On two occasions over the past few weeks, my late dad’s wife has sent some things to my home (via my kids) that have cause me to revisit some unpleasant feelings. I have worked very hard to suppress these particular emotions, but her recent package included a number of – for lack of a better word – triggers that have forced me to face these feelings head-on. First, let me emphasise that I am not close to this woman. To be frank, I dislike her in the extreme. Without rehashing the past, she and I disagreed on something rather important, and it caused us to choose not to communicate with each other. I stress that it was a mutual decision because there are some who read this page looking to find fault with me for just the slightest reason.Add to this the fact that the woman openly admitted she just wasn’t as close to my son as she was to my daughters, and that she “just doesn’t get boys,” which I find ridiculous as she has several nephews with whom she shares a very close relationship.
All that aside, she is apparently cleaning out some things that belonged to my father and sending them back to me. For those of you not aware, my dad died in December of 2006, so she thinks this time of year is a swell time to finally get around to tackling this job, and sending these little surprises my way. The most recent package included tons of pictures of my oldest daughter when she was little (like around the age of 2), and a photo collage of my dad with my daughter that I put together for him for his birthday one year.
Buried deep in a bag, along with an afghan I had crocheted for an auction that my dad wound up winning, was a set of pictures of my ex-husband and I when we got engaged. In addition, my dad had copies of the last picture my ex and I had taken with our daughter, which happened right before our official separation. There is a picture of him with our daughter, and a picture of me with our daughter, but not one of us together with her. We were well past that by then.
I’m not sure what possessed this woman to believe that I would want these back. I offered them to my daughter, but she didn’t seem all that interested, or maybe she was but she didn’t want to upset me. Despite the fact that she chose to be adopted by her step-dad, she has a natural loyalty to her biological dad, and I think she is afraid sometimes that I might be bothered by that. One day she’ll learn that I deserve a little more credit than she wants to give me.
The first time my dad’s wife did this (a few months back), she sent a box full of pictures and other things via my sister. My sister and this woman have a – cordial? – relationship, and so it was my sister who delivered the surprise package to my while we were at our mother’s house for dinner. I was shocked and horrified to see what was there. Among the baby pictures and high school musical photos, was a journal I had given my dad when I was in my 20s. I didn’t have a lot of money then, and so for Christmas I opted to give my dad a journal that consisted of memories I had, and poems and short stories I had written. It was obvious that, other than the day I had presented it to him, he had never looked at it again.
It is clear to me that this woman who claimed to love my dad so very much, didn’t care enough about him to get to know his children very well. Why she thinks that I have any interest in any of these packages is beyond me. At this point, I just want to forget that most of it existed. And this is where things start to get interesting.
When I look at this “stuff” that she send me, I am further reminded of how angry I am at my dad. I am angry, of course, that died on me. That one sort of goes without saying. But I am angry at him for all the unresolved crap that we still had between us. Ours was a complicated relationship, and while we loved each other, we often didn’t like each other very much. We went an entire year without speaking to each other, because of my dad threatening to take me to court over money – yes, you read that right. The screwiest part of it was that it was legally MY money, not his, but he didn’t want to see it that way, so he threatened to take me to court, and I got a lawyer, and there was much chest thumping and Tarzan-type yelling, and we ultimately worked it out. But it damaged our relationship horribly, and we never fully recovered from that.
I’m angry, too, that my dad died before I could really show him my success as a writer. My dad was always a pragmatist. He is the reason I didn’t move to New York and try to become an actress. He is the reason that I spent 12 long, frustrating years in the public relations and advertising world. Yes, I made the choices, but I made them because his opinion and his approval meant that much to me. It took me many, many, many years to learn that I would never hear him say the words “I’m proud of you,” to my face. I had to settle for euphemisms and indirect compliments. And it took equally as long for me to learn that I didn’t need his approval, but that could be a book, let alone a blog.
How’s this for ironic: one of the few times I remember my dad saying “I’m proud of you,” was as we were standing at the doors of my church preparing to walk down the aisle and marry my future ex-husband. I turned and looked at him, hoping for a last-minute reprieve, and I said “Dad, what do you think all these people would do if I didn’t walk in.” He simply patted my arm and said, “You’re just nervous.” This after I had listened to him for weeks going on about what a mistake I was about to make. Go figure.
So here is all this anger, being drummed up just in time for the anniversary of my dad’s death, and just in time for my birthday (which my dad nearly died on), and just in time for Christmas, and I am confounded about how to deal with it because the one person I need to talk to about it isn’t here for me to talk with.
A very spiritual friend of mine asked if I had tried talking to my dad.
“He’s not listening,” I said.
“Maybe it’s because he knows how mad you are.”
I pondered this. Yeah, I thought, that’d be just like him. Avoid the confrontation, keep quiet, don’t deal with the uncomfortable. “But if I’m angry that he isn’t here for me to talk with, and he won’t show up because I’m angry, what am I supposed to do?”
Now – before you think I’m totally off my nut – I have had conversations with my grandfather, and he’s been dead over 20 years. And I have also had conversations with my Uncle who died about six years ago. Yes, the conversations happen in dreams, but believe me, they were very real. And my friend is convinced that my dad will talk to me – now here’s the big BUT – BUT, I have to stop being angry first.
I think its’ going to be a while before I get to talk to Dad. I’m really, really, angry and I’m not doing very well at getting over it. In fact, with all these little “presents” showing up to my house, I think it might just be getting worse.
It’s disquieting to discover this anger. It’s getting in the way of my writing, it’s getting in the way of my job, and it’s getting in the way of sleep. So I’m going back to yoga again, and I think it will be every day. And I’m starting meditation again, because it clears my head and helps me sort out the garbage I tend to carry around inside me. So we’ll see if I can move enough of these discoveries out of the way to let my dad have a little room.
And if I hear from him, I’ll let you know.