Tuesday, April 1, 2014

The Bitter and The Sweet

I feel like I am living my life in suspended animation right now.  From the minute I got the call that my dad had died, there has not been time to really let it sink in.  We have been running around like crazy with things we had to to like funeral arrangements, a visit with Miranda's birth mother, Miranda's first birthday and everything in between.

We knew it was coming.  We were prepared.  And yet when death comes, it's still a shock no matter how you look at it.  I grieved a long time ago for the man my father was.  I said goodbye to him countless times.  And yet I feel myself so sad right now.  

I look at the father my husband is and I want to weep almost daily.  I look at the father my brother is and I get chills.  My father was not that kind of dad.  And yet he loved us in the best way he knew how.

When my parents got married in 1969, homosexuality was not something anyone really talked about.  There were no TV shows, no role models, nothing.  I believe my dad knew he was gay when he got married but really and honestly loved my mom and wanted to make a family with her.  I think the marriage was a good one for a while.  There have always been funny stories about the early years.  

Three kids in and it was time to make a change.  My dad knew at his core that the wife and kids and house with a yard and dog was not the life for him.  The separation was amicable.

Until my mom met someone.  Then the divorce became bitter.  And it shaped a lot of who I am today.

Years of courts and custody and visitation rights.  Fear of AIDS and HIV just because we were all so ignorant then.  Tears and broken hearts and sleepless night.  Therapy.  More therapy.  

I did not talk to my dad for many years.  He was not the kind of man that I wanted to know.  He was my dad and he had disappointed me beyond measure.  He broke my heart time and time again.

Eventually we found our way back to each other.  I was in college then and had started to let go of some of my anger.  My dad went out of his way to shower me with love and attention and every once and again we would talk about the past.  We finally came to a place where we agreed to disagree and lived in the moment with each other - not the past anymore.

From there we had many good years.  Trips to NYC to see musicals.  He would invite my 2 closest friends up with me and take us to get our nails done and our hair done and show us the best time imaginable.  We took family trips to Amsterdam and England to name a few.  We had holiday dinners and for a few weeks once, we even took a yoga class together.  We got back some of what I lost growing up and it was good.

Then my dad started to get sick.  Years of living the high life and not managing his diabetes.  When the dementia started, none of us even knew it as he hid it so well.  He was also retired by then and primarily living in Manhattan so we did not see each other as much.

By the time I met Gary, my dad's mind was pretty bad.  He knew I was with someone but could never remember his name.  When I was pregnant, he was so happy.  Already in a nursing home by then since we could not take care of him, he always smiled when he saw me and my growing belly.  When Allie died, he somehow managed to get a phone and call me over and over and over. With his diminished mind, he did not know what to say except ask how I was over and over and over.  It was very difficult.

It got worse from there.  By the time we had Miranda, he knew who she was and he seemed to understand that we adopted her, but he did not have the strength to relate to her.  I am just glad he met her a few times.  She was always wonderful when we went to visit him.

And now he is gone.  Leaving behind memories both bitter and sweet.  I do not want to glorify him in death as that is not fair.  He was not a great father.  He did not know what to do with children.  He was so hell bent on figuring out who he was and where his place in this world was that we often got left behind.  What he was, though, was a man who taught me how to laugh.  Taught me how to enjoy the finer things in life.  Taught me to respect myself and put myself first.  Taught me that little girls need their daddy's no matter what.  And taught me that being loved is the best feeling in the world.

I hope my dad is at peace now.  I hope Allie greeted him with love and warmth.  I hope my dad got to see his parents and his sister.  I hope in death he can be who he was not able to be in life.  I hope all the bitter is gone and all that is left is the sweet.

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