Back in June, after attending a friend’s wedding, I wrote a letter to my father. It seems appropriate to include it here today, the day that marks thirteen years of his passing.
I woke up remembering him. Not in the usual way, fleetingly, but with a fierce tenderness. When I say I miss him, I miss what could have been and some of what actually was. The truth is that my father was a wonderful man with an addiction to alcohol and a proclivity for passive aggressive silence. Without “should-ing” all over myself, I realize that thirteen years is a long time and that by now, maybe I should be over a lot of the wounds from my pre-teen and teen years. If knowing is half the battle, then I am half-way there. It isn’t far along enough but it is something.
The familiarity of feeling is what I continue to seek out: the deep love entwined with an inability to express it, the tender heart matched with silence, the sorrow drowned in some deep well, the pulling in and the pushing away, the feeling of unworthiness. I learned a lot by loving my father- his imperfections, his rawness, his talents and his heart. And whether I like it or not, how I love now has a lot to do with how I learned to love back then. This is where therapy has been helpful.
My dad was a jokester and loved to laugh. With a drink in his hand, he would work the parties my mom and he threw in the 70’s and 80’s. Friends would flock, poolside, sipping beers and mixed drinks, devouring my mom’s Swedish meatballs, stuffed buns and chex party mix. They’d get wild and by the night’s end, people would be thrown into the pool. At one particular party their friend, who was drenched from his impromptu swim, had the brilliant idea to dry out his wet wallet in the microwave. Credit cards and all. Sparks flew from behind the glass door and everyone laughed. The smell of burnt plastic lingered in the kitchen until morning.
Those were jovial times. Friends and family were always visiting. Vacations were taken. Love was felt. I was a lucky kid growing up with such attentive and affectionate parents. There are a wealth of rich memories from that time buried beneath the debris of a family breaking apart. As I unearth them, these treasures, I catalog each one for prosperity. I want to remember the good along with the bad. The truth has two sides.
There are always going to be bad things that people have to survive . . . I have come to realize it is what you make of the good things that matters more.