Our Father

Dear Mom,

So our dad died over the weekend. But I guess you know that. I hope you do. Because maybe that means that you are doing well, and can help him pass through to ‘the other side,’ if that is even how it is referred to ‘up there’.  All these directions- up there, pass through, other side.  Is this even a direction thing? It’s just an energy thing, right. Not just, but you know what I mean.  Maybe there are no directions just spaces filled in the afterlife. No up and down or back and forth. But just around and within. Around us, within us.  Filling and energizing all of life all around us. Who knows?

I wondered why R asked me if I had walked to Steamrollers, when I told him, over the phone, that I was getting food. I realize now that he was just checking to make sure that I wasn’t driving when he gave me the news. Smart brother I have there, you know? Of course you know.

It was a very matter of fact conversation over the phone. Because how else can it be? I wanted to cry, but he was calling from Hawaii, and we don’t have that kind of relationship anyway.  Maybe that’s a good thing. One of us needs to be strong on the outside, and you know it is definitely not me.

But I cried after I got off the phone. I looked up at the sky, as I stood on the corner of Robson and Bute, and wondered if I am really here. Are any of us really here? I mean, this all feels surreal. Like we are on a movie set. But the thing is, we don’t know the plot or even our lines most of the time. We are just given them as each moment comes. And it’s confusing when it’s not the way you thought the story was going to go.  Shakespeare was right. “All the world is a stage.”  It’s just that some days, I feel like I’ve fallen off of even that.

I think these moments of someone calling to finally say that line you know he is going to say, “And he didn’t make it,” are the moments where I am forced to step off the stage and look at it all from the outside in.  And then I wonder how R felt when he got the call too. I know he loved his dad, in his own way. We just didn’t know him.  It’s a weird feeling.

Did you know that just a few months ago, maybe last year, or something like that, I learned that our dad didn’t have parents? I mean, of course he HAD parents, but he didn’t know them. He said they died when he was young. And he doesn’t know exactly how they died. A cousin or young family member took care of our dad and his siblings. But they didn’t have much. And it was too overwhelming for the cousin. Maybe too much responsibility. And the cousin decided to take his own life.

Did you know this about our dad, Mom? You never told us.  When I found out, I was so confused. Because I had gone out to Khane that day, in Burnaby, specifically knowing I was going to go out and seek out my dad. He was normally there and I had some things to say to him. Some not so nice things, after you passed away.

He first asked me how I was, and I said not good. My mom just died.  And that’s how the conversation about his parents came up. He just brought it up.  He said, “Well, at least you had all these years with your mom.  I didn’t even know my parents.”  Jeez, Mom.  Many things started to make sense from just those few words. Of course our dad didn’t know how to be a dad. He not only didn’t have a dad to raise him, but he didn’t have parents to raise him at all. No one to love him and show him that he was valued and cared for and that he needs to believe in himself.  He didn’t have an all in one set of parents like I did- a mom and dad in one little, strong woman- you.  I was lucky, Mom. I was so lucky to have you.

But the thing is that’s what I had on my mind. Here he was, my dad trying to just open up to me in that moment and finally tell me something about himself. But I had you on my heart. So I was mad- about why he couldn’t have been there for you. Why he made you do everything yourself. He said that he tried to stay in touch, but we didn’t seem to want to have anything to do with him. We were kids, I said to him. You’re the adult! What did you want us to do?

It was a stupid argument, Mom. I realize that I shouldn’t have said all of that without knowing his story and where he came from. But I wanted to finally stand up for you. I wanted somehow to make things better for you by standing up for what you deserved, to let him know that you had a hard life trying to do everything yourself.  But that you still did such a wonderful job of it. But you know what? I think I just made things worse for him.  It probably broke his heart to hear me say those things.

I tried calling him the next day to apologize.  His sister answered. She had no clue what I was saying or who I was. She kept me on the phone forever, trying to figure out why I was calling for him. And finally, she gave him the phone. I tried apologizing. I thanked him for telling me the story of how his parents weren’t around and how his other family member who was taking care of him died by suicide. I tried telling him about my work with teaching highschool kids about suicide awareness and stress management. He didn’t seem interested. Or maybe he wasn’t feeling good.  I even thanked him for marrying you so that we could be born. But I think I said something like it allowed us to have the mom we had. And maybe I didn’t acknowledge his value or his part in all of it. No, I definitely didn’t.

