I've alluded to some of the mishegoss this year that's contributed to my overall tension level, but (mostly) for legal reasons, I've avoided discussing what I'm sure has been the main culprit: the fallout from my father's death two years ago this week. Well, two years ago today, actually, but who's counting? I wasn't. Really. I swear. These things, these sad or scary or horrendous events, must be embedded in us on some cellular level. Because if you'd asked me right up until I started writing this why I was feeling so edgy, so crappy, so restless/listless/angry/frustrated/frightened, after an initial "I dunno"-type disclaimer I would have rattled off a huge list of badness, both real (money woes, work fears, lack of exercise) and imagined (talent flown the coop, ability to write a cohesive sentence AWOL, general pending doom).
But then I read Neil Kramer's delightful and funny and eloquent spilling of his first day "back" from full-time grieving of his own father's death and it shook something loose inside of me. Of course, my own spilling feels about as charming as vomit, but it must out, so here we are.
I had a complicated relationship with my father. I idolized him in many ways, and in many ways he was beyond worthy of it. Seriously. He was an extraordinarily generous man, both with his time and his money. I've lost count of the people I've met over the years who, upon confirming that I was my father's daughter, rattled on about how my father had gotten them this meeting or this job or this promotion. He was constantly flying around the country or on the phone, or flying around the country on the phone, getting things done.
And the money. After years of struggling, he was very successful in the last years of his life, and while he continued to live the same peanut-butter-and-boxer-shorts lifestyle he always had, everyone else reaped the benefit of his success. He supported his own parents in what some would call extravagent style for the last 15 years of their life, letting his proud father maintain the fiction that it was all a loan to be paid back at some later date. He paid for my mother's funeral when she died 10 years ago even though they despised each other, because he knew my sister and I couldn't afford it and didn't want to have to ask our grandmother (who could) to foot the bill. Don't get me started on my stepmother's expenditures; let's just say she wanted for nothing, and if she exercises even minimal restraint, will live out the rest of a very long life doing the same.
On the other hand...
Okay. Look. I know nobody's perfect. I knew it about my dad even when he was alive. I mean, let's face it: I'd both reached adulthood, middle-aged adulthood, and been shrunk (twice) by the time he died, a year ago today, at 70. I knew he was a workaholic; I knew he had avoidance issues. I knew we were never going to have the kind of relationship I would really have liked and worse, the kind that deep down, I sensed he would really have liked if he'd been strong/brave/weird enough try. I knew all of this because, self-exploration and shrinkage notwithstanding, I was...am...so very, very much like him, both physically (the Crohn's, the eczema, the big-nostriled honker) and temperamentally. Ask my ex-husband, he'll tell you. And he'd be right.
But after I got our family disease, I started making some unorthodox (for our family, anyway) choices, truth over fiction, time over power, love over money. I'd been paying lip service to The Path for years, but I'd finally decided to walk it. Ironically, embracing the part of me that wasn't like my father made it easier to accept the parts that were, and to love him for the real, live, flawed, loving human being that he was. Or at least, I thought it did, until he died and the proverbial other shoe dropped.
I can't get into the details of it yet because, as I mentioned earlier, there are a few legal loose ends that need tying up first. For now, let's just say that Dad wasn't as strong and brave and tough a man as we thought he was and that getting down with that truth isn't as easy as I thought it would be.
Let's also say that for as bewildered and angry and hurt as his death and the fallout from it have left me, they have also shown me that while I am my father's daughter, I am also my own person, and a much stronger, braver, tougher person than I realized.
Sad. Mad. Glad.
I miss you, Dad.