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The healing process

It started this past weekend. The fits of crying for stupid reasons, eating stupid food, feeling like I wanted to simultaneously throw and hug things. I knew, but I pretended it wasn’t happening.

Today is my father’s three year deathiversary. I’m not sure if that is a socially acceptable way of saying “anniversary of his death” but Amy used it once or twice and I loved it, so if you don’t like it, you can use whatever word you want when talking about the anniversary of your own father’s death.

I’ve been experiencing the same emotional roller-coaster for the past three years, ever since the day he died. I wrote about it that day and thought it would help. Obviously it didn’t, since the next year I commented how I sat and cried the whole day and hadn’t come to terms with it. I didn’t even touch on it last year online, but the day was pretty much the same as the year before.

I don’t think it is so much that I haven’t come to terms with it, I just think that I haven’t properly dealt with my anger, which makes me feel guilty, because, he’s dead, you know? But I’m ANGRY. I’m super angry about things that he did, I’m ANGRY with the things that were said and I’m ANGRY because my sister and I are left with the pieces that we don’t know how to put together, and it is still affecting us. It’s kind of time to let the anger go.

I’m going to forewarn anyone who may know me in real life: this may be hard for you to read. This may make you angry at me, or horrified that I’m even sharing this. Especially online. But this is my space. This is my time and frankly, he was my father. I am a writer, and writing helps me heal.

That said, I do beg of you, if you have any decency in this world, please do not report back what I write to my grandmother. She is a good woman, and loved her son, for all his faults. While there are a million and one things she may could have done differently, she is still grieving for her boy. Please respect that these are things that I would definitely tell people, and even HIM were he alive, but my grandma doesn’t deserve this venom.

I wrote this a while ago, and never published it. I think it is time.

You lived so close, but were so far away.

I can count on one hand the good memories I have of you. You explained Grandma’s love for the salty ham one Christmas. The look on your face when you spilled iced tea on her carpet made me laugh. Once when I came home on Christmas break, you patted my knee and said “You’re a good girl.”

Mama told me you were good when I was a baby. You got up every morning to give me my bottle before work.

I don’t remember that.

You left me alone, at not quite 4 years old, with my newborn sister, to go get a drink at the Pond.  I still see you, out of that raggedy trailer window, your truck almost flying down the dusty dirt road. I was scared you were never coming back. You did, begging me not to tell mama you had left.

“Sure, we have pots at the house! Mama keeps flowers in them!” I responded when you asked me if mama smoked pot. But deep down, even at six years old, I knew that wasn’t the question you were asking, seeing the look on Grandma’s face, as she uttered the words I had grown accustomed to: “Now, Kent, hush, don’t say such things.”

It was a small town. I heard it all. I was YOUR daughter. I couldn’t hide it. No matter how good I was, I was always your daughter.

You came to one of my middle school assemblies, this ridiculous black beret on your head. I saw you, felt my stomach drop, but I went to you. You just needed my signature, but “the woman won’t believe it is yours unless you are with me.” I refused to leave with you. You were so angry. Manic or high, I now know. You called me selfish, spoiled. Spoiled, in my hand-me-down clothes and cheap knock-off shoes, while you snorted away every last savings bond mama had so carefully bought me, and in the rush to leave you, forgotten.

You almost broke my arm once, when I was fifteen. You wanted confirmation that I was coming back to visit, I tried to give it to you, but you wouldn’t stop pushing my arm back. Everyone watched, frozen, until I started crying. You looked like a dog that had been caught in the trash. After that I only came around on holidays.

Mama never uttered a bad word about you, even when I asked her the hard questions. The ones I knew the answer to, but the words she could never admit. There were the unspeakable things. But those stories are not mine to tell.

When they could no longer say that you were “just a character”, when the excuses didn’t work, and they could no longer ignore the truth of your mind, I softened, tried to forgive you. I tried to enter your world. But you never seemed to be ready to take blame. It was always someone else’s fault. After ten years of listening to your ranting, I couldn’t listen anymore. Not until after the baby was born. Enough was enough.

I ignored your calls. Twice

Then you died.

Three years later, I’m not sure where I stand. I think of all the people who let ME down, didn’t protect me from you. I think of my questioning of God when GOOD fathers would die: “Why did you do that? I have a perfectly no-good one who has done nothing. Take him!”

I’m trying to forgive you. I’m trying to forgive them.

But most of all, I’m trying to forgive myself.

