Friday, January 11, 2008

A Bit Macabre

Hayden is very detail oriented, and doesn't miss a thing. We were having a conversation a couple nights ago and I was trying to get him to relate to my feelings about him not being nice. I was saying "think about if I said....blah would you feel?" So, he tried to flip it around on me by creating a similar scenario. It went something like this:

Very casually- "Mommy, what if you were little? When you were a little girl. And I was your Daddy? But I was still alive. And..." BLAM!! That kid doesn't miss a thing. Even in a hypothetical scenario, he needs to get the details right. Pretending to be my Daddy would make you dead, unless you specified otherwise. No, he wasn't trying to be hurtful, nor did I take it that way. I didn't even comment on that detail, so nonchalantly thrown in there. Coincidentally, the next day (yesterday) was the anniversary of my Dad's death. January 10th.

Each year on January 10th (as well as Father's Day) I visit my Father's grave. It's often a dismal, rainy day making it that much more unpleasant. The first few years, January 10th came around with literal black clouds in the sky, as well as on my soul. How could I face this anniversary year after year? The first few years, I stood there very young and lost. I would look out over the hillside, so very aware that I was literally standing on top of the physical remains of the man who raised me. Yes, my Mom was there alongside him, but a Mother and a Father each have very unique and significant roles. I had lost half my upbringing at age 19. On the cusp of adulthood, I no longer had him to turn to for all those adult questions, triumphs, and challenges I would be facing. When I left my marriage, I would stand there in shame, feeling like I had failed him and had absolutely no way to reconcile this. How could I explain? How could I get his absolution and understanding for making the choices I had made? When I graduated college, I stood there wishing I could see the proud smile he would have had across his face. When I was engaged once again, I didn't have him there to give his approval and celebrate with me. And when I was pregnant, out of respect for his very superstitious ways, I would not enter the cemetary, yet felt his absence even more profoundly because he would never know these two beautiful, engaging grandsons he now has in his memory. Despite these visits and mental conversations at his grave, I never truly felt a connection to him there. The emotions seemed to brew over due to the immense amount of contemplation I gave all these things around this anniversary. It was a quiet moment to reflect and grieve for what I no longer had, despite the lifetime legacy of love and values he had bestowed on me.

Day to day there are many things that make me feel much closer to my Dad's memory than those self-imposed graveside visits do. It might be a song on the radio triggering a memory of him belting out a favorite tune. I definitely inherited my Dad's singing voice. Anyone who has heard me sing knows, that's not exactly a compliment. Yet, sing we did, with great gusto. I still do, much to the chagrin of Fillip, the poor sop who has to endure my caterwauling from time to time. The expressions I see on Logan's face certainly let me know my Dad is still close, and the values I feel in my very soul are a direct link to this person who has had such an amazing influence on me, despite his absence my entire adult life.

As I stood at that grave yesterday, on an exceptionally mild-weathered day, I felt so completely detached from my Dad. This was disturbing at first. I felt that maybe this dishonored his memory and the love we shared, by not being emotional on the anniversary of the day he left us for good. I had to really think about this. Like always, I put my rock there to mark my visit, and stood there a little uncertainly, not really knowing what to do, even after all these years. My mental dialogue seemed rather generic and stale for a daughter visiting the grave of a Father she loved and misses very much. As I looked around at the panorama before me, nothing had really changed. Sure, there were a few new buildings across the way. The cemetary has developed the land further up the hill now. And my car- now that was different. My mind then played a montage for me of all the visits over the past 14 years, and the vehicles that I had parked in that very same spot, before heading past the grave to the fence to find my rock. As my memory of each car played out, so did my memory of who I was at these different points in time. I came to a very important realization. I am not the same lost soul I was 14 years ago. Life has humbled me for sure, yet given me more confidence and joy as well. Yesterday, I stood there as a 33 year old woman. A strong, independent woman. Fourteen years later, I can face this date with love and memory. I only had him for 19 years, and have now lived without him for 14 more. We are detached, and this is absolutely necessary. This is a good and healthy state of being. I shed a couple tears yesterday for the memory of my Father. But when I really thought about it, I know he would be so proud of the woman I am today.


Mermaid B said...

I love you! You are so strong and I know your father would be so proud of you!

Ann said...

Sounds like a good visit with your dad.

Children have a unique perspective on death of a parent's parent. Kathleen speaks of dh's father who passed away before she was born. They somehow erase the span of time and make it all in the present. I am glad your boys know about your dad.

Undomestic said...

Beautifully written post.