I’ve never been a big proponent of letting go. I’m not good at saying goodbye. Mainly because I’m afraid to let something go that I want…or need…or may need again…or I love unconditionally even when that love is not returned.
For the most part, despite all the trauma/drama of my younger years, I don’t think of my life as horrible. Even the “bad” things have a place and have made me stronger. Yet, I still have issues letting go.
My family, small as it is, and I are not close. I wonder if we ever were. It’s not that we don’t love each other in a distant respectful, well we have to cause we’re family, kind of way…it’s just we are different people.
As diverse, and as old, and as old fashion as my father and grandfather were, they both accepted me for who I am. There was no coming out speech, no loud arguments. I was just who I was and lived my life and introduced my girlfriend at the time like it was no big deal.
That didn’t mean my father and I agreed on anything. I remember one argument as a child where if he said the sky was blue I would say it was green. We were just two different people from two vastly different generations.
He grew up in the depression; I grew up in the economy boom. He thought white males were supreme; I thought everyone was on equal footing. He grew up in the Appalachians; I grew up in the burbs.
I wanted for nothing growing up while he struggled to stay alive and make his way in the world. We rarely saw eye to eye on anything.
I often wondered why, but at the end of the day, we were just two different people.
We weren’t close as father and daughter should be. He was mostly a negative person, and I’m a realist with bouts of optimism thrown in to drive him crazy.
Toward the end of his life, I did my best to take care of him, despite the fact that we probably had not talked much or seen each other in many years. Holiday visits mostly. Sporadic talk about politics which digressed in the ultimate arguments. The best conversations were after football season started. Rabid Eagles fans the both of us; yet even that could turn into an argument if I didn’t agree about the current quarterback.
I moved him closer, not to live with me – the trial run of that was a dismal failure of epic portions – but closer with staff to help him and me. My sanity was preserved and I was obligated to visit him more often. The arguments popped up like hot fires. It depended on the Fox News cycle spin of the day, his opinion of it, and how patient I was.
In the beginning I treated him like I always did – argumentatively. Somewhere along the line I logically figured out I was debating with a man who had dementia. What was the point? Would he remember? Even if he did, what was the point?
I learned, through clenched teeth, to agree with him. It didn’t matter that he was mixing past memories with new ones, or that what he remembered was just plain historically wrong. I agreed with it all which ran counter to my understanding of what was accurate. It was one of the hardest things I did, agree with things not right.
Through it all, I saw and talked with him more in the last two years of his life than I had in the previous ten years. I learned more than I thought about him and from him. But to say we were close is not ever going to be accurate. I think that’s what surprised me most on my trip to his favorite city.
I lay in Texas preparing to drive the eight hours to New Orleans. I couldn’t move, I couldn’t breathe. My father’s ashes lay on the counter not far from me. I had carried a part of him from the east coast to Midwest to the tune of When the Saints Go Marching In. It pounded in my head and strangled me, making me more immobile than anything I had ever experienced.
I couldn’t let go of a man I barely knew. I was an orphan when most of my friends still had both parents and in some cases, grandparents to keep them together.
My father was not an easy man to love, but he tried in the best way he knew how despite the fact that I think deep down he was happier to be a loner. The exact opposite of what I ever longed to be.
The trek was not easy and if it wasn’t for synchronicity, I’m positive I’d still be laying in that room in Texas. Despite a few panic attacks, random conversational distractions, and the surrealness of it all, I managed to take one tiny step toward letting go.
I had it easy when mom passed. The resting places that mom wanted fell mostly to my sister helped along with my uncle and aunt.
The last journey with my father was by far the hardest thing I had to do, but for a change, I not only got the last word, but I also got no argument.