Years of an inch and a step
Toward a source
I was in my 20s when my father died April 11, 1990. Few of my contemporaries had lost a parent, so I had a sense of being out of time as we waited out the final four months of his life. There was no one I knew to confide in, no one who had any sense of what I was living with. I was too young to be planning a parent's funeral, but there it was, and as usual, I did what needed to be done.
For the most part, my father was a father in the biological sense only. Yes, he lived in the same house, but he made it abundantly clear that we his children were not really welcome in his life, and he had as little to do with us as humanly possible. I have a few really happy memories of time spent with him, including sitting with him watching baseball games when I was very young, and the occasional times he regaled us with stories of his earlier life. By the time I was about 10, the pleasant moments ended and he became a complete stranger.
I'm certainly not the first person to have grown up with emotionally disengaged and troubled parents, and it's a fact that is only a footnote in my life. I am fortunate to have a very strong will not only to survive but to succeed, and I am blessed with a beautiful family of my own. I am not concerned with redressing old wrongs, only in making sure that old wrongs aren't perpetuated.
I've largely made peace with my past, though hot button issues can still anger and distress me. But for reasons I don't fully understand, this time of year continues to disturb me, 18 years after my father's death. It may simply be that all of the issues surrounding closing out the remnants of his life and trying to schedule his funeral were so difficult--he died on the Wednesday before Easter and because of the rules governing funeral Masses during Holy Week, we had to wait until Easter Monday to bury him--that the stress has become blood memory. Whatever the case, this time of year, I become antsy and churlish, and I really just want to disappear for a bit.
Which is what I've decided to do this year: disappear for a bit. I've been provided with the perfect excuse to be absent, and I grabbed it, to the dismay of my family. They don't really know why it's important to me to be gone at this particular time and I'm not sure the kids would understand anyway; they see it as a bit of selfish indulgence on my part, and it is in a number of ways. But I'm rarely selfish, and I answer the call of responsibility far more frequently than I cater to myself. This year, however, I have put my foot down: I'm going to reclaim this time as my own, and erase the vestiges that have darkened it for 18 years. I'm going to reset the emotional clock to mean something other than grief, something closer to joy.
Because 18 years is long enough.
I'm coming to you
I'll be there in time
Go listen to some good music: "Pilgrimage" from the album Days of Open Hand by Suzanne Vega.