Sunday, December 27, 2009

Growing up… no matter how many years it takes

It was two days after Christmas when my mother woke us up that fateful morning thirty years ago.  My sister and I had started sleeping in the same room again.  There was no discussion about it.  We just needed the comfort another person can provide.  I was twelve, my sister eleven.

I remember the look on my mother’s face.  Her eyes were swollen.  Her lips pursed.

“I have good news and bad news.  The good news is your father is no longer suffering.  The bad news is he is gone.”

The rest of the day felt like a dream.  We’d just spent Christmas Eve at his house and he had been smiling and laughing.  He didn’t look like a man who was about to die.  How could he just be gone?

A few days later, I sat nestled in between my aunt and my uncle in the front of the church during the funeral.  My mother was relegated to the back of the church since she was the ex-wife.  At that point, I couldn’t cry.  As the preacher’s voice resonated in the chapel, petals from the blanket of flowers lying on the casket began to fall off.  For some reason, all I could do was laugh though I did disguise my laughter into sobbing.  Several months would go by before I could really cry about what had happened.

My father had brain cancer.  He was 36 years old when he died.  Despite all the chemo and radiation, he quickly lost his fight with this disease.  At the reading of the will, my father left my sister and I almost nothing but chose instead to leave most everything to my step-mother.

As I grew up and became a mother, I then became hurt about how little my father had left us.  How do you not take care of your children - especially when you know you are dying?  It left me feeling confused and at times, angry.  I loved my children so much that I couldn’t imagine not being sure they were taken care of.

I watched my sister grow bitter.  My father’s family quit calling soon after the funeral.  We reached out several times but it felt awkward and forced.  It was just easier to stay away.  And to remain angry.

Over the years, I’ve never quit missing my father.  A couple of months ago, my father’s sister sent some pictures to me that she’d found when cleaning out my recently deceased aunt’s house.  There were pictures of my parents together in a time before I had a memory.  And there were pictures of that last Christmas.  They took my breath away.  In those pictures, my father looked swollen, pale, sickly.  Not at all like the picture in my memory.

For me, time has healed a lot of wounds.  Unfortunately, for my sister, her bitterness has festered and grown.  Now, I think I understand why he didn’t leave us much in his will.

He didn’t plan on dying.

And for that, I can easily forgive him.

34 comments:

Brian Miller said...

heavy post today...T lost her mom two years ago...the holidays bring lot fo memories...live in that forgiveness...

otin said...

In your 30's a will never really is a thought. It is just something that you do as a part of a process, and the easiest thing is to just will it all to your spouse.

I have very few good memories of my parents as a happy couple. They divorced when I was 6. I have a home movie of Christmas 1970 which I cherish. Your sister should not be so bitter. It is pointless to hold a grudge against someone who is not here anymore.

I think that I remember you posting about this a while back???

TechnoBabe said...

At 36 years of age, he surely did not plan on dying. Your sister will some day hopefully get to a place where she can put anger in perspective and get more in touch with love and gratitude. It takes some people a long time huh. I am so glad for your children that you see things clearly, deal with your pain, and it doesn't mess with your love for your children. Good for you.

michelle said...

Seems so many of us have really difficult memories attached to holiday time. Makes it all extra hard. And so much more emotionally loaded. Thanks for sharing

lisa said...

At times, you don't realize what you have until it's gone. Coming from divorced parents, and having not spoken to my father for over 45 years, I can definately see where your sister is coming from. Sometimes, it's just easier.

Vodka Mom said...

wow. We all have our hidden pain. It's incredible when it can somehow be soothed.

gayle said...

When my father was married to my then step mother...they told me (don't know why) they were leaving me a $1..or rather she did...I didn't say a word....I know the reason behind that now...he was so easy going he didn't want to make waves and she thought since I was married I didn't need it. Well they divorced and he move out leaving everything to her and their son...(even though she had nothing when she married my dad) my mom had died ( they had a house together) before and he married her after...any way fast forward many years later and my dad told me he left his insurance money to me....I have never told my brother or ex step mother this but want to so bad....I guess my point I am trying to make (probably doing a bad job of it) IS that sometimes men (maybe woman too but I know several men like this) just don't want to make waves with their wives (because the wife would make their life hell) So maybe it was that way with your dad...maybe he was afraid of his wife,maybe he wanted to leave you something but didn't want to go through all the problems with his wife...I know that's week but sometimes that's all they can do.

Jason, as himself said...

What a painful experience. Not only did you lose your dad at an early age, but all of those other circumstances--how awful.

Brain cancer at 36. Unfathomable.

Sue said...

Christmas is always a rough time for the memories of the past. I divorced when my kids were teen-agers. Their dad remarried, and with money and modern medicine they, at 54 and 49 they had a baby last year. My kids had a horrible Xmas eve at their house this year. We all need closure, and I'm happy you seem to have found yours. Thanks for the beautiful post! Take care.

Herding Cats said...

I'm so sorry about your dad and the family drama that came with it. I hope your sister can eventually forgive him, but I understand her pain. The best gift you can give yourself is forgiveness. It's so good to know you've done that for yourself.

ArtSnark said...

Thought provoking post - so sorry to hear about your Dad & family. Virtual hugs & best wishes to you & yours

Kristina P. said...

My thoughts are with you, Beth. What a tragedy for everyone involved. I hope your sister can someday find some peace.

lakeviewer said...

He probably had little to dispose of, and he hadn't planned on dying. Your sister and you lost two things that day, your dad, and your future with him. As long as he was alive, you and your sister could hope.

Sorry that she is still bitter. Sorry for your loss.

