation. Dear Abby shared this morsel in reply to a letter to her. As for how to mourn the living, my therapist recommended writing a letter to someone who is gone. Gone meaning no longer a part of my life be it by death or dissolution of a relationship. My father and I were estranged for many years before his death. When he passed, no one even knew my father was living or why I was so upset but it was none of their business.

  13. justme3362 June 14, 2014 at 10:59 pm #

    Hugs to you. I was estranged from my mom for many years, and it’s still weird but it’s still so comfortable – both when we’re together and when we relive the ugly past. It’s hard. All I can figure is that our parents love us in the way they can, and that it does actually make us better people for it. Xxox

  14. izzy82 June 14, 2014 at 11:48 pm #

    Oh wow, that’s tough. I was also 13 when my parents split and though one moved a thousand miles away when I was still in high school, they both remain big parts of my life. I am more comfortable with and trust one of them more than the other and that’s hard enough, to feel like I can’t trust or rely on a parent but both my parents are still very much in my life.
    Anyways I’m rambling about myself, sorry about that. I am sure your dad loves you even if he hurts you. I don’t know your dad (obvi) but what I’ve noticed is that while some parents love and care about their kids, they love and care about themselves more. So I am so sorry for your loss. By that I mean that it sounds like you know now that while he has good qualities, he also has some not so nice ones and that the bad is always there with the good. To me, it sounds like he’s not the person you once thought he was. That’s grief and perhaps betrayal? It seems kind of like a breakup, like this person still exists but they’ll never be to you again who they once were. And that’s a tremendous loss. Take care of yourself.

  15. evelyneholingue June 15, 2014 at 1:40 am #

    Father’s Day like Mother’s Day triggers lots of emotion and not only positive. Your post must resonate with many girls and women. Since you mention an email that your father never acknowledged, can I ask if you tried again? Since you were announcing him your pregnacy it is possible that the emotion this email conveyed was hard for him since he left you behind. I would try again, perhaps especially for your little boy. Then, if he remains silent I would let it go. But you are absolutely right that grief without death is the hardest. Best to you.

  16. bambiandtheleaf June 15, 2014 at 2:27 am #

    Reblogged this on bambi & the leaf and commented:
    This.

  17. Arianna Editrix June 15, 2014 at 5:19 am #

    I wished, most fervently, that my father would disappear from my life or that his Bi-Polar would somehow become tractable or at least easier to live with than he was when he was off his meds. It never happened. We’d been estranged for over 7 years when he finally died. And yes, the family called me, over 2000 miles away at the time, to come handle his funeral as I was the designated survivor of the group. Parents are a mystery their children is what I believe. Heck, my mother is still alive and SHE still doesn’t “get me”. Let the “father” who hurt you go, and, when you are able, let the dad you remember back into your head at least. I hug you from afar sis!

  18. runningnekkid June 15, 2014 at 5:23 am #

    I am thinking of you and here for you and have so much love and empathy for what you’re going through.

    My mom and I had such a volatile relationship when she was alive, and even though I never cut off contact with her, there definitely times when I struggled with that decision. She hurt me so much and so frequently that it was often worse for me to be around her than it was helpful to have my mother there. Now that she’s gone I don’t have to deal with all of the “stuff” that made our relationship so hurtful, but it’s kind of sucky when people get so weirded out by me talking about our relationship troubles because we’re only supposed to speak well of the dead. But I don’t only have good memories of my mom, so why should I pretend that the hurtful parts of her never existed? Erasing her like that feels even worse than just trudging through the awful acceptance of who she was, and all of the ways that she failed me. (ugh) Maybe we could have had a better relationship if she had lived another 20 years, but maybe we would have been estranged. It really could have gone either way, to be honest. And it wasn’t all up to me, no matter how many times I beat myself up for not convincing her to love me better by being a better daughter.

    There is literally nothing you or I could have done to make our parents different people. They were adults by the time we met them, and all of the stuff that led up to the complicated relationshipping had between us was already in place. Also, we were children. I mean. Really.

    I am glad that you’re talking about your complicated dad feels. Whatever happened, you deserve to know that your feelings are not ridiculous or shameful or the cause of your theoretical misandry, no matter how many smug assholes would love to point to your “daddy issues” to explain away the work you do to tackle inequality and stigma. I know that nobody has mentioned that yet, but maybe in the future you might need to hear this, so I’m gonna put it here so you can come back to it anytime.

