I leaned recently that my father passed away on December 17, 2011. Having come from a dysfunctional family it has been almost twenty-five years since we last spoke. It was by his choosing that our relationship came to an end. Any attempt at written contact from me came back marked ‘return to sender’…that’s what I had become to him, a sender.
I don’t know how to grieve. That process started those many years ago and it’s hard to grieve a life with which you had no part. Tears came anyway. Tears of regret as well as loss. I always thought that one-day he’d change his mind and accept me as his daughter. It didn’t occur and he didn’t leave a message for me.
Dad had moved on and made another family. I have no hard feelings for them in fact one of his stepsons took care of him during the final stages of dementia after his wife’s death in September. I’ll be eternally grateful that he was cared for and watched over. As his eldest daughter it should have been me in that position.
My children missed out on a relationship with their grandfather. Actually he missed out by not knowing my children. They are pretty special and he would have been a better person for knowing them. I had a close relationship with my grandparents and I regret their lacking that experience.
I have some fond childhood memories. I grew up in Alaska on a homestead. We had forty acres we improved upon and after living on it for a period of time it became ours. Hard, back breaking work that built a strong work ethic in us all. We had cows, chickens, pigs, goats, dogs and the ever-present barnyard cats. I remember having to do the milking at night because I was so slow I’d miss the school bus if that was my morning chore. The four of us girls tried our hardest to do the labor of homesteading but fell short many times much to his displeasure. He regretted not having a son. I can still hear my mother reminding him that we were little girls. We wore our bib-overalls and tried our best to please him and be the sons he was missing.
I remember him playing the clown at our winter carnival and ice racing. They nicknamed him ‘Burm Dufour’ because he drove with one wheel in the snow burm as an attempt for traction on the ice-covered lake. I have vivid memories of the chili I’d stuff myself with at the carnival and attempt to duplicate it to this day, always winding up a tad short of my memory.
My father was a hard working man and held many jobs before settling on his true love, driving truck. In the 1970’s he bought his own Peterbilt and was an owner/operator for a major trucking company in Anchorage, Alaska. I can recall him working as a lumberjack, construction worker, school bus driver and mechanic. Odd jobs to help keep food on the table for his family of six.
I recall the day he left and the turmoil of not knowing why yet feeling responsible. I think all children feel accountable when their parents divorce. Deep, dark secrets that came to light years later but at the time remained in the dark.
My father made a new life for himself and chose to leave his first family behind. My hope for him is that it was a good life for him and that he had no regrets. The last time I spoke with him was during a counseling session. He gave me the gift of showing up for one of my sessions to help me come to terms with what he did to us. It was an eye opening experience and a lot of my questions were answered.
I’m not sure what type of legacy he leaves behind with his new family. He must have been loved. There is evidence that he was. The hardest part of losing him this time is the wondering of what might have been. I miss my father. I have for many years. It’s difficult to grieve however. I went through that grieving process close to twenty-five years ago.
The reason I’m sharing such a personal experience is to remind others that time is not endless. Make amends with those who have hurt you. You don’t know what tomorrow brings and your second chance may slip away. It’s healing to forgive. Recognize what has been done, reflect on what your options are, release the anger and pain and regenerate a healthy relationship with the offender. This being the beginning of a New Year is a natural time of reflection. Do you want your relationships to remain the same or does there need to be some repairs made? Start the New Year with a fresh outlook and pledge to mend stale relationships. You will not regret the attempt.