Jan said...

We lost our mother 12 years ago, four days after Christmas. Fortunately (?) Christmas isn't marred by that memory, so much as New Year's Day, since that was the day we buried her.

My father was no father at all, and when he died two years ago from cancer of the liver and pancreas I was surprised at how little I felt about it. Then it occurred to me that I'd left the bitterness behind some time ago, which my brother and sister can't say.

Aunt Juicebox said...

I'm sorry you lost your father so young. =(
My grandfather died a very rich man, and left nothing to his children. Nothing. His 5th wife got it all, and I'm sure he had to know he was going to die, he was in his late 70's. Eventually we ALL have to go. I always like to think his wife coerced him into changing his will when he was ailing. She died a few years later and left it all to HER nieces. Years that my dad suffered neglect and abuse, and never got a dollar. I can't imagine how that feels for him.

justsomethoughts... said...

oh wow
that sent chills all over
the last lines
saved the best dintchya...

Momokopeaches said...

I felt so sad reading your post but I am glad that you have some kind of closure and move on in your life. Forgiveness is one of the greatest gifts. All the comments I have made me so thankful that I have a complete family and have not experience any of the pain felt. I am also reminded of how I should not take my family for granted.

carma said...

How sad to go through this as a young child...I can't even begin to imagine the pain. Hopefully your sister has not allowed your father's "oversight" (if you can call it that) to shape her life...or she will be hurting herself even more.

smiles4u said...

Oh Beth, I am sorry. I do remember you writing about some of this but forgot that it happened at Christmas time. Isn't it something how our perspectives change over time? Isn't it amazing how people can go through an experience and one comes out bitter and the other not? Very sad for your sister. She is missing out on a whole lot of living and happiness. Sad. Glad and thankful you are not. Hugs, Lori

Smart Mouth Broad said...

I'm glad that you've made your peace with it. My heart breaks for you to lose your father at such a young age.

Hugs,
SMB

Candice said...

Wow..

I'm so sorry that you had to experience the loss of your Father around the holidays. No time is a good time, but I would imagine that it would be especially hard to deal with this time of year.

I'm glad you've made peace with everything. I hope your sister can do the same some day. Carrying around that hurt for so many years has to be tiring.

Fragrant Liar said...

Yeah, your thirties is not a time you expect to go. I'm so sad for your loss, but so grateful you've come to terms with it. I hope your sister finds her way there one day soon.

Warmly,
Kimber

Amy said...

This was an amazing post to read. I am sorry to hear about your father and the pain. I am glad you are able to forgive. It is hard thing to do.. Have a great week.

Pseudonymous High School Teacher said...

My dad died December 28th 2003. It was very sad. He did some very not nice things in the latter years of his life and his sisters and my cousins were not speaking to him.

He had also screwed over my older sister and myself, but he was still my dad. I was at the point where I was forgiving him in prayers and hopes, but was still bitter as well.

It was a couple of years later that the forgiveness reached my heart. Now I realize he did the best he could for who he was.

Kathy's Klothesline said...

So sorry you lost your Dad so young. Forgiveness is a tricky thing. So easy to say, but so hard to freely give. My mom loved to hold her grudges, pet them, and watch them grow. I suppose I learned a great, though unintended, lesson from her. The act of forgiving frees the forgiver. Hanging on to those feelings can only hurt you and you can easily see what it is doing to your sister. Life is short and not worth the heartache of holding onto grievances..... Bless you.

bernthis said...

The bitterness eats away at you, I'd know, I let it for years after my divorce. I truly hope your sister can move through it so she can find joy in her life again.

My dad had a bro who was sooo wealthy.. My dad helped him get where he was and then his bro screwed him big time. at the end, his bro. left millions to all these causes and gave nothing to either my dad or his own kids. But he was in his 80's. Your dad, really may not have even considered death at such a young age, I agree.

This was so moving Beth. So sorry for your loss.

Kristi Stevens said...

Beth, I'm so sorry for your loss. A close college friend of mine and my husband's died on Christmas Day seven years ago. He left three small children. Not a Christmas goes by that I don't think of his wife (a sorority sister of mine) and their children. Christmas is such a sad time to spend without those that we love, but to add to that the anniversay of their loss... it is just so unfair. I'm glad you've been able to get to a place of forgiveness and healing. Bitterness and resentment is a punishment not of the the offending party, but of ourselves.

Much love,
K

Mrs. K said...

gosh after reading this everything else seems so trivial. But you're right, I cannot imagine facing death and not making sure my daughter is well taken care of. I'm sorry he was taken from you so early in life. Did his wife ever keep in touch with you? My stepmom and dad divorced 20 years ago but I still see her once a year and she's the grandma in the house. I hate broken families- that's official now.

only a movie said...

Great job at using the blog to sort our your feelings. This time of year is so tough if there is an anniversary too. Ack.

xo

Gaston Studio said...

So agree with Otin that he never considered leaving you at such an early age and therefore, didn't have is will sorted out between the two families.
So sorry you have to deal with this sadness every Christmas but it sounds as if you've accepted what happened very well; perhaps one day, your sister will do the same.

Captain Dumbass said...

Thanks for sharing this post, Beth. I was 18 when my parents split up so I have good memories and bad. My younger brother and sister have mostly bad though.

Lisa @ Boondock Ramblings said...

I can't imagine the pain you must have gone through and still do. What a horrible time to suffer through...but what a great thing to have those photos again.

Wonderful World of Weiners said...

So powerful. Thank you for sharing this with us all.

Hallie

A Free Man said...

I don't know what to say except that this post really touched me.