|My dad's nickname for me was Bear.|
It's been almost two weeks since my dad died, and I've been struggling to find things to write about. Not because I don't have things to say, or lack the ability to say them, but because I just haven't felt like my words were poignant enough to do him justice.
I didn't realize my dad's worth until he was gone. Not that I thought he was worthless--he wasn't at all--but because I wrongfully assumed that because he'd been absent a significant portion of my life, I didn't miss or need him, and could easily live without him. I hadn't considered what it would feel like not to have him because of death, rather than choosing not to have him in my life because of our shared stubbornness and anger. Those are two very different reasons not to have someone in my life.
Death is permanent. It removes all choice from the matter. Almost two weeks ago, my choice was taken away from me, and the hurt that caused was greater than most hurts I've experienced. It was up there with losing our daughter. We're talking rage, tears, swearing, bed-ridden, gnashing of teeth type stuff. It was ugly, it was painful, and it was not something I had the luxury of excusing myself from.
The way I described it to my kids was this: I'm in a forest. And I can't go around it. I can't go under or over it. I can only go through it. That doesn't mean I'm falling apart or want to throw myself off of a building. I'm simply obligated to go through it, and so that's what I'm doing. (And unfortunately for everyone in my life, this forest--for me--means lots of dinners out, lots of makeup and wig free days, lots of sweatpants, and lots of tears out of nowhere. I listened to one of my favorite Christmas Carol's today, Christmas: Baby Please Come Home, by U2, and I wept. Just wept. It was silly and trivial, and I don't really have an explanation, but about 10 minutes later I felt much better, and went back to my housework.) Like I said, I'm just in the forest right now.
The good news is, I have a faith base. Not to trivialize anyone who has no faith base, or who believes that once we are dead, we're worm food, and that's that. Because hey, who am I to tell you what to believe. In fact, as much as I am deeply devoted to my faith, I am not foolish enough to think that I might still have a thing or two to learn about who we are, where we came from, and what comes next. I absolutely do, and my father's death has proven that. My religion is right for me, and clinging to it during times like these is what keeps me grounded--and keeps me sane. But I'm not egotistical enough to think that I've got the hereafter completely figured out. I don't. It's by definition unfathomable. It's not meant to be figured out. The only thing I'm meant to understand is that something does come after this. And that's where my dad is now.
Without going into details too personal and precious to share without slitting my gut open and pouring my insides out for you all...it is sufficient for me to say that I have been given consolation that my dad is healthy, happy, and more clear-headed and rested than he has ever been. He is working through some things--guilt, shame, sadness--over the mistakes he made in his life, but is now aware that we all make mistakes and that we'll all have a period where we have to work through that process of absolute self awareness and accountability. But, to my relief, he is at peace as he goes through this process, and that's all I could possibly ask for.
I know now that his life, especially his life as a child and an adolescent, were infinitely worse than I'd ever imagined. That the father he grew up to become was just a fraction of the pain he endured, and that despite being flawed as a parent, he'd done his absolute best, and that I have much to be grateful for as his daughter. It could've been so much worse. But it was not. I'm indebted for that.
He has asked for my forgiveness, and I've given it. I've asked for his forgiveness, and he's given it. My dad and I are square. And frankly, will probably have a better relationship in his death than we'd ever had a shot at having during his life. He is with me. I feel it. It's been proven to me. He's better now, as am I. We've healed. I still grieve, deeply. But not with anger and disappointment and rage. Now it's with gratitude and fondness, and because I miss him desperately.
I'm learning to accept the apology that will never come. My dad's apology came post death, but I have hurts with people in my life that I may never, ever get apologies for. And it has officially become my responsibly to accept those unsaid sorries. I've spent the better part of my 40 years trying mercilessly for other people to nourish me, when their wells were dry. They couldn't nourish me. I've got to nourish myself. And the first way I can do that is by accepting the apologies that will never come. Once I've done that, I'll do the next step towards feeling safe and whole as a person. But for now, that's a good step. I'm pretty sure my dad is helping me with this. He's able to help us now, in a way he couldn't do when he was alive.
I'm starting to write again. This may turn into a situation where I write a book because my heart is begging me to, rather than what the logical part of my brain is telling me to. For example, The Art of Being Indifferent was written after we lost our daughter. I had to write it, otherwise I was going to implode. That's what I'm feeling right now. It will be interesting to see what comes out of this phase of my life....
Just like last time, I'll leave you with this: accept the apology that will never come. Regret is an awful, ugly beast that can swallow you whole, and my wish for you is to never feel it. The joy and forgiveness I feel now is so much better.