Friday, May 3, 2013


My dad passed just over 3 months ago.  I haven't really written about it because at the time I didn't have a space where blogging really was possible.  (Notice more writing now that I have that space???)  And I have a lot of guilt.  I cried.  I did all the usual things.  I totally lost it in the bathroom at the funeral home.  And then I've sort of tucked away the grief.

My dad and I were estranged for 7 months or so leading up to his death.  There were arguments, nasty emails from him.  It was even worse for Sister.  Littlest took his side and it became this horrid family feud. Birthdays were ignored.  Holidays were super awkward.  We didn't call each other for the big stuff.  He made one attempt to reach out, but it was random and short notice and made me even angrier.  The last year of his life we spent fighting.  And then he was just gone.

Therapy 3x/week and I didn't really talk about it.  Just breezed over it.  Lalala.  He's gone.  It sucks.  Moving on.

But it's not that easy.  He rarely saw P.   Or Niece, but that's not my story.  P didn't know him that well.  He didn't make much of an effort to see him.  But neither did we.  The phone works both ways.  I found out when going through things that he knew I was in the hospital.  I didn't tell him.  He'd been on my case for months but didn't EVER ask how I was or why things were the way they were.  He didn't really seem to care that I was sick, that my life was a disaster, too.  There was so much anger.

We saw him the week before Christmas.  So awkward.  No hugs.  Barely spoke.  And a little over a month later he was gone.  And now I'm left with this guilt.  When we went to the hospital that morning Sister and I didn't go in to say goodbye.  Because it wasn't him.  I feel very strongly about that.  He wasn't there.  Just his shell.  And a shell I didn't recognize because they'd shaved his face in prep for surgery the next day.  Except for photos of him when he was young, I'd never seen his face.  Not really. Full beard my whole life.  And he was intubated.  Why couldn't they take out the damn tube?  It doesn't matter.  It wasn't him.

And now his 2nd grandson is weeks away from being born.  And all of a sudden, a song or a book I ended up with that was his, inscribed to him, will just send me over the edge.  He pops up suddenly.  My grandparents do the same, my MamaLea and DaddyLea, and sometimes Opa.  They don't make me cry - it's more of a conversation.  They lived long, fulfilling lives.  I remember them with joy, with a deep love and respect for all they showed me, taught me.

Dad...he wasn't happy.  He was always searching, fighting.  I think it's his wanderlust I have.  At his service his best friend talked about how he always talked about us, even through the hell, with pride and joy.  About his grandchildren.  But he just was always fighting.  Talking to him became a chore in the last years.  He was always unhappy, and those conversations were draining.  He had a very difficult time seeing us as adults, maybe because he had limited contact with us after he and my mom divorced.  We were always his little girls. He didn't handle change very well.

When I remember how sad he was, how a way I'm glad it's over for him.  But to end so suddenly, so many things left unsaid...I feel this horrid oppressing guilt.  I was so tired of being the one to forgive, of letting him slide on his behavior when it was inappropriate.  So tired of being the adult in our relationship.  But maybe I didn't try hard enough?  I don't know.  And I don't know how to forgive myself.

How do I let the guilt go?  Knowing that I didn't even get a chance to call him in the hospital when he was admitted.  I'd spent the day he was in at the ER myself with a heart scare.  I was going to call him that morning.  Tell him good luck on the surgery.  Arrange care for P so I could go see him after his surgery.  But instead, I got a call at 6:15 am.  He was in cardiac arrest.  They'd been doing CPR and whatnot for 45 minutes.  They were going for a few more minutes until Littlest got there, but he was gone.  I knew it.  They were just pumping blood.  He was gone.

P looks just like he did as a child.  So did I.  I got my love of music from him.  My wanderlust.  My incredible stubbornness.  My name, a name that ends here in the USA with him.  We sisters are the last of it.  2 of us anyway.  I didn't pass it on.  I doubt that Littlest will.  Soon I will be the only one with the last name in the whole country.  It's just a name, but...I don't know.

Soon Finn will be here.  His 2nd grandson, 4th grandchild.  And he will never know him.  Someday we will have our forever home and I will spread his ashes, along with the grandparents (and eventually my mom, my step-dad) in our garden.  And the boys will know why there is a special place there.

But I don't know how to get past the guilt.  I don't know how to forgive myself for letting his life end that way, so lonely, so much unsettled.  How do I forgive myself?  How?


  1. I haven't said much to about your dad's passing in large part because i thought that you were not yet ready to talk about it...knowing at least a chunk of the history and what not.

    i don't have any real words of wisdom on how to let go of things like guilt, for each of us, its often too personal and intertwined with the fabric of our own lives and the lives of those we've lost. All i can say is can only be responsible for so much. you made choices and so did your dad. you can not be responsible now when he is not here to be able to be accountable for the choices he made.

    the cliche about time...i think its true when it comes to guilt, we have to let it go, because if we do not, it will eat us up from the inside out. having known your dad, i can tell you this also with great certainty, that man loved you fiercely, and i wouldn't doubt that many of his less wise decisions had their roots in those fierce emotions. he was a paradox for sure, oddly stoic on the outside with such a fire blazing in his intense eyes. i can't help but wonder if that didn't play a role in his sudden health crisis...i just don't know how one holds that all in with out it breaking them apart eventually.

    i think the way forward, as you learn to find ways to let go of your guilt, and to also forgive your father for his shortcomings involves looking at how many of his weaknesses could also be sources of strength...and can continue to be for you and for your children. his stubborn resolve and fire while it seems sadly it was self-destructive in how he made his way through the world can also be a gift to you, your curiosity and passion for new experiences, those can be gifts as much as the wanderlust can be a curse at times. the stubbornness while it did build a wall between you and your dad, can also be the resolve you need when facing life's challenges... ultimately it is finding those moments when your inheritance from your dad, these qualities and traits, can be seen has his final and most important gifts to you. it is in those moments that i hope you can step back and see that in the grand scheme your dad knows you love him.

    i can only say this because i think my dad and i were the very much the same, maybe just not quite as extreme, but in our many moments in life when we were not talking to each other was when my mom would point out to both of us that our biggest problem was that we were soooo much alike. we both would look at her like she was nuts and say that was not true, we were NOTHING alike! today, i see how right she was, and its now a comfort, and its something that makes me smile, because its my dad in me, i see him and he is always there. i hope you find your way to that place, where you can see him, not a fake perfected copy of him, but him with his flaws and find comfort in that.

  2. Oh sweetie, in some ways I can totally relate and in others I'll just have to say I'm here to support you. My mom died suddenly 6 years ago - didn't get to say goodbye, wasn't at my wedding, and will never get to meet her grandchildren. The difference between our stories though are that we did have a close relationship. Even though I didn't get to say goodbye, I don't have the guilt that you are dealing with. And I imagine that is so hard. So so hard. All I can say is he knows how you feel, he knows you are upset with the way things ended, and I would hope he wouldn't want you hanging on to that guilt. Especially with all the positive, exciting things going on in your life. Sounds like you have a nice plan to remember him by and are willing to share stories about him with your kids. That and pictures are a great way to put your guilt aside.


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