I don’t know what was going on on the other line, but he didn’t say much at all. He almost seemed upset or annoyed, and tried to just get me off of the phone. And I felt emptier after that phone call than before I called. And of course, he never called back.

A couple of months later, or less, I went back to that Khane in Burnaby. I brought a black and white photo of you and our dad with me, to give to him. I thought he might want to see it. You both looked so happy and he was looking at you so lovingly.  Maybe it was also kind of going to be my peace offering. A step in reconciliation. But he wasn’t there. No one knew where he was. I was going to leave the photo with someone there, someone who said he knew my dad and could pass it on to him. But I didn’t give it to the guy. I wasn’t sure what the best thing to do would be.  I thought I should try again another day, so that I could give it to my dad in person and explain why I was bringing it to him. But I never did.

I thought about it many times, but I wanted him to make some effort too. I mean, I might be an adult, but he is still older and is still the dad. Maybe I was being stubborn. I agree with my friend Agata who yesterday allowed me to see that maybe I was still feeling like the little girl who wanted answers. It wasn’t that I didn’t care or didn’t want to be considerate. But there is still this little girl inside me, his daughter, that wanted to know why.  But I was too late, or didn’t try hard enough.

I know deep down inside, that I might have really been able to at least end things on a better note, that I could have come to better understand my dad if I had just asked him more positive questions like, “Were you ever in love with my mom?” And “Tell me the story of how you two met.”  But something stopped me from starting there.  I had so much pain in me over losing you, Mom. I wanted to first know how he could make such a loving, beautiful woman like yourself do everything alone. Even if you pushed him away, even if he didn’t have any money or was going through health problems, even if he thought we were not wanting to get to know him. I just love you so much, Mom. And I feel like your life would have been so different with more help from him, from all of us, maybe. Maybe this is just more about me, and my guilt of not doing enough for you. It’s like I am looking for other people to blame.

But look where it has gotten me? Another sad ending with another parent. Sure, he wasn’t the caregiver who gave us unconditional love and support the way you did. But he was still my dad. So… that feeling of the way I left things off on such a bad note is still crushing.  I wonder if I didn’t put more effort into sorting it out because, if I didn’t have the perfect ending with you, I didn’t want it to be a great ending with him. Stupid, isn’t it? But there was a part of me that always felt like I would somehow be a traitor to you if I went to my dad to find out more about him or to form a relationship with him. I wouldn’t have known how to. And I don’t think it would have felt comfortable. But I didn’t really try, so who knows.

Do you think he passed away not long after you because he really loved you? I mean, you hear about couples who were together for so many years and then one dies, and just months later, the other dies.

I know you didn’t have a loving relationship, and you ended things so many years ago on a really bad note. But, someone in our family, just after your passed away, told me that he felt that our dad loved you very much.  It makes sense to me in that even though he might not have been a good support or a healthy partner for you, how could he not love you? How could anyone not have loved you?

I wonder if your death, despite all the distance between you two for all these years, diminished him. Depleted his health and energy more.  I’m sure what I said to him didn’t help. And I feel badly for that. But do you think, when he crosses over to the other side, that maybe he will be very happy to see you? Maybe you two will be able to reconcile your differences and see things more clearly from each other’s point of view.

I was always on your side, Mom. Don’t worry about that.  But it’s kind of sad that I even felt I had to take a side.  It made things very complicated and confusing for me, not just as a kid. I don’t actually remember those years much. But more as an adult, who wanted to resolve those childhood issues.  And now,  I can’t ask either one of you about your relationship.

Maybe you guys can find a way to relay the story to me from wherever you are now. You might not be together, which is totally understandable and fine. But maybe you both have a way of reaching us now in a way that wasn’t there before.

I love you, Mom. Thanks for being my mother and father.  It was a tough job, I know.

And because of the loving mother that you were and are, I know you would have probably wanted me to resolve things with my father in a more loving way than I did.  I am sorry I did not pull through on that one. But please tell him that I am grateful for both of you bringing me and my brother into this life.  And we will do our best to take care of each other.

Love always and forever,

Tas

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