Me and my father, Summer 1983, Dallas, Texas.
I’ve experienced a strange array of emotions since my father’s death on Monday, June 6th. To be more accurate, I haven’t felt too much emotion at all. I used this event to take two days off from work, but not really to grieve, just to reminisce and remember the good times my father and I had together. And yes, there were many good times.
I know the things I’ve written about my parents in this blog haven’t been too flattering, but that’s because of the subject matter of this blog. Essentially, I write it for myself and nobody else. I feel no shame in saying the things I have said, none of which were untrue. And I never identified them or used any real names. I can’t deny they simply were were not very good parents, but for this post, I’ll just leave it at that.
In recent years, my father and I haven’t been very close. Although my father was most likely a Covert Narcissist or a Borderline, he was not a malignant anything so there was no need to ever go No Contact with him. On many levels we were able to communicate and understand each other. I always felt deep down that he really did love me, or at least tried his hardest to love me. As a young girl and teenager I worshipped him (although there were times I grew very angry too, and would tell him I hated him).
During my teens and even into my early 20’s, we always got together on the weekends and it was always a fun, exciting event, no matter what we decided to do. He’d take me out to my favorite restaurants and let me order as much as I wanted to eat, without criticizing my weight or making me feel self conscious. He took me on road trips and all kinds of day-long excursions. I always looked forward to our time together and always felt he took a genuine interest in the things going on in my life. I felt comfortable talking to him about my problems and concerns, when I never felt that way talking to my mom. I knew my dad was far from an ideal parent in many ways, but I did feel his love for me.
In recent years, geographic distance, lack of funds to travel, my dad’s progressive Parkinson’s which made movement and speech increasingly difficult, and personal differences have caused us to drift apart. He remarried in the early ’80s, and his current wife hasn’t always approved of my lifestyle or values. The last time we spent any time together was in 2005. That is a very long time–a long enough time that any intensity of feeling you may once have had begins to fade, even if it’s your own parent.
I knew he hadn’t been well for a long time, due to his Parkinson’s and other problems. But my father tried to take good care of himself, and his extremely devoted wife did everything she could to help him. My dad always, always carried a positive, upbeat, can-do attitude about life and aging. I spoke to him on the phone every month or so (sometimes a bit less) and no matter what else was going on, my dad always sounded happy and contented, and always happy to hear from me.
When I got the phone call from my mother on Friday, I knew his time on earth was coming to a close. His kidneys began to shut down on Saturday and he was admitted to hospice, where he died on Monday. When the call came, I wasn’t surprised. I thanked my mother for letting me know, hung up and remember just feeling sort of…nothing. I went about my usual activities, albeit with a bit of wistfulness. I did spend some time thinking about him, and looking at old photographs of the two of us. But I didn’t feel anything resembling grief or bereavement, and I didn’t cry.
I went online to find out if this lack of feeling was normal. I felt a lot of guilt for not feeling more emotion, for not being able to cry. I read about Elisabeth Kubler-Ross’ Five Stages of Grief. The first stage is Denial, which is often accompanied by emotional numbness, similar to PTSD. But I wasn’t in denial! I knew my father was dead. I just wasn’t particularly upset about it. Of course I wasn’t happy about it; I just didn’t feel too much of anything. I thought there must be something terribly wrong with me. When I went back to work this morning everyone wanted to hug me and comfort me which was strange because I just felt…normal. I just wanted to get busy working.
Tonight I think I feel a little more emotion. Not exactly sad, but wistful and nostalgic which is close enough. I rummaged in my closets for more photos, and I found the lovely one of us taken at his home in the summer of 1983 when he was still active and in great health and I was young and sporting big 1980’s hair.
I feel grateful for the good times my dad and I shared. The times we laughed together, watched a movie, ate a delicious meal, took a long drive, and had a heart to heart talk (yes, we did even have those sometimes). We had the same offbeat sense of humor and love of the random, shared a fascination with geography and science, and loved all sorts of word games. No, he wasn’t a great parent, but he wasn’t the worst either, and he was aware he wasn’t a good parent when I was a kid. We had love for each other though, and that’s all that really matters at the end of the day.
Maybe I’m unable to cry because my C-PTSD makes it so difficult for me to access and feel my emotions anyway. I’m going to talk about this in therapy tomorrow.
Or maybe it’s just normal to feel an emotional distance when you and your parent haven’t seen each other in 11 years, and is really nothing to worry about. I feel some regret that I didn’t have the opportunity to see him one last time before he died.
Dad, I am thinking of you, and I know one day I’ll see you again.