    Take care, lady. I love you.

  19. arranbhansal June 15, 2014 at 7:17 am #

    This is such a beautiful post, thank you for being so brave and writing it
    Arran

  20. carol June 15, 2014 at 8:16 am #

    My daughter has a very similar situation with her dad. She and I moved and she became estranged but I know she misses him. Hope that someday very soon your relationship with your dad will resume and become a good strong loving bond again. He sounds like a magical dad to have had as a girl.

  21. ashokbhatia June 15, 2014 at 9:51 am #

    I lost my father in 1991. I continue to miss him, too!

  22. sammykur June 15, 2014 at 12:51 pm #

    Divorce is a selfish act perpetrated by those who put their own happiness above that of their children.The lies that parents who divorce like “it will be better for the child if to grown up in a broken family instead of one with conflict” is a lie selfish parents tell themselves to ease their own conciense. If you have a child you should put their best interests above yours. I*f you cant get along shut your damn mouth dont fight in front of them, whatever you thought you had to fight about should take a backseat to their welfare.

    70 percent of inmates in state juvenile detention centers serving long-term sentences were raised by single mothers. Seventy-two percent of juvenile murderers and 60 percent of rapists come from single-parent homes. Seventy percent of teenage births, dropouts, suicides, runaways, juvenile delinquents, and child murderers involve children raised by single parent. Girls raised without both parents are more sexually promiscuous and more likely to end up divorced.

    Want your kid to grow up and be fucked up???
    easy- get a divorce

    (on a side note I think this make an excellent arguement for gay adoption as by appearance their committment to both staying together if they deicide to raise a child seems to be a much stronger one. I have no doubt if you ran the numbers seperations would be almost nonexistant when a child was involved)

    • aikifox85 May 4, 2016 at 8:55 am #

      Divorce was the absolute best thing for my parents and my childhood was much improved afterward. Kudos to my mother for deciding she no longer wanted to be a punching bag.

  23. blueneely June 15, 2014 at 8:01 pm #

    I relate somewhat. I do not have a relationship with my father the last 5 or 6 years. I have not made an effort to see him even though he lives in the same town. He often asks about me, especially recently, when my youngest sister sees him. She is the only one out of us five siblings and my mother who has regular contact with him. We remember too clearly the abuse we faced at his hands and the abuse our mother suffered. He is kind and nice to my younger sister and I know would be the same towards the rest of us since we have grown but something inside me just doesn’t want to forgive and move on. Thus, I mourn the absence of a father in my life not sure I mourn him necessarily.

  24. robinlmartinez June 16, 2014 at 2:32 am #

    Can relate very well to this post – except for the myriad happy childhood memories. My dad made it known pretty much from the start he wasn’t interested in my sister and me so when he finally just called it quits and shut us out of his life, I wasn’t as conflicted as you must be. Wonderful post, thank you so much for sharing it 🙂

  25. Larissa Lee June 16, 2014 at 1:13 pm #

    Different boat, same ocean. You describe how it feels so eloquently!

  26. Chance June 16, 2014 at 4:57 pm #

    Male? Check.
    Failed to respond to an email? Check.

    I’m convinced, this person is awful. You are clearly acting with wisdom and prudence. Can’t imagine there are any other perspectives in this scenario you have laid out.

    • windowseatstories June 19, 2014 at 3:54 am #

      I am absolutely flabbergasted by the (few) comments that focus entirely on the offhand tiny remark at the end, that he didn’t acknowledge the pregnancy email. How can anybody read this and come away thinking “oh, she cut her dad out of her life because he didn’t answer her email, one strike and he was out”?

      I can see how tempting it is to imagine “this is fixable, it would be too terrible if things actually were the way they’re described here, I’d better tell her how to fix it or tell her what a dick she is.” It’s so much more comfortable to imagine that you already know all the answers about someone’s life without knowing more than 1% of the story. But boy, is that an enormous amount of hubris.

      • bellejarblog June 19, 2014 at 1:38 pm #

        Yeah, there was definitely waaaay more than just that (and at that point we were already pretty much estranged). I just didn’t want to get into the gory details, because I know that might hurt other people who have been involved. This isn’t just my story, it’s my sisters’ story, and my mother’s, and so on.

