15 January 2009

Honor Thy Father

If he had lived, my father would be 66 today. He died less than one month short of his 60th birthday, the week before Christmas in 2002.

He's been on my mind lately because I have such crystal-clear memories of the days surrounding his death. How I was obsessed with wrapping Christmas gifts and so went to Target at about 10 p.m. on December 23 and came home with everything I would need to wrap gifts because the idea of digging out the wrapping paper I already owned was more than I could contemplate. I used up the last of that paper this past Christmas (I really loved that paper, so it was used sparingly after that initial year).

I remember how I drove back to Louisville on the afternoon of his funeral and collapsed into bed, exhausted. And how I was still just lying there 45 minutes later, unable to sleep. A friend from law school called me all the way from Russia, having just heard the news. How dear of her - I needed that distraction. The call made me realize that sleep wasn't coming, so I got into my car and drove to the movie theater and watched one of the Harry Potter movies, hoping to get lost from my life in the darkness of the movie theater. I started falling asleep half way through the movie and could only laugh at the irony.

Organizing my paperwork (again) a few weeks ago reminded me of the disaster my apartment had become during the six weeks he was in the hospital, and how I came home and realized how horrible it would be for my mother if I were to suddenly die because all of my documents were a total mess and she'd never know where anything was. I started organizing right then and there. Of course, that realization wore off over time, but it shouldn't. It would be horrible for her, and I would hate to burden her like that.

The odd thing about all of these ruminations is that my father and I weren't particularly close, and as horrible as it sounds, I don't miss him. He was an alcoholic, which ultimately led to his death and made it difficult at times growing up. Also, I am very much like my mother, and very not like him. The only thing we ever had in common was education and watching sports. He was very proud to be the first in his family to graduate from college, and was supremely proud of my academic achievements. And he, along with my mother, taught me to love and understand basketball, football, and even baseball (which I understand but don't really appreciate). But you can only have so many conversations about grades and basketball games. Unfortunately, by the time of his death, his drinking was so heavy in the evenings when I would stop by to see him and have dinner that it wasn't a particularly useful few hours, and so I avoided going. My last visit with him, about two weeks before he went into the hospital, was particularly unpleasant.

I never doubted that my father loved me. He told me that every time we saw each other or talked. It was important for him to say that to me, because that was something his Catholic, hard-working, farming parents never said to him. But he didn't "get" me and really didn't understand what I needed him to be as a father. I loved him, too, and resolved my feelings about him years ago. I just wish I could say I missed him.
Instead, I miss what I never had.
Okay ... I promise we'll get back to regularly scheduled programming now, with no more "deep thoughts" posts for awhile! It must be a holdover from the new year contemplations, but I'm done now. Truly. I'm working on a Noro two-stripe scarf for myself and will show you WIP pictures shortly. And there's sewing planned for this weekend, so maybe I'll show some of that too. I'm a little intimidated still by the sewing machine, being a novice, but I'm determined to conquer my fears.

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