I don’t think it matters who you were or who you weren’t, what you did or what you didn’t do, what matters is that I am who I am in part because of you, and for that I am thankful. While it wasn’t easy being your daughter, I don’t think I could change any part of my life without changing where I am now, and that is something I am not willing to do.  While you were not a “daddy” you were my father, and I do love you for that. I hope you have found your peace, I’m finding mine.

 

14 comments to The healing process

  • Oh, Natalie- I’m sending you big huge hugs & love & light right now. A deathiversary is never easy, especially when there are so many unanswered and open-ended emotions. You have every right to say anything and share anything you want. I am so proud of you for letting those emotions out and processing your thoughts. Healing is a long process, as is forgiveness. And forgiveness is a gift you’ll need for yourself, not for him. He may or may not deserve it, but at some point (sounds like you’re starting now) you will get tired of caring that stuff around and let it go. It doesn’t mean you forget all the bad stuff or that it’s not still a part of you. Just that you let the anger go. And you don’t have to do that until you’re good & ready. I know you are an incredible person, in spite of (maybe even because of) what you went through and I am proud to call you my friend. You are a strong, brave, wonderful woman and a fabulous mama. LOVE YOU!

    [Reply]

    natalie Reply:

    Thank you Raven. Your words mean a lot to me. I am glad you were able to read this, since you know a lot more of the story than I could ever write here.

    I want to let it go, but it involves letting go of some things (and people) and I’m not sure I’m there yet. But I will be, because I HAVE to be, not just for me, but for my newly formed, amazing little family.

    Love you always!

    [Reply]

  • I hope that you do find peace. Especially today.

    Good for you for writing it out.

    [Reply]

    natalie Reply:

    Thank you so much. My happily ever after is in process and I am so grateful for the journey, as hard as it has been, the rewards and outcome have definitely been worth it.

    [Reply]

  • As a mother I just have such a hard time understanding parents that aren’t totally engaged in their child’s lives. It seems second nature to us! You’re lucky you turned out so great and your girls are lucky to have such a present, loving mother like you! Sometimes you have to live through the crap to get to the good. Thanks for sharing.

    [Reply]

    natalie Reply:

    I think that sometimes makes it harder for me to deal with, because I see it through a parent’s eyes now, and how can you NOT want to be involved with these amazing little creatures you helped create? How can you NOT want to see how they turn out, what they do and the choices they make? My mom tried to explain that it just is not for some people, and while she didn’t mean it as an excuse, or an answer, it was just that I saw it through the lens of a good parent, and I would probably never understand why he was able to stay away.

    Thank you for your kind words, I’m okay with the crap because life is ultimately good and I couldn’t have asked for a better outcome. 🙂

    [Reply]

  • I have no words, maybe because this hits too close to home for me. I was raised in a similar situation, and although my father is still alive, sometimes I wish he weren’t because I thought it might be easier. Easier to ignore him, and forget him without feeling guilty about it. I know now though that even when he’s gone I will still have these feelings and will need to learn to let go of the anger and forgive.

    I have no advice for you, but I wanted to show you some love and say that I understand. XOXO

    [Reply]

    natalie Reply:

    I always thought that it would be easier after he was dead. (See my ranting at God for taking “good” fathers). I was always offering mine up for the taking. I think now that I am older, and I am a parent, and a more confident parent, I am angry because death is so final, and I now don’t have the chance to tell him what he did and how he should take responsibility for it.

    I know it is a very personal thing, but if it is possible, even if only in a letter, I urge you to get yours out too. Not so you can form a relationship with him, for you to heal. I think the little girl inside of me always hoped, but the adult knew we would never have a deeper relationship than we had. I tried and gave everything I had to make this happen, but whether it was because he was ashamed, unwilling, or unable, he never opened up. I’ve started to realize that it is HIS loss, not mine.

    If you ever need to talk or vent, I am here for you, as one daddy-less daughter to another 🙂 XOXO

    [Reply]

    natalie Reply:

    But most importantly, as a friend. XOXO

    [Reply]

  • Eileen

    Hugs and love to you. Good for you for getting it out. Braver than I.

    [Reply]

    natalie Reply:

    Thank you Eileen. But I think you are braver than you believe. Much love back atcha 🙂

    [Reply]

  • Hugs, Natalie. I’ve been reading your blog long enough to have read both your previous posts about your dad, but this one must have been hard to publish. I hope it helps you to put it out there, and I hope no one gives you a hard time about sharing your feelings.

    [Reply]

  • […] years since my father passed away. I’ve written a lot about it (no, really: start here, then here, and here ). I honestly thought I had gotten past it, because the past few years had been much more […]

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