  27. lorilschafer June 16, 2014 at 5:15 pm #

    A lovely and thoughtful post. I had a similar issue with my mother, who became mentally ill – in a scary, violent way – when I was a teenager, eventually prompting me to run away from home. I never knew how to talk about her. “Where are your folks?” people would ask. “My mother lives in Florida,” I’d answer, which would usually be enough to close the subject. But it’s much more awkward when the little ones start asking questions. You don’t want to lie, but they’re not ready to hear or understand the truth either. In some ways it is easier now’s that she’s passed. However, once that happens, you know there’s no possible chance left for reconciliation, and that’s also difficult to bear. It sounds as if you still love your father very much, and it’s hard not to hope that somehow he’ll be brought back into your life. Just be careful and don’t get your hopes up too high – I wouldn’t want to see you get hurt again.

  28. stephrader June 16, 2014 at 11:14 pm #

    I can totally sympathize.

  29. mcfcwolf June 17, 2014 at 6:25 pm #

    http://mcfcwolf.wordpress.com/2013/11/08/cling/

  30. Jesus Beer June 18, 2014 at 4:58 pm #

    I just want to say thank you for writing this. It is a question I’ve had to ask about different relationships (familial and otherwise) in my life and I’ve never found a good answer. It’s encouraging (while discouraging and heartbreaking) that my experience is not unique and is more universal than I could have ever imagined in my darkest thoughts.

    So thank you; this was beautiful for me in its own dark way.

  31. Loon June 18, 2014 at 11:50 pm #

    I recently learned there is a word for this – disenfranchised grief.

  32. LauraMappin-OurTabooMuseum June 18, 2014 at 11:53 pm #

    I just learned that there’s a word for this – disenfranchised grief.

  33. windowseatstories June 19, 2014 at 3:56 am #

    I am absolutely flabbergasted by the (few) comments that focus entirely on the offhand tiny remark at the end, that he didn’t acknowledge the pregnancy email. How can anybody read this and come away thinking “oh, she cut her dad out of her life because he didn’t answer her email, one strike and he was out”?

    I can see how tempting it is to imagine “this is fixable, it would be too terrible if things actually were the way they’re described here, I’d better tell her how to fix it or tell her what a dick she is.” It’s so much more comfortable to imagine that you already know all the answers about someone’s life without knowing more than 1% of the story. But boy, is that an enormous amount of hubris.

  34. Maracae Grizzley June 19, 2014 at 8:50 am #

    You have my sympathies and I wish I could do more than offer ephemeral hugs from the Internet, but that’s all I have available to me at the moment.

    My parents divorced when I was fairly young… I must have been… around 10 years old or so. Truth be told, I’m sure there’s a lot of blame to go around and it’s just not worth dredging up at this point unless there *is* a point to it. I stopped talking to him when, after I’d entered college, I vented to a religious leader about some anger I still had pent up at him and he not only was told what I’d said, but he called me to basically rake me over the coals for hurting *him*.

    I’d had enough and was old enough to say it. Didn’t even hear his voice again until just before I got married. He spoke briefly to my husband and then pretty well exited my life.

    I’d say that I was at peace with the situation, but that was before I got the call two… three years ago, I think, that he’d died suddenly. And that was only months after losing my step-father to cancer.

    It’s not any easier, at least for me, now that he’s dead. It’s a great gaping hole inside my chest because I think I had this idea, somehow, that time and experience would bring him to a point where we might be able to reconcile. That he might change enough to realize that I was hurting and that everything wasn’t just about him. I want to think that he changed. For the sake of my half-sisters, who lost him when they were far too young to be without their father, I pray that he had changed.

    But I don’t know, and I never will. That’s what hurts the most about it. The loss of all the things that might have been.

    I ache with you. The pain that you’re feeling, the confusion and the loss, I wish I had wise words to help you but all I can offer is my sympathies and the camaraderie of souls who share the pain of living with grief and absence.

    • laelwhitehead July 21, 2014 at 4:10 pm #

      Maybe the trick is to mourn the loss that is NOW, but not to assume that anything lasts – even this estrangement. Human beings are not fixed; we aren’t solid “selves,” but moving clouds of emotions/thoughts/impulses that shift and evolve continually. I recently experienced a beautiful reconciliation with someone I thought I would never again be close to. It happened as she was dying.

