I’ve taken a long break from Sticky Jam Hands because there is something I’ve needed to write and I haven’t figured out how. I still don’t know but I’ve decided its time to do it anyway.
On 4/2/18 my father Edward Neumann Watson died. At the moment of his death the first thing I felt was relief. Relief that his struggle with dementia and congestive heart failure was over. Relief that those of us that had to care for him and watch him struggle no longer had to. Was I sad? Absolutely, but my sadness didn’t have a landing mark. Was I sad because I no longer had a father – maybe? Was I sad that he died alone in a place that he hated not having fulfilled all of his dreams and desires – definitely but not entirely. But, I pushed that sadness to the side, I boxed up his possessions and put them and his cremains into my laundry room and whenever that sadness came creeping around the edges I countered it with anger. Anger at the Dad who terrified me as a young child. Anger at a Dad who was all but absent during my adolescence. Anger at a man who hurt my Mom both physically and emotionally. I went about my daily life feeling a gap but not acknowledging it. I took back my Wednesday’s and used the time I would normally spend with him doing mundane things like running errands and cleaning.
Cavalier. I became cavalier about something that maybe I should have thought deeper about.
Months later I attended his memorial service, I dressed appropriately and made plans to go to the pool when it was over. But, as I sat and listened to his life and watched pictures of the 87 years that he was alive a thought occurred to me that hadn’t before – that my version of him was not the only version of him. For 79 of his 87 years on this earth he lived a life separate from mine. As I sat at the memorial and watched pictures of him as a young man, as a young father taking his young children to the beach it occurred to me that he was older than I am now by the time I became a somewhat unwanted figure in his life.
Does this excuse his behavior or invalidate my feelings of relief of his death or anger over the relationship he had with me? No. But it certainly did complicate things. Did it soften me a little to think about the circumstances and tragedies that shaped how he was? Yes. Does it take the edge of my anger and round the corners a bit of the animosity I’ve always felt? Yes. Will I be sad in a different way going forward? Most certainly.
If anything his death makes me more worried about my own future, I pray everyday that I wont ruin the relationships I have with my own family – there are times I feel a rage that I am sure I inherited from him simmering to the surface and I need to walk away and remember that what started his undoing was allowing that rage to escape.
If I could go back knowing how I feel now I would ask him to explain/ defend himself for the way that he was; I’d like to know what it was that made him do the things that he did. It makes me wish that I had the courage to ask the hard questions.