Notes from my Black
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My dad died a few years ago… and I have a mixed memory about him.
When I was young, he was absent and a bit abusive. He provided, but was completely unavailable. I never learned to throw a ball or frisbee well for example. We didn’t do those things. He too worked on his houses, but did not at all include me. My sisters have poignant bad memories about him and to this day call him by his first name instead of anything resembling an endearment.
On the flip side, in his last years, even though he wasn’t well, he traveled to my house to see me and my family. When he got here, he was in bad shape and had to immediately go back. He tried. In comparison to my mom, his last years were compassionate and caring. He made time for my son, which isn’t easy. He created opportunities to talk, listen and repair a bad relationship.
I believe my dad extended the same love to my sisters, but they both either rejected it then or maybe only after he died. I don’t recall them calling him by his first name while he was alive. They certainly never did that to his face.
He was deeply flawed. Yes. His handling of the divorce from my mom was really bad. His view of it was transactional. I don’t know if that was how his intimate relationships were. He didn’t present as a doting husband and he only hugged as an opening or ending to a day, trip, or moment.
No one needs to know about my dad… not really. About a dozen people made it to his funeral… yet he will be remembered by far more people.
I learned a life lesson, although it was not taught by him. The lesson was to only expect what someone can actually give in a relationship. That may be in love, friendship, business, or whatever. Don’t expect people to put what you do into it. Expect what they give and accept what that is. In some ways that really feels like giving up. In other ways it is a method to bring perspective on life. For example… if someone is a jerk, and you know this, and you find yourself in an interaction with them, know that the interaction will be based of them being a jerk. If they surprise you and are kind, then allow that to be their own shining moment, but don’t put that expectation on them.
Allowing my dad to be himself and not asking him to be someone else may be why we got along in the end. I did not ask him to alter his expectations of me. I did not change to have that relationship either. I allowed it to be or not. He chose to have one. I have opportunities every week for that relationship. He finally came along for the friendship.