Personal

Four years on

Dad
Dad in 2012. Kodak Retina IIa on Fujicolor 200.

It was four years ago yesterday that Dad died, and at last there are moments when I miss him.

I think that’s a sign that my grief has reached acceptance. I’m relieved. It’s good to feel that everything about my father is sorted in my mind.

I felt little grief after he passed. I shed few tears. I could only hope that grief was doing its work.

I think because we knew for months that he was going to pass away, I wrestled through most of my feelings before he actually died.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I will always wish we could have been closer. I tried to build closeness as best I could. But he was either not willing or, more likely, not capable of it.

He was also a hard man, angry, punitive to his sons while he raised us. There are more difficult memories than good ones.

But there is no doubt that he did the best he could. His sons turned out all right.

I wouldn’t mind pouring us a cup of coffee and telling him of all the hard times my family has faced since he died. I know he’d want to hear all about it. He’d also want to tell me exactly how to solve every problem, but finally I see that he knew no other way to express his empathy.

This link takes you to all of the stories I’ve written about my dad.

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19 thoughts on “Four years on

  1. Kurt Ingham says:

    My own mother was not very proficient at parenting and left a lot of hurt with her kids. It took us a while to realize that she was doing the best she could..

  2. Amazing how our childhood casts long shadows over our adult life. Thank you for sharing.

    Did you ever read, Returning: A Spiritual Journey by Indianapolis author Dan Wakefield? I think it is something you would enjoy.

  3. Steve Briggs says:

    Jim, I too had a father who it was difficult to be close to. He was an authoritarian perfectionist who was also a great provider, a terrific photographer who always had a camera in hand at family gatherings, and a disciplinarian who held his children to a very high standard. As an Astrophysicist immersed in the space race of the last century he had little patience for idle time except within the narrowly defined boundaries of church centered activities. In short, he was a hyper-achiever who didn’t suffer fools gladly. It was hard not to admire him despite the fact that he wasn’t always the warmest person in the world. He died in 2012 and it has taken most of the time since his death to reconcile those ambivalent feelings that remained. I have since reflected soberly upon the myriad challenges imposed by fatherhood.

    • It sounds like you admire the man for who he was in the world, and wish he could have been something more or better for you. It also sounds like you’ve sorted your thoughts and feelings for your father — so important.

    • Sho nuff. Margaret and I watched this series on Apple+ called Ted Lasso, and while it’s about an American football coach coaching a British soccer team, a classic fish out of water story, its subtext is the impact fathers have on their children well into adulthood. Fascinating study.

  4. DougD says:

    Yeah, coming up on three years for my mother, I have similar thoughts. When Mom was in her final weeks we were sitting once and she said to me: “I know I wasn’t easy on you, but I loved you fiercely” which was absolutely right.

  5. Andy Umbo says:

    My father and mother are both long gone, and I miss them every day. My Dad died in 2003, when I was 49 and he was 87, my Mom in 2011. I felt my parents to be smart and funny. Very cultural. They married late, and had kids late, and that was the key. They both said that the problem with most families is that you had kids raising kids; people that didn’t have the slightest idea about working their way through life; never been anywhere, never did anything, strapped with a marriage and kids at 19 or 20 years old.

    By the time my Dad met my Mom and got married, he had worked through a series of odd jobs searching for a career after high-school, but before WWII; he had been through WWII, gotten shot to smithereens and barely survived the Japanese on Guadalcanal, and been through college on the G.I. bill, and started working in insurance in Chicago.

    When I was in high-school and college, I knew people that had “hard” parents, and they were all of the “married too early” group. Struggling under enormous responsibilities barely out of high-school. Takes it out of you…

    With my parents, it was sad that I couldn’t spend more time with them later in life, when most of my sibs and I had to leave the mid-west to stay employed in our careers, by then, the “fly-over” was dying. Even then, my parents weren’t cloying; my Mom said if you had to live far away, that’s why they made jet planes! I still am grateful for getting to spend the summer before my Dad’s death, home with them while I was waiting for my job in D.C to start in the fall. My career also took a big shot coming home to care for my Mom after he was gone, but I wouldn’t trade that time away.

    • You make an interesting point about having children young. My mom did, she was 23 when I was born. She got right onto the family life treadmill. Mom and Dad were in their 40s when my brother and I graduated college, however — they weren’t still raising kids in their mid 50s like I was until recently. I wouldn’t have minded being empty nested in my late 40s!

      • Andy Umbo says:

        You know Jim, it’s also pretty common for men to come to terms with their Dad’s, and actually improved their relationships with their Dads, much later. Later like in their 60’s and their Dads are 80 or 85. I was on great terms with my Dad, but felt robbed of knowing him when I was in MY 60’s. Who knows what could have happened between you two in another ten years! That may be when all the truth-telling happens, and getting closer starts.

  6. Relles ( Ray Nevarez says:

    Yeah, I / We all understand that feeling! Just Rember him, in your own way, that’s all that really matters in the long run!

  7. My Dad passed in 2009. Although we had disagreements when I was younger, I enjoyed his company and valued his wisdom in his later years. My Mother lives three doors along the street from me now, and I have to confess the last two or three years have been a little difficult. I call in for a lecture a couple of times a week, keep her lawns mowed, and try to keep an eye on her welfare, but do struggle at times to reconcile what I need to do as a loving son, and the difficulty of having a pleasant conversation. I guess all our experiences are different, but sometimes family relationships can be hard going…..

    • Isn’t it funny how they change as we age, too? Since Dad died I have come to see Mom less as the idealized mother and more as a whole person — with ups and downs.

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