I know it isn’t unusual for me to “check out” for awhile blog-wise. And I was anticipating a bit of a break (and should have said so!) because my kids were on break all of last week, and I really don’t get much reading, blogging or anything not kid-related done when they’re home. I’d expected to be back in the fold by Tuesday, catching up on your blogs, posting on mine, but then something unexpected happened and I’m having trouble getting into the right headspace.
My dad died on Friday. Well, one of my dads (yes, it’s complicated). I have three – my bio dad, whom I chat with on FB, but have never met in person; my adoptive father, who divorced from my mother (bio) when I was 9, and whom I haven’t communicated with since I was 19; and my stepdad, who started dating my mom when I was 14 and has been around ever since. It’s my adoptive father who passed away.
Our relationship was…complicated. For a lot of reasons. And so my feelings about his death are also complicated. Because we hadn’t talked in over two decades, there is a part of me that feels like I have no right to be upset, so I’ve been stifling it, shoving it in a box, way in the back of the mental “closet” where bad feelings go to die (but never do). Whenever “that” feeling starts to rise up in my chest, I just tell it “not now”. And it felt like that was working. But the truth is, grief isn’t squelched by silence or denial, it finds a way to express itself one way or another. I won’t allow myself to cry, but all I want to do is sleep. I’m struggling to read, my appetite is gone, I feel…distant from myself, if that in any way makes sense. So that’s really why I’ve been gone longer than I intended. My mind went to a strange place on Friday and hasn’t really come back to me yet, I’m afraid.
As for my dad, I’ve been thinking about him a lot in the past few days, about the nature of our relationship and how it ended up where it did, why I had the feelings I did towards him, why they were so strong, and while I’m not sure I have regrets – I stayed away for my own emotional well-being – it’s interesting how clearly I understand those past hurts now that he’s gone. And even more so, how much easier it is to forgive someone, to acknowledge their light, when it’s finally gone out.
My dad was not a bad man, but he had more than his fair share of demons. Of his four biological children and two adopted, only two had any semblance of a relationship with him. There is good reason for that, some of which I can attest to, and wish I couldn’t. But, I also have a lot of good memories from when I was a kid. He loved the park and took us frequently. He always knew the best spot to go, the secret little places that other people never seemed to know about, the area with the pond and the ducks, which we’d feed from the loaf of stale bread we bought at the grocery store on the way there. We’d pull sandwiches and generic sodas out of the cooler we brought and my brothers and I would spend the whole afternoon running around like the wild little creatures we were.
He was a passionate music lover. His collection of vinyls was beyond anything I’ve seen, and we’d spend hours in music shops hunting through them, looking for that special something. My musical taste has been called eclectic, mostly because it’s not limited, I think, and that’s because of him.
But more impactful than anything would be his effect on my reading life. While other adults in my life influenced my love for reading (my grandmother and my mother), he was probably the heaviest influence of all. When I look back at all my favorite books from those days, the books that tie directly to the kind of reader I am now, the genres that I love, they were all seeded by his bookshelves (Tolkien was his favorite, and is mine as well). Even my pleasure at collecting books comes from him because while my mother always had a book on her nightstand, we didn’t have bookcases at her house, and I never actually saw her read.
But at my dad’s house, he, my stepmom and I, we could all be found in the living room reading books from their shelves: Tolkien, King, Koontz, Andrews, and various other fantasy, horror, thriller, dramatic madhouse craziness. Never once was I told that something was off limits. Nor was anything I requested ever made fun of. During long summer visits, I could lay on the couch ALL DAY and read whatever suited me, without interruption, without anyone insisting that it was a beautiful day outside, implying that there was something better to do than having my head stuck in a book. We didn’t talk about books, even though we were always reading something the other had already read. Reading was just a thing that was done. Like eating dinner or going to sleep, it was a part of the natural order of things. And while, in general, I wouldn’t seek to emulate most of his parenting “techniques”, this is a gift that he gave me that I hope I’m giving to my children.
My relationship with my father was complex even on the best of days. We hadn’t talked for over 20 years. But he’s the father who raised me, and though it doesn’t feel right to say I miss him, I did love him, and my heart hurts. While I may not literally carry a part of him with me (adopted), the little legacy he did leave me has been one of the most influential of my life, and I guess in that way, he’s always been a part of my life, and will continue to be.
I’m not officially announcing a hiatus or anything, but since I don’t know if I’ll “be back” tomorrow or three weeks from now, I thought I should say…something. That something turned into a bit more than I anticipated, but it was cathartic, so I’m leaving it.
I promise I’ll get back to your comments and start visiting again soon! Thank you for your patience.