I'm not sure why I've written so much about this stuff with my father on the blog. I think the impulse does have something to do with wanting support, and there's nothing like my bloggy peeps for support related to all manner of things. So thank you all for your condolences, and for being here and reading. Writing this stuff out, not only for myself but for other people, has helped me to think through and to... feel through, I guess, a lot of the complicated things in my relationship with him.
I loved my father, and my father loved me. I do know both of those things. But it also was never that simple. And while I suppose people might say that love is never that simple, blah blah blah, well, the love between my mom and G. and me is, and so is the love that I have from and feel for my closest friends. It really is unconditional and uncomplicated. So it's not just that I've got support from you all, but I've got lots of real and deep support from the people who are really in my life. In other words, although I am sort of alone in dealing with this, and am sort of disconnected from it in lots of ways, I'm a person who has an embarrassment of riches in terms of people who really care about her and on whom she really can count.
My father was cremated, and there will not be a funeral, nor any kind of service. I don't know whether my father will be interred somewhere, whether his ashes will be scattered, or whether my stepmother plans to hoard his ashes so that only those of whom she approves can know where he is. I think that this is wrong, but I don't have any say in what happens. Parts of this have to do with my father's wishes, but parts are definitely related to my stepmother's incredible selfishness. There will be calling hours at a funeral home, and I will go, flanked by my friends who are really more like sisters than friends.
My stepmother made it clear to me that she would prefer if none of my father's family - his mother, his siblings - attended the calling hours, and she hadn't intended on informing them of his death. She figured they'd see it in the paper. Classic. I called my aunt and told her last night. I don't care what animosity anyone has for anybody else, or what wrongs people have done - to think that it's appropriate for a mother to find out her child has died by reading it in the newspaper is disgusting to me.
And this whole "calling hours" thing has me upset, in part because I'll be such an oddball in that setting. I'm not really part of my father's family or the life that he left behind, and so there will be tons of people there who are strangers to me or brief acquaintances - the people who are actually welcome. I don't want to have to explain who I am to those people, or to make nice with them. If any of my father's family comes, I will know them, but then I'll have to deal with the anger and tension that will come from the fact that my stepmother has made it clear that she does not want any of them coming near her or the boys. She does not want them even to speak to her or to them, she indicated. And then there will be those people who are from my father's past - who knew him when he was married to my mother - and who will want to talk to me, and that will make me uncomfortable, too. Thank God I'll have A. and J. and C. surrounding me, buffering me from as much of this as is possible. I wish there were a service of some kind. If there were, I would go to that and ignore this calling hours business altogether. I do not want to be in a room with an urn and pictures, but no flowers, with people milling around. I want structure to my grief. I want ceremony. I don't want to make small-talk. So I'll go, but I'm not sure how long I'll stay. I'll do what feels right for me in the moment, because seriously, nobody's given me much thought in all of this, so I feel completely comfortable putting myself first now.
It is also disgusting to me that my stepmother packed her sons off to school yesterday - business as usual, because they had tests, you know - after telling them of their father's death. It's disgusting to me that on the day his father died the older of the two boys then went on to basketball practice last night. It's disgusting to me that my stepmother believes that the right thing to do is to get back to normal as quickly as possible, that somehow that will make it all less devastating. I know that people grieve in different ways, and that there is no right way to handle death, but I also know a thing or two about wanting to please one's parents, and I think if there's a lot of pressure from a parent to be a certain way - even if that pressure comes out of love - that it can be very, very difficult to assert one's own needs, especially when you're only 12 or 14 years old. When you're 12 or 14 it's difficult to even know what your own needs are. Witness how I handled (or failed to handle) my parents' divorce at that age.
Aside from my disgust at the way that things are proceeding, though, I also feel a lot of relief. I don't feel obligated anymore to "deal" with the complexity of my relationship with my father, and all of the other players. For the first time in my life, I feel like I can have a relationship with him on my terms. I no longer feel torn between anger and wanting to please him. I no longer feel like this is something that I have to negotiate. As much as I'm sad, that's a happy consequence I hadn't expected. All of a sudden, in relation to my father, I finally get to be a grown-up.
So that's where things are. I have a lot of feelings, as I said to FB on the phone last night, and it's hard, but I'm really ok, and I know I'm going to be ok. I've just got to go through this, and to let myself mourn and to feel whatever it is I feel. And I need to handle this in a way that I think is appropriate, regardless of what my stepmother wants, what my father thought, or how these people think that things should go. (For example, my stepmother made a point of noting that the dress for the calling hours will be casual, and I plan on ignoring that. I wasn't raised that way.) And I'll probably go to mass with my mom (who's being great, by the way) on Sunday - I need a ritual even if nobody else wants one. And if my grandmother stays away from the calling hours, I think we'll go see her afterwards. We're not close, but that feels right. And I think I'm going to make a donation in my father's name to cancer research - though no such option was offered in lieu of the flowers that were prohibited - in all capital letters - in the obituary. And later, I think my father's family will do some sort of memorial thing of their own, and I'll attend that. What I do in relation to my father's death is not dictated by anybody but me, really. It feels nice, quite frankly, to feel that way now, even if I didn't feel that way about my relationship with him in life.
1 year ago