I talk a lot about my dad, my realtionship with him, the run ins we have. I feel as though Daddy is one of the great unfinished-es in my world. My realtionship with him isn't as strong or as developed as I think it should be. I base this a little bit upon how I see my friends interract with their children, and a little bit on how I interract with my mom.
Yes, I know that no realtionship between two people is ever the same. Personalities, circumstances, schedules, get in the way. People grow up. They grow apart. And as life happens, it becomes more difficult to forgive the hurts and the neglect and easier to just be angry.
The holidays are especially difficult when it comes to my dad. Unless he lived in another state, chances are we would at the very least see him at or near Christmas. He was a classic Santa Dad. When we saw him at any time of year, we would eat candy and donuts and Lucky Charms. We'd watch movies and he would make omlettes with shrimp. There would be visits to his parents' and grandparents. Toys, Nintendo, no chores. Somehow, I didn't notice that the rest of the year when he would be out to sea for 6 months and then back for 6 months, we wouldn't see him until the last weekend before it was time to ship out again.
I know things now that I didn't know then. That he was probably on a bender for that time period. That when we would stop at his friend's house "real quick" and he would leave us in the car for what seemened like forever, that he was probably refilling his stash. Somehow, and maybe because I didn't know, it never interfered with our time with him. It was another errand.
Now that I am older, I do know these things. And there are so many other reasons to be angry with him. I try to let them go, but it's hard. I am only human after all.
Now, when the holidays roll around, I dread seeing him more than a bit. It has nothing to do with the fact that he is no longer "Santa" and eveything to do with the fact that I just don't know what to say. Its been like that for years. It breaks my heart. There was a brief time when I saw Daddy every weekend. A time when we could talk for hours about this and that. When he would tell me stories and we would go to the Swap Meet.
All that has happened in the last 9 years since my grandmother died has overshadowed that. Somewhere in there, I lost my father. Now I know that what really happened was that he lost himself.
On Christmas, we were invited over. I didn't get there until late. There was a miscommunication but I should have tried harder. I didn't want to try harder. It's become easier to avoid the silences. What I found when I did arrive was a relaxed father. Who started almost immedietly telling stories. To me my father is the sum of his stories. I love every outrageous tale. Many are true, some I question. The one he told that night will be AWESOME if it is true, and is one of the few that I might be able to get backup on. We will see.
For the first time in a long time, when my sisters got ready to leave, I didn't jump at the chance to go too. I wanted to stay a little longer. This feeling made me happy and broke my heart a little.This is how I should always feel. I left knowing he was coming to dinner the next night.
He did. Since Uncle Mike was there, he launched into stories again. Some I had heard, some I had not. Still, all the world is right when Daddy is telling stories. I get that from him. During the course of these tales, it came out that Daddy has not fished in quite some time. 5 years, actually, which is how I know that he has lost so much of himself. The parts of Daddy that aren't made up of stories are made up of fishing. I don't really want to fish unless it's with him; I only catch fish when we are together. (and I don't want to bait the hook, kill the fish, clean it...)
5 years is a long time to go without doing the thing you love to do the most. Later, after he left, Uncle Mike mentioned taking him out (UM is an AVID fisherman who is frequently in Bass tournaments) and I told him how much it would mean to me if he would.
I'm not sure how much fishing Daddy has left. Each time I see him, I learn something new about his growing list of health issues. From the back issues that may leave him paralyzed to the heart drugs he doesn't want to take because they will render him unable to tell where his bloodsugar is; dangerous for a diabetic.
I don't know how much time I have left with my dad. The fact that he didn't expect to make it past 55 doesn't make it any easier for either of us to accept that the years of hard living have caught up. I am thankful that he's rediscovering the important things now though. Maddy lights him up like nothing else and I think he knows that all the things he missed out on over the years while he was being selfish with himself have culminated in her; so those things must have been wonderful too. And they were. I'm sorry he missed them.
I was sad to see him go last night. I was enjoying him again. I pray that we are able to spend more time together so that the good memories can replace the bad. He gave the usual round of hugs last night, ending with my mom. As they held each other close, he said, loud enough for us all to hear, "I love you". Not an easy thing to say to a woman you have been divorced from for 31 years. But an important statement. And so nice to hear. Not because I have any sort of thought about them getting back together, but because I know that it is important and healing to tell the people you love how much they mean to you.
I could certainly say it more often.