I am doing really great things in my personal life, and know that my Dad is somehow seeing and is the MOST proud. My Dad died never fully understanding me as a person. We discussed it. He and I could talk about anything. So, we did. This post may ramble but these are some of the better conversations I was blessed to have with him.
While caring for my Dad, in his last months among us, I would tell him about my emotions and feelings–something he did not see the point in ever talking about, but I had a captive audience, so I took advantage. I’d struggled with mental health issues my whole life and he’d forever told me, “it’s all in your head” and I began to respond, “that’s exactly where it is.”. Comic relief is the only way I know, and laughing about his figurative being my literal was funny. One afternoon, in between Rush Limbaugh radio and Judge Judy, I asked my father if he ever truly understood my struggles with anxiety and depression. Did he have empathy for me? He said, no, I do not. Quite frankly, which is the only way my Dad knew how to communicate, he did not ever understand me or my diagnosed illnesses. And, I am so thankful for that raw honesty. I respect it. I accept it. And, it did not change me, nor my relationship with my Dad. In fact, it got stronger. I got stronger.
Once, when Dad and I were picking up lunch from a local bar and I was in the car waiting for him when a REALLY nice, new car pulled up beside our Pontiac sedan. He comes out with our food and gets into the car to light his cigarette and I said, “Dad, look at that car! Those folks must be so rich! How awesome?”. With not much more than an exhale of smoke, my Dad smoothly responds, “Kiddo, money doesn’t buy any of the things that are going to make you really happy.” while getting out of the parking lot and ashing his cigarette all seamlessly. I think I was about 10 years old. It stuck.
At the ripe age of eight, my Dad, while handling some inane argument my brother and I were having, told me something that I did not understand at the time but have lived by ever since: Nobody ever told you life was going to be FAIR or EASY, so don’t go looking for it to be. Boy, was that man right. I think I have repeated that to myself and to others my whole life. Again, he did not sugar coat things. It wasn’t his style. I notice that same style creep in on me more and more, as I age. That characteristic does not always go over well with my fellow humans, but I just always remember that they too need to learn; life isn’t supposed to be fair or easy. Deal with it.
My decision to divorce was heavily influenced by a conversation I had with my Dad. I had been married four years and he and I were in the process of moving back to my hometown. I had a job first, so I came to live with my parents and work while my husband finished his job search and handled our home. I spent a lot of time with my Dad during this transition period and time of great doubt in my life. We often talked about my work life relationships, so I figured, why not get his feedback on my marriage relationship. I asked my Dad if he ever felt like my Mom was just his family, because she took such good care of him when he was sick (which was often). I explained to him that my husband had become more like a close brother or cousin to me, and that I did not see him in the same light after all that we had been through because of that Hurricane and whatnot. Dad quickly replied, and spoke sincerely, saying that through all the hospital stays he and my Mom had endured, it got very far from romantic intimacy but never had he ever thought of her as family. She was his wife and partner. I knew in that moment what I had to do, as hard as it was. And I did it. Now, I am proud to say that my Dad not only was able to walk me down the church aisle to get married, he also managed to get me down the courtroom aisle to get divorced.
I love that man and miss him so much.