A Funny Way Of Doing It
I was sitting at my home office desk on Friday doing some work. I was graciously granted the last two days of this week to complete some home stuff – ie moving out of my mother’s home so that my brother could move in. But before I could head over there, I had to finish my work. As usual, my hubby left the tv on in the living room and after just having a filling lunch, found his way back to the bed for a midday nap. On my way back from checking on him and tucking the sheets around him for warmth, I passed the tv which was still on and left it on. It was good for background noise. As I typed away and clicked and dragged through my various assignments, a conversation that was being held on the tv caught my attention.
“My father passed away in 1995 but even though he’s gone, I still have conversations with him in my head…”
Then there was deeper description of this conversation… I thought it would be one of those ever loving conversations where the relationship between the father and son was perfect and wonderful and everything anyone would ever hope for. But it wasn’t. It was strained. It was complicated. It was unusual and laborious. I heard the pain in the narrator’s voice and it grabbed me. I stood up and walked back in to the living room and stood a few feet from the tv with my arms crossed… riveted. It was a film short called The Moon and The Son which was being shown on cinemax at the time. An animated film describing the many questions you have left about certain people in your life when they leave or die. This was a very uncomfortable relationship between a father and son. And I felt the son’s pain. But in the conversation, the father voice in his head would always try to point out the good things… the good times. And the son acknowledged them… But he stated that the bad memories seem to be more plentiful… and heavier. The similarities between their relationship and the shared relationship between my brother and my experience with my dad were undeniable.
I watched it through to the end. I cried … but not that horrible sobbing. Just tears that ran and ran. A few minutes before it ended, my hubby came out and asked me a million times what was wrong. I told him I’d tell him after the show. And then he offered to listen quietly. I told him that I feel horrible that I don’t really know my parents. To have grown up feeling like they were on this pedastal that I could never touch. To never know them as regular human beings. Maybe to take example from their mistakes and know better… but I can’t because I don’t have the full story. Why was dad so selfish with us? The whole rest of the world thought he was this GREAT guy. I would have liked to know THAT version of my dad. Instead, we had the disciplinarian. The one who forced us to pray in front of him in the morning before school, at dinner and at night before a little shrine he made out side our room. And we’d have to be loud enough so he could hear us or he’d yell and complain… maybe even beat us. I’m sure that wasn’t the dad that all his friends knew. One woman came up to us at the wake and told us how ready and willing he was to always take them anywhere they wanted to go. He’d have the car ready and it was on. The dad I knew would complain for HOURS before taking my mom anywhere… then he’d take some assbackwards route to get there… and if there was a time constraint, my mom missed it. Store was closed. Appointment missed. And then on the way home, he’d make his hundreds of stops at friends and lottery spots and make her wait in the car.
He had a funny way of showing that he cared at all. For instance… if i mentioned that I liked Baby Ruth candy bars (which I did… to death!) he would bring home a Baby Ruth candy bar every day until I said uncle or switched up and liked something else. It was always sweets, though. Baby Ruth, Corn Pops cereal, certain kinds of ice cream. It was his way of showing that he was paying attention. But he was at such a distance. I remember watching Crash and during my favorite scene where the locksmith is talking to his daughter who is cowering under the bed because she heard a bang and he talks with her… puts the invisible cloak on her… I love that scene because it’s so touching… What I realized the other day is that I’ve never had such an extended conversation with my dad. Ever. If we had anything to say, we passed it through mom. She was the filter. Filter for his anger. Filter for my emotion. So that just the message would get through. He initiated 3 conversations with me in life.
1) To attempt to talk to me about sex when I was 20.
2) His version of an intervention for me because of my drinking at 25.
3) In March of 2005.
I do wish to have known him better. Maybe to understand why he did the things that made us think of him as less than favorable. I’m fearing not knowing my mom the same way now… She’s retreating into this painful shell and short of moving back with her, quitting my job and spending the rest of my life with her till she passes… I’m not sure what will make her normal again.
Still looking for answers.
My advice to parents out there: Don’t do gestures all day and hope that they’ll be translated. Every now and again, sweep that child into your arms… whether they’re 2 or 22… and hug them and SAY THE WORDS. I think the cure for any dysfunction lies within.