Tuesday, April 25, 2006

I am not sure we rewrite history when we think about those we love that have died or if we just forgive them their humanness and remember their spirit.
I've been thinking a lot, not surprisingly, about my dad lately. Two weeks from Wednesday will be the first anniversary of his death, which I just cannot believe. I hate that time seems to move so much faster now that I have a child.
I ran across the quote above on another blog I was looking at, about 2am Saturday when I couldn't sleep. I read it and suddenly many things that have rattled around in my head this past year came into sharp focus.
My father was not a perfect man, or father, by any means. I think I've said on here before that I don't think he ever truly wanted to be a father, but rather accommodated my mother by agreeing to adopt 2 children since she could not bear any of her own. He worked hard as a civilian fork-lift operator at the Air Force base we live close to, up at 5am Monday thru Friday for 10-12 hour days. He wasn't overly affectionate, and when he was angry he could be mean. I don't remember him ever playing games with us, or helping us with our homework, or reading us a book. That's what Mom did when her health permitted. I'm sure he was overly-strict, especially with my older brother. Their relationship was never good, and when my brother left for college he didn't look back. Rejection, plain and simple. He seemed to want to forget where he came from. To the day he died, my father was so proud of my brother, of the fact that he followed our grandfather's example and became a minister, of his first two grandchildren that he rarely got to see. Both of my parents understood that he had his own life to lead and family to take care of, so they gave him his space to do so and didn't interfere, never complained that they rarel got a visit or even so much as a phone call from their oldest child.
No, he was not the ideal father, but I can't say he had much of an example to learn from. My father was the son of Presbyterian missionaries. He was born in Toledo, OH in 1920. He lived with my grandparents in the French Cameroons in west-central Africa until he was old enough to go to school, then was sent back to the U.S. to either attend boarding school, or live with a family willing to board a missionary's child and attend whatever school the family was in the district of. He moved almost yearly, and didn't graduate from high school until he was 22. The visits to him and his two older brothers from their parents were few and far between until they retired from mission work in the early 1960's and settled in Florida.
My father and I became very close after my mother died. I was amazed, because my relationship with him had never been wonderful... not as bad as his relationship with my brother, but we had our share of knock-down, drag-out fights. He opened up about things that I don't think he'd talked about in 30 years. He told me about his experiences in WWII. He told me about his first wife and that it was she that left him for another man, which I'd never known before. He was a special person and I miss him very, very much (some of you reading this may be gasping with shock, but it's true!).
No one's childhood is perfect. Some are far worse than others, yes, but ours was not that bad when you get right down to it. We didn't have excess, but we never lacked for anything. My mother was manic-depressive, for God's sake. Pile that on top of two kids, and it's amazing that my dad stayed the course. I realized as a young adult that they did the best they could, and that's all that should matter. I wish my brother could see that... I've tried to make him see that... but I don't think he ever will. And that's a shame.

1 comment:

justrose said...

anniversaries are always tough. especially the first one. they give you a lot to think about. thanks for sharing all this.