Sunday, October 11, 2009
One Life to Live
These last two days have been quite eventful ones for me. First of all, the first broadcast of my son's fledgling talk radio show aired last evening. It was both exhilarating and nerve-racking to sit back as my "baby" took up the microphone and boldly expressed his views. I suppose a mother never quite gets it into her head or her heart that her children are no longer children; thus, even as one bites the lip, sits on the hands, and resolves herself to let them spread their wings and soar to heights unknown, the urge to snatch any available limb and drag them back into childhood grows ever-stronger, ever more compelling each day.
Still, had I not wanted him to voice his views, I should not have crusaded, "soapboxed," and preached the importance of social change and personal ethics (like a crazy woman, ya'll) all these years. Thus, I can only sit back, be proud, and let him-- indeed, let all three of them, break through the stratosphere--trusting that somehow I managed to provide them each with the tools, the knowledge, and the advice necessary to help them develop into the best people they can possibly be...
(But t'ain't easy, ya'll!)
Another odd development involved my father, of all people. my relationship with the Hill family can be described as contentious at best, with my assuming the role of the rebellious, hard-headed, trouble-making outcast destined to pose an ever-present threat of embarrassment for the others. This I have accepted over the years--sometimes with amusement, others with chagrin: in anger, resentment, exasperation, indifference, curiosity, and even resolve. Still, through it all, my connection with my biological father has remained a tenuous one at best.
Certainly, I could easily devote an hour to my rantings and ravings on the subject of my father--his mistakes, his (probably unintentional) cruelty, the deplorable way he treated my mother: the list goes on and on. How does one develop or even harbor the faintest glimmer of hope for healthy interaction with someone who has for eight-five years remained so totally self-absorbed as to have no real concept of the needs, feeling, or emotions of others? Over the years, I have found my attitude oscillating between tearful animosity and bone-melting pity towards the man.
Then, this morning, in a rare e-mail from my oldest sister, I learned that my father had received the results of a test he mentioned to me in passing earlier this week. In his latest barrage of tests, the doctors apparently found within his colon definite cause for alarm, necessitating surgery on the 22nd. In truth, I had no idea how I felt about the matter. My father has not, to any significant degree, been a real parent to me, although there have been the odd bright moments here and there. So busy was the man attempting to control everything and everyone around him that he robbed himself and those around him of the opportunity to enjoy healthy, happy, productive lives. Now, at eighty-five, with a lifetime of regrets behind him, he sits alone in a prison he unknowingly constructed for himself--his wife gone, his children at the distance for which he alone is responsible--facing the end of his existence on this Earth; and one cannot help but feel a tinge of sadness for all that he did not and will never know.
It is odd, after years of being the "bad" one and the "misfit" to find myself identified as "the only one who calls regularly" (even though this particular moniker was also bestowed upon me by my mother in the years before she died). All my life, it has seemed to me, my father and I have been at loggerheads--my accusing and demanding "satisfaction" and his criticizing and hiding behind "plausible deniability." Any girlish dreams of sappy Hallmark moments, of tenderness and cathartic revelation were abandoned so long ago that I can not, at present, recall them--even though, realistically, I know they must have once existed. Does not every young girl long to be "Daddy's little girl," swept up into strong, protective arms then swung high and with exuberant affection towards the awaiting heavens? Last year, in fact, the oft-mentioned "best friend" urged me to "make a demand and expect it to be met" because he was sure "there was fruit there" (between my father and myself) and felt that "every little girl needs her father". At the time, with everything else going on in my life, my response was one of annoyance at being asked to revisit something so obscure and inconsequential in the course of my being; nevertheless, looking back, I suppose the points made were valid ones. The connection between father and daughter should be a self-affirming one, filled with all the elements of elation, satisfaction, continuity, and stability which provide one with the foundation of a full and fulfilling life.
For some of us, however, such is not the case.,
At this point, I have been without the love and support of a father for so long that I honestly don't think I miss it. If asked, I do not think I love him...or even had the opportunity to do so. In hindsight, it is apparent that he, in making the decisions that he did, hurt himself more than anyone else--save my mother; thus, any anger, animosity, or resentment would be lost on him. How can one harbor animosity towards someone who has done far more damage to himself than any hatred by another could even begin to match? He has missed out on every milestone in my life as well as the lives of my children; when I needed him, he was not there; he and I share precious few memories with the possibility of making new ones virtually nonexistent; there have been few shared confidences, few meaningful conversations, little affection, and no depth of feeling whatsoever...plus, sadly enough, this reality, this truth is one that characterizes his relationships (or, rather, non-relationships) with all eight of his other remaining children (more, if one counts the unacknowledged "halves" that are floating about).
Having spoken to him, having heard the regret in many of his statements, having felt the loss that comes from knowing that one's deeds are irrevocable--the best years of his life far behind him, I cannot help but look around me in awe of all that life has afforded me, all that I have for which to be grateful. Yes, I sit in an empty apartment, sure that with each passing day my brother has made a bonfire of my belongings back in Connecticut. It is true that materialistically, my children and I have comparatively little. There have been more than out share of struggles, hardships, miseries, and catastrophes; nevertheless, we have operated under the belief that life is to be lived, to be enjoyed...not simply endured, drawing our small quartet close in a way that defies the obstacles of time and circumstance. I am happy here in Colorado Springs. The prospect of a successful writing career looms ahead of me despite the temporary obstacles. My children are contented, for the most part, with themselves and their lives. The future stretches before us--with all tis love, laughter, tears, accomplishments, failures, experiences, lessons, celebrations, twists, turns, and eventualities--in a glorious panorama of possibility; and we are not afraid to face it.
My father is not, was not so fortunate.
To quote his own words, "...but I was afraid to take the chance...."
It really is true, people...
It is not a cliche:
We truly do have only one life to live...and the trick of it is living that life in such a way that the good times overshadow the bad, the triumphs outnumber the regrets, the fond memories outshine the sad ones, the accomplishments minimize the failures, and the laughter drowns out the tears.
My father, unfortunately, failed to understand that, which--seems to me--is the greatest tragedy of all.
How I hope and pray, regardless of all that has come before, that somehow, some way, to some extend he finds some peace of mind in these last days and weeks, months and years he has left on this Earth.