My mom and dad were divorced when I was 2. My dad would come around every so often for dinner and to take my sister and me shopping. It always seemed very sudden when he was in town. I can’t remember ever knowing he was going to be in town until that day. These quick trips, usually no more than a day, left me feeling that my dad never wanted a part in my life. When I was a junior in college, we lost touch completely. I held a lot of resentment in my heart for him.
I invited my dad to my wedding in 2001 mainly because I knew I would regret it if I didn’t. It was very uncomfortable mainly because I hadn’t had much contact with him for the 7 years prior. My wedding came and went and I lost touch with him again. Until recently. In April, 2007, my dad’s brother-in-law, my uncle Clayton, died. I found out from my sister that a lot of the family on dad’s side was going to be there. I realized that I didn’t know much of dad’s family. I knew i had to be there.
I drove 10 hours and all the while, the anxiety of seeing my dad after 6 years was building. I got to the hotel and called my dad. We met in the lobby. Although it was a bit uncomfortable, things were different this time. It was as if we both came to the realization that we were starting over.
The next day was the funeral. As any good Southern church does, the ladies of the church had provided lunch for the family after the funeral. After everyone had filed in, there were probably close to 40 people there. I was shocked to find that there is a huge part of my family I didn’t know. After the initial shock, extreme sorrow set in. I started wondering why I didn’t know these people. Aunts and uncles; first, second and third cousins.
I found myself retreating to the bathroom many times to hide my sorrow at this realization. One of these times, my sister followed me. I was informed that my mom willfully kept me from my dad when I was growing up. I was filled with rage at the thought that my mom would have done this. Currently, I’m trying to work through this rage and anger. I haven’t confronted my mom about this as I am afraid of what it will do to our already fragile relationship.
The best thing to come out of this is that I am speaking regularly with my dad and I’m planning on taking a trip to see him soon. But every conversation we have is a little bittersweet because I know that I have little time left with him. He turned 75 this year. All I can hope for is that we will make the most of our time we have left together.