Those lonely, angry years would never be discussed in detail. Neither of us wanted to revisit that pain. We were happy to be together.
Once, very briefly, the subject came up as we were driving down the road. I don’t even remember where we were going or how the subject came up, but I asked him, “why? Why weren’t you there? Why didn’t you participate?”
“Because I didn’t think anyone wanted me too.”
I stared hard out the window at the scenery passing by, blinking to whisk away the tears. It finally made sense to me. The running, the expectations, the assumptions, the needing to know that you are wanted, the not wanting to intrude, the not wanting to be where you are not wanted… All of that was familiar to me.
After my Dad died I poured myself into work. I needed a focus to keep my mind off the hurt. I traveled all the time, and I was almost never home. My marriage suffered. When I was home, I could tell that David was very unhappy, but we never talked about it so I didn’t know the cause. I assumed it was me. I was ready to run.
My history had taught me that marriages fall apart. My expectation, even from when we were first married, was that one day he would leave. I thought that the time had finally come. The thought of losing him made me sink deeper and deeper into a pit of despair, and the only way out, that I could see, was to leave. In my mind, that was the only way he could be happy, and I would rather live my life alone knowing that he was happy than keep him where he didn’t want to be.
Thankfully, David is a lot smarter than me. And a lot stronger. He realized what was happening, and he reached down into that deep, dark pit I had created for myself and pulled me out. David taught me that love is something you stand your ground and fight for. Something that you grab hold of and that you don’t let go until the bitter end. Love isn’t something you set free. It is something you hold close and protect.
One Sunday I sat in church listening to the pastor preach a sermon about Peter. Peter was one of the first disciples. His faith was strong, but he had expectations. He believed Jesus was a warrior come to fight. When Jesus foretold of His death, Peter cried, “Never. This shall never happen to you.”
Even after Jesus rebuked him, Peter still held to his expectations. When the soldiers came to take Jesus, Peter pulled out his sword and struck one of the soldiers; he was ready for battle. Again, he was rebuked by Jesus. The pain and sorrow of his unmet expectations caused him to deny Jesus three times, but when he realized what he had done he wept.
Even so, Jesus had faith in Peter. He knew that Peter’s faith would carry him through, and that he would be a strong leader to the other disciples. That is why Jesus nicknamed him Peter, “the rock”. He was the strong one.
I was taking my Dad to one of his treatments after he got sick. We were in the car when he told me, “if this doesn’t work out you will need to take care of Jason and Gayle. You’re like me. You are the strong one, and they will need you.” I was his rock. He had faith in me.
I see so much of myself in Peter. So much of my Dad. That sermon made so many things clear to me. How my unmet expectations shaped me and led me down a path of anger and bitterness. How my Dad’s expectations of what we wanted from him caused him to be absent. So much hurt for nothing. So much regret left in the wake of his death.
Grief is hard. Is is the slicing burn of a million papercuts that hits your heart without warning. Regret is worse. It is an insidious virus that eats away at your soul. While grief is born out of love, regret is born out of sorrow and knowing that after a certain point you will never be able to right the wrong. There is no going back.
I would give anything to be with my Dad today. To hug him one more time. To tell him that I forgive him for not always being there, for not being what I expected him to be. To tell him that I get it now. To tell him that he was wrong, that I did want him there. That I needed him to be there. But that I forgive him for not knowing.
But the thing I wish for most of all is that I could say I’m sorry. I’m sorry for not speaking up. I’m sorry for not fighting for us. I’m sorry for not grabbing hold. I’m sorry for letting go.
I love you Daddy, and I promise to hold your memory close every day. I promise to never again allow love to slip away.
Note: This a series I’m writing about my relationship with my Dad. This is the story of my pain based on my perceptions of events. Some of it will not be pretty, but it is time for me to set these memories free. Mistakes were made by everyone, including me, so please read with a soft heart and forgiveness so that I may forgive myself. Also, please keep in mind there are always at least two sides to every story.
Some people will probably think that I should not write this, but I offer up two quotes from Anne Lamott for the reason why I should.
If people wanted you to write warmly about them they should have behaved better.
Forgiveness is giving up all hope of having had a better past.
I will be linking these posts up with Heather of the Extraordinary Ordinary for Just Write because that is the only way I will be able to get them out… to just write.