Monday, March 1, 2010

Takeaway

Sorry for all the emo, but tonight as I came in the door from the evening commute, the Shooter Brother called to tell me that my father has passed on. Seeing as FTT is where I do the writing, and we're not going to get back to the site's business before I get through this, here comes some personal words. If you want to skip, I won't hold it against you.

My relationship with my father is, for the most part, a void. My mother and he split, and nothing about it was pretty. He left behind my older brother and sister, and I was five. I have no memories of him as a child, and the Shooter Mom didn't discuss him. We lived on her earnings as a bartender, my siblings didn't bring him up, and for the most part, it wasn't an issue.

My uncles on my father's side were important players in the Philadelphia music scene, which was how I spent my 20s. So our paths finally crossed twenty years later. By odd coincidence, my father worked with a woman who played bass in the band, and we met for me to sell him some demo tapes. (He insisted on the money.) The meeting was odd, fairly brief, awkward, and the only thing that struck me was how the man was actually shorter than me. I'm 5'-3", so I don't often meet men who I can look over. He was probably in his late 40s then, in reasonably health, and didn't seem to have any idea of what to do next. Neither did I, really. I still don't.

Five years later, I was coming up on my 30th birthday, the music career was winding down, and I was taking an EST-ish course that focused on clearing personal drama from your life. So I contacted him again, tried to get him to do the course with me (he passed, which wasn't too surprising, but still a shame), and went over to his house for an evening. He talked a lot, mostly saying the same things over and over again. He had gone through some serious health issues that seemed to make him a little more thoughtful, but it's not like he showed me a lot of potential for growth. He was what he was.

I wrote about the experience for a local weekly that's no longer around, which I think offended him a little... but more for the idea that it could cause him trouble at work, rather than the truth or falsehoods of anything I actually wrote. (I didn't use his name, but my byline appeared, and my last name isn't very common.) He also had the same breed of dog as me, which was officially weird.

So having only really met him a couple of times by the time I was 30, I wasn't terribly interested in trying to have a traditional father-son relationship. The man also had a new family and obligations, so it's not like he had a ton of time and interest in going there, either.

I think he was proud of what I had accomplished and who I was, but it's not like we were going to go hang out. When I married the Shooter Wife, he wisely stayed out of the wedding rather than run into my mom, sent some cash, and that was that. We didn't speak again for the 10+ years after that, and when his grandchildren were born, I didn't get in touch. My kids asked about him a few times, but not very often, and not recently. I'm still mulling over how I tell them that he's passed, or even if.

It all seems harsh, I suppose, and on some level, I kind of regret not having the chance to say goodbye. But it never really seemed to be a need, or a good idea. Getting in touch with him just seemed like timewaste, and a betrayal of the parent that didn't skip.

But when I was talking with the Shooter Wife tonight, it got me to thinking. If I had been a father at 18, the way he was, I wouldn't have gone to college, since I would have provided for the kids. I wouldn't have had the meager amounts of patience that I have as a parent at 30 (and now 40). I'm sure I'd have resented the kids and their mother, not made very good coin, lived in a dicey neighborhood, and worked a job -- or two, or three -- where I just got beaten down every day. And had I grown up in the situation that he did, without anyone pushing me to do something more with my life...

Well, we all make our own luck in this world, of course, and the man had brothers who overcame the same hardships that he had to have pretty great lives. But the margin for error isn't so huge, really.

And if everyone is here to teach us something, he's taught me the price of not putting your kids first. Not the worst thing to take away from a father, really.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

good stuff, thanks for sharing.

Sounds like something you would read on 'all pro dad', which is a group I would recommend you consider joining.

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