Conflicted

My father died.

Last week in a hospice while battling dementia.

I don’t know how I feel. I haven’t seen him in 13 years. I allowed him to see my son, newly born, but I refused to be in the room with him. It’s hard to state this: my father died: when you don’t really warrant the condolences. As I told my sister, we aren’t grieving like normal people. There’s a reason we barred him from our lives.

Still, there is a strange sort of grief. Maybe it’s settled in with anger and regret. Anger and regret, in our case, are conjoined twins. We regret that we were never given the father we’d wanted, the father we need as adults. Someone we trusted, someone we loved, someone who knew what it was to love back. I regret that my mother felt trapped in their marriage, and that he took his insecurities and resentment out on her and my older sister, and that, once finally free, my mom’s living her life alone and not the way she should be. I regret that my sisters and I did not have our father walking us down the aisle. Had we had a better role model, maybe he wouldn’t have, anyway. Maybe we wouldn’t have ended up just like our mom. I regret that my kids don’t know the concept of grandfather as I do. And I regret that I wasn’t allowed to say goodbye.

He died last week, but my mother wasn’t told until Sunday- emailed by my cousin while she was out of town. She caught up on her emails this morning, and tried to call me at work, but no one answered the phone. Maybe I wasn’t supposed to go. I left work in the afternoon and found a cryptic email on my phone: Call mom. My retort that I can’t be sent such a cryptic message with no further explanation was replied to with: Call mom.

I sat in a parking lot to call her, knowing it was bad and not wanting to be in the house around the boys when I was told what it was. Anticipated family drama of a different sort, not this.

I asked her a question after she’d told me everything, but I completely tuned out her answer. Shock? Regret. Anger.

I’d tried to contact him years ago, and it just didn’t go well. All I hoped for was an I’m sorry, but his reply was, I bought you things. I don’t know what you’re talking about. Everything was fine.

Until it wasn’t, and a piece of paper the size of a nickel  left on the floor would send him into a rage. Or a tiny sample tube of lipstick in the trash can.

I was going through photos with my mom a little bit ago, and came across one of this large chaulk board I’d had. Oh, I missed that. Where did it go? She got stiff. He broke it. What? How can I not remember that? I’d loved that thing. How can I not remember that? My sister took our old dining set with her when she got married. We pointed out to husband: That chair? He broke it. Threw it at our sister.

Out of his nine children, only my baby sister and one of his older daughters (yes, my sister) were at the funeral. And I regret that it was most likely due to older sister that we weren’t told in better time. I reached out to her, my sister, also years ago, desperately wanting to reconnect with them (one brother and four sisters who I either barely remember or never met), and her response to me left me crying for days.

My father died. Last week. How can you cry for someone you don’t love? Who’s been absent so long you don’t miss them? Who gave you a childhood you mostly blocked out? How can you tell people: my father died?

I’m angry. What a waste! You were given a good life, and you squandered it. You chose to destroy the spirit and trust of those around you, to be a tyrant in your wife and children’s eyes. My sister married at 19. I ran away- three states away- when I was 17. His other children just about never came by. And sis and I married men just like him.

I missed the wake, and missed the funeral. I want to go to the cemetery, and it was difficult to ask for tomorrow off. Bereavement?

Regret. No anger. Just regret.

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