Alice's Tea Party

Posted on 4/26/2016 04:30:00 PM


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dad

Posted on 4/14/2016 07:28:00 PM
No I haven't forgotten about you, blog. Just too much... too many... ugh, just too.

My dad died.

Those have been the words I've avoided writing here for weeks now.

Not that it would be any more real if I wrote it down or any easier, or more difficult for that matter; it's just that I don't know how to talk about it.  But the problem is I can't seem to move on in this format without talking about it.  So I guess I need to write it out.  Here goes.

My dad was a complicated guy and we had a complicated relationship. 

There's no question that I loved him. And I don't doubt that he loved me in his own way.  It's just that neither of us ever really said it much or knew how to express it.

I remember once when I was a little girl this distressed me quite a bit - probably because I'd heard some church sermon or after school special about telling the people you love that you love them before it's too late or something.  All my friends were very demonstrative with their fathers.  They didn't seem to have a problem expressing love and affection.  We were somehow different.  I worried about it for weeks and then one night before I went to bed, finally screwed up my courage and stopped in front of the television, in front of his chip bag and his glass of Coke and whatever ongoing sportsball game was happening at the moment and I just blurted it out: "I'm going to bed. I love you, Dad."

"I love you too," he replied, without thinking, barely looking up from the television.

I was surprised.  He didn't refuse to say it back.  It hadn't hurt him to say it.  He didn't even hesitate. No great truths were exchanged.  No tears shed. No earth shattering moment happened.

It was only a moment.  Just a moment among so many other moments.

He didn't even know how hard it had been for me to tell him that.  And he'd said it back without effort, without marking the moment in any way.  That's the first time I realized that my dad loved me, but probably not in any way that I could ever understand -- and maybe in the only way he was capable of, which was different than most other people.

Looking back, this story says more about my relationship with my dad than almost anything else I can think of.  Of course he loved me; why would he have stuck around if he didn't?  Of course he could say it back.  But why would he need to on any regular basis?  Of course I didn't know that he'd loved me before that moment.  How would I have known?  He never said it.

I once was chatting with a friend about difficult family relationships and he was saying how his parents were always there, together, in the picture, but that he didn't really know them because he was the youngest of many and he'd been raised more by his sisters than anyone else.  "When you think about it, my dad was really just..." he trailed off.

"...that guy that lived in my house," I finished.

"Yes!! No one's ever got it more right when I've tried to explain it," he exclaimed.

I thought about my dad like that for a long time.  But in recent years, I've come to understand that that's not quite right either.  Because while overall, I knew very little about him, he was always there.  A fixture in my life.  Because while I never really felt like I knew him, and I'm quite sure he never really knew me, he was always supportive.  He was at every orchestra concert.  Every recital.  At every show where I played in the pit orchestra and no one even saw my face. At every dumb awards ceremony or school presentation. It was during those long motorcycle rides in the desert when I felt closest to him.  Ironically, when neither of us said anything to the other.  Deep conversation is not possible with forty-five mile an hour wind rushing into your face and I guess it took the pressure off.  We just enjoyed the ride together... or next to each other, I'm not sure which.  

I was not really into sports as a kid, which was his great love.  And he had little authentic interest in the things that I was into.  He went for my sake.  During times when I'm sure he would have much rather been doing ANYthing than listening to the latest Beethoven interpretation no matter how good the orchestra (and I know some of mine were not good), or going to some bookish play I wanted to see, he showed up.  And honestly? That's a lot more than some people get.

Once when I was a little older, just out of high school, I think, he had to go on a trip to Chicago and he invited me to come along. It was an unprecedented invitation to an outing with just the two of us.  I had a great time We did dumb stuff that only tourists do like river boat tours of the city and double-decker bus tours of the architecture of Chicago. We went to a Cubs game at Wrigley field and took a cab to go to the top of the Sears Tower, looked at all the locations where The Blues Brothers was filmed and the Marina Tower that Steve McQueen drove his car out of in The Hunter, and visited the museum where Ferris Bueller's Day Off kids went, and passed by the bar where Mr. T. worked before he was discovered (and yes, it was like the late 80s if you hadn't already figured that out).  I'm convinced that my deep-seated love of Chicago and its architecture started with this trip.

He taught me to work.  He taught me to fix things.  He taught me if I couldn't at least attempt to fix it, I had no business owning it.  He towed my car home from the dozens of places it broke down and taught me how to change the oil and fix a flat tire... how to repair the clutch or replace a fan belt with an old pair of pantyhose so if (and more likely when) a breakdown like that happened again, I would be able to do it myself.  It's because of him that I spent most of this week updating and grounding all the outlets in my house and I didn't feel like I had to defer that task to my husband or hire it out.

He taught me to use computers.  He made me understand that they were machines like any other machine and they were built to do a Thing That I Wanted and all I needed to know was how to make them bend to my will.  In a time before a computer class was even available to me, he had a computer at home and taught me how to use it for fun and profit and not to be afraid of them.  Hell, he was the first person to show me the Internet.

All these things are things that I do and use in my life every day now.  It's partially because of him that I have the job I have now - and so many jobs before this one.  It's partially because of him that I have the life I have now. Because of him I'm somewhat independent and confident and feel like I can tackle tasks I've never encountered before because I'm always ready to learn.  He taught me that.  Those are things I'll always be grateful to him for leaving me.

He was a father in every sense of the word he understood it to be.  He was there for me in every way but the one that counted most to me.

There's no question that he was a good guy.  There's no question that I loved him.  As enigmatic as he was, I do miss him. Part of my esoteric reaction to his death is that I wish I missed him more.  Wish I felt a bigger hole in my life.  

Some people don't get half the father I had.  I realize that. 


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Washington, D.C. Metro, United States
Married, 40ish mom of two (or three, or four, depending on how you keep score) who stepped through the lookinglass and now finds herself living in curiouser and curiouser lands of Marriage, Motherhood, and the Washington, D.C. Metro Area.

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