I have only three pictures of my dad, and only one of us together, taken in 1982 (shown above). He passed away suddenly on June 6, 2016. I can’t believe he’s been gone for almost half a year.
My dad wasn’t a very good father. In fact, he was pretty terrible. A covert narcissist (though I don’t think he was malignant or evil), or possibly a borderline, or maybe both, he was always codependent to higher level, grandiose NPD women. At least in my mother’s case this was true. For all of my childhood and part of my adolescence, he was an active alcoholic and often lost control and become violent and abusive. Sometimes he really scared me. His punishments could be harsh and cruel. He also invaded my boundaries in many ways and seemed to expect something of me that I could not be, but I never knew what that was.
Much like my mother, he could never accept “negative” emotions and always seemed to expect me to act happy even if I wasn’t. So I learned how to fake happiness or at least contentment, but was never very good at it. But there were also times that he wasn’t this way (more on that in a minute).
He also cut me off for years at a time once I became an adult, refusing to have anything to do with me when I disagreed with him or did something that went against his wishes. The time around my daughter’s birth was one of those times (not because of her, but because of something unrelated we had disagreed about). Because of that, he never met her until she was 8 years old. He did apologize for his lack of contact with me.
In spite of these behaviors, my dad could also be very loving. When he was loving, he could be the sweetest and most understanding dad anyone could ever hope for. While I always somehow knew my mother’s “love” was fake, I never felt that way about my dad. When he showed me love, I knew it was really coming from his heart because it just felt like the real thing. My intuition about these things is usually accurate. Although his rages were usually scarier and more violent than my mother’s, as a person he scared me less. He was less cold and could even be very warm. As disordered as he was, my dad had a heart. I always felt like I could talk to him, at least when he was sober or in a good mood. At those times he could be extremely supportive and empathetic. He was very protective of me and used to get so angry when anyone else tried to hurt me.
The problem was he was so unpredictable. It was so hard to discern when he would be nasty or nice. So I usually waited for him to be nice to me, rather than seeking it out. He was such a conflicted person.
I loved my dad. I still do. Today in church the priest talked about praying for those loved ones who have passed on. Until now, I hadn’t been able to cry about my dad’s passing. I experienced a lot of other emotions — shock, anger, rage, regret — but I never really grieved. We hadn’t been close in years.
But today was different, and I sat there wiping away tears and realizing how much I miss my dad, and feeling so sad because we never had a chance to get together before his death and reconcile or come to some kind of understanding as father and daughter. There was no closure. I never even got to see him in the hospital, and I was unable to attend his memorial service. There was this vast distance between us (I never went No Contact with my dad). He never got the chance to see how much I’ve changed and grown. I know he would be proud; he always told me he wanted to see me thrive and be happy one day. I knew he meant it too.
I hope wherever my dad is right now, he has learned a few things and is working out his demons and his soul is being cleansed. I don’t believe death is so final that you just go to either heaven or hell and that’s it, because no one is all good or all bad. I think our souls continue to grow and mature and sin can be cleansed even after death.
I also hope he understands that his youngest daughter, who I know he loved in spite of the terrible way I was raised, has realized a lot about why things happened as they did, and is now using those lessons to become a better and happier person. A person who has processed enough of this trauma that she can finally reach out and begin to help others. I hope he is looking down from wherever he is and is proud of what I became. I hope he knows that I love him and pray for his spiritual freedom too. In many ways, both my parents were teachers to me. Harsh teachers to be sure, but I still learned so much once I realized what I’d been up against. Framed the right way, narcissists can teach you much about yourself, if you can move on from hating them and try to understand why they did what they did and why it was done to you.
Dad, wherever you are, I miss you and love you….in spite of everything. I forgive you.