Thursday, April 2, 2009

Unmended Fences

I'm feeling sad and conflicted today. Last night, I heard from my so-called father's wife. She said he is very sick and has one to five days to live. Since I haven't seen my father in about eighteen years, and only a handful of times in the twenty years before that, it's like hearing that a stranger is very ill and will die any day. Then she adds that his short-term memory is gone, but his long-term is intact. He kept calling his first daughter from his second family by my name. In a way, I wish I didn't know that, it causes me great pain. But in another way, I am grateful that I do. At least he remembers my name, right?

The part that causes me enormous sadness is all the years he threw away. I can't do a thing about those wasted years, and I don't feel compelled to rush to his death bed and make amends. I've tried to do that more than once over the years, so my kids could at least know they have a grandfather. We never had a falling out or anything. He simply abandoned us. He went on to have a second family with this woman, and found it easier to pretend we didn't exist, I guess.

I often chalk it up to him being emotionally stunted or empty. I wonder if he has regrets, if he intentionally let those years go by, or if they piled up without him noticing. Was he just lazy, or did the time pass and then it became too difficult to face us? I suspect that he is simply a weak person.

Thank God I am not like him.

We spoke on the telephone a few months ago after many, many years of silence. He asked about my mother and all my siblings. He even said to say hello for him and tell them to call him anytime if they desired. I asked him to call them--I said he owed it to them, but he said, "Oh no! I can't do that."

And here's the kicker, the big slap in the face: He and his wife had kids of their own, adopted another, and fostered others. Let me be clear. This man abandoned eight children and then proceeded to make more and take more into his home. I wonder if those kids got what they needed in terms of fatherly parenting? We sure never did.

And now it's done--almost. It's left to me to break the news to my siblings. I wish I could keep this to myself and spare them the heartbreak, but they are all adults and have the right to know.

Thanks, "Dad." Once again, and I guess for the last time, you aren't there for me.

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