      I love the fact that we cannot foresee, but only discover, one another. Perhaps your father will surprise you some day. Or you will surprise him. I hope so.

  35. walk-on September 5, 2014 at 6:03 pm #

    I know this post is from long ago, but I stumbled upon it while searching for how to mourn loved ones who are still alive. I can’t tell you how wonderful it was to find your words because while everyone talks about grieving the dead, no one seems to talk about how to grieve those who are still alive. Despite my past being great fodder for a heartbreaking family saga novel, it doesn’t lend well to everyday conversations. I can’t talk about it because it is too dysfunctional, confusing, painful, and hard to summarize. It was so overwhelming that I spent most of my life in denial, and thereafter cloaked in a protective shield of hope that things would one day change.
    Oddly enough, hoping that my family would change and finally stop hurting me was getting in the way of me being a good wife and mother to my own kids. I finally had to accept that, unless some miracle occurred, they are not going to change and they will not be a part of my life. In fact, they said as much to me in my last conversation. I am still digesting the reality of my situation and all the emotions that go with it. It is an odd mixture of sorrow, anger, love, longing, disappointment, disillusionment, hopelessness, helplessness, hope, confusion, worry, doubt, devastation, pity, and so much more. I relate to the concept of it being easier if they were dead. I’ve grieved for many loved ones who have passed, which is horrible, but it is different than this. For some reason, death is not only final – but in most ways it is faultless. With its finality, the unavoidable bargaining eventually brings us to the fact that nothing we can do will change it. When the person is still alive, you always wonder “what if…” There is constantly the hope that as long as we are breathing, things could get better – and perhaps I could have some control over it. When you realize that you can’t control another person, you have to accept that for whatever the reason that person won’t or can’t have you in their life. And that stings like salt in your wounds.
    I wish more people had the courage to talk about this subject. So many of us lose people in all sorts of ways – from addiction to mental illness to abuse – and it hurts like hell. I think it hurts just as much as grieving someone who has passed, but it is markedly different. And isolating. Thanks for bringing it into the light so eloquently and I hope that you are finding peace with your situation. I understand and empathize and wish you all the love you need to handle the loss.

  36. Marissa October 22, 2014 at 2:05 pm #

    I know this post is old and you probably won’t read it but I just want to say thank you. Thank you for not only recognizing the conflicted feelings of hurt/anger/love/guilt you feel but having the strength to confront them and write about it. I hope I one day have your strength and courage. I’ve been estranged from my father for two years and it’s still a very raw issue for me. When trying to explain the situation I will usually say something along the lines of ‘this would be so easier if he was just a bad person’ or ‘I wish he didn’t love me’ because it’s painful to think that the person who loves you is still so capable of causing so much pain. So I wrote this reply to just say that I support you, whether you decide to foster a new relationship with your father or not. I love you for showing me that I am not alone. That people do understand. I realize how difficult this was for you, and how telling my story could help other people struggling to reconcile (or not) with their fathers. I wish you all the happiness in the world.

  37. Cindy February 20, 2015 at 6:58 am #

    I feel the same as u. I hope these parwnts rot between heaven and hell. For the misery theyve caused

  38. Ericka May 6, 2015 at 10:56 am #

    I really admire your writing/blogging skills, and your very frank manner. I will say two short things, cause I tend to ramble if I don’t set a point LOL. Anyway, first off, that’s really not “cool” to offer your kids drugs of any kind, now I don’t want to seem overly moralistic, but I do believe in ethics, and seems to me whether a parent had an addiction problem or not, that if they were at least a little responsible, that …well that choice should have never been made. I don’t know whether you were over 18 or not, but no parent should encourage something unhealthy.

    Anyway, but I could still relate to feelings of estrangement from your father. I often feel that way about mine, but yet I see him almost everyday. He’s a very tough man to live with, he has mood issues and this causes me to become depressed (it’s a horrible cycle and sometimes I just wish it would stop), but the loving person in me understands he may not truly have a choice in mental health, no more than I can about getting depressed when he vents rather scarily to me. However, my dad never had an alcohol or drug problem, he did smoke cigs (he finally quit in his 40’s but not after a heart attack, not sure if that was the cause of it or just stress–he’s always been a high-strung, rather aggressive individual). He lived through it, but he became a different person, he was more manageable before, and for a year after he treated everyone pretty good and mostly we were happy again as a family. Then, after his health starting compounding more issues (diabetes soon followed) he just got more and more negative. It has been such a sad thing to endure and see, and I tried everything to help reduce stress, but for some people I’m just not sure anything can help sometimes. Health issues are really hard to get over sometimes, and for some people they never truly do. It is also a sad thing many can’t get the proper health care they need.

    However, I often feel ambivalent. On one hand, I think my parents did a good job raising me. After all, I didn’t become a career criminal, I’m very polite to strangers unless they try to bully me (then watch the stubborn streak that is often in my family line), and I lived, hey that’s a real accomplishment in today’s society, after hearing all these horrible stories of mother’s throwing babies from bridges and in microwaves, of course those were probably very unhinged people. It does make you see that not everyone should have become parents if they felt that was the only option. But, I’d say the main thing my father could have done more for, was empathy. He used to go around saying (one one of his episodes), that he didn’t care how I felt. Hearing his, “I don’t care” just almost became a standard. I couldn’t fathom why any parent wouldn’t care about how their children were feeling or what they were thinking, but then it struck me he probably has a rather narcissist personality or is a bit manipulative and that’s why he doesn’t have much empathy. He does have his few good sides, don’t get me wrong, but they do seem a little less in comparison, most of his old friends are gone and most don’t want to visit him because of his attitude.

    I mean, I understand, he had a very tough life (a life I honestly wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy, I suppose he had to maintain a very tough/hard personality to live through the crap he had to endure, and being manipulative might have been the only way to accomplish that.Yet, I can’t help think, why does he feel it necessarily to hold on to something no longer needed? When he had a stable family, loving and devoted wife, two great kids (we were a little sickly as children, but eventually we became stronger). By all purposes, he suddenly had the good life, but I’m not sure he was ever really content or even trusting of it. I suppose once you’ve been bit by a dog, you never really get over it (I’m using this as an example about trust). He was hurt by people on the street when he was homeless, not to mention a slew of others. It’s not like it’s a secret, but he doesn’t tell everyone the full story of his life. And I try not to air “dirty” laundry, but at the same time…if you never talk about something, how can you ever face the truth of what happened? I feel he never got closure, he never got to hear, sorry that happened to you…maybe it’s ironic that the one person who did care , is the one person he shuts out and gets angry at. My father is getting on in years and his health isn’t great. I’d really like to try to find some resolution before it’s too late, but like you, sometimes I’m not sure if that will ever happen. I just try to go on living my life and I have to realize I can’t make everyone happy and that shouldn’t be my job. Now, if I can brighten up someone’s mood by a laugh, or a present, little things…that’s one thing, but I can’t control how someone thinks and feels; just unrealistic.

    I’m not sure how one mourns the living…maybe we’re doing it right now in the writing we compose explaining our lament? But, I know we shouldn’t have to be doing it, and I wish some parents and people would fully realizing that sometimes the things you say and the actions you take impact more than just one person. I know no ones perfect and mistakes can/will probably be made, but hearing I’m sorry and really meaning it can do alot. Sadly, I have hardly heard a sorry from my father, except the one time he admitted perhaps he wasn’t the greatest of parents (of course I tried to reassure him he did good on the whole, but I didn’t want to make him feel worse by saying he could have controlled his emotions much better). And see, that’s respect for your parent right there, knowing you have the power to hurt them, but choosing not too, and I just wish all the times he made me cry or mad, were times he would have shown some restraint. He wasn’t the worst parent out there, but I’m really glad I had a very sensible mother/ brother who did give me that emotional support that I really needed.

    Thank you for writing this, and I think on the whole your views are very point on about some issues, and it’s always nice to know some of us aren’t alone rowing the boat.

  39. aikifox85 May 4, 2016 at 8:52 am #

    Thank you for sharing this. My own father and I haven’t been on good terms since January 6th, 2015. The short version is he disowned me over a disagreement over what is in the best interests of my special needs brother. I ended up being given guardianship after my dad took me to court. It was the hardest thing I’ve had to endure thus far in life. Things have quieted down since last year, but we do not contact each other. Most days, I get by just fine. But then other days, like today, some random childhood memory will come flooding in and I am doubled over in pain and anguish with tears streaming down my face.

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