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In time the memories become a blur

One year ago and it feels like a lifetime ago. Yet when this Facebook post popped up on "A Year Ago Today" each word brought back a piece of the ache. I was instantly thrown back into the agony in much the same way I would if I'd been ejected from a car. Every word brought back sensation. The edges of those memories continue to soften but there are still sharp pieces of my relationship with him that poke at my heart.

"It is almost impossible to convey the profound sense of loss for me in my dad's passing late Thursday night. There are people who I love dearly that cannot understand how someone I haven't spoken to in almost thirty years could matter at all, much less, so much. What they don't grasp is that I had carefully buried all the hurt and loss of a lifetime, and on Tuesday when I looked into his eyes and watched that single tear roll down his cheek, it all became unearthed. Little pieces of my life now dislodged; poking and prodding me in places I never expected. Sometimes it's a quiet whisper about something tender and other times it's a pang of deeply felt sorrow.

Somewhere in my subconscious being, I must have quietly been holding out hope that one day he would call and say he realized how much he had hurt me and that he missed out; that he wanted to know Alan and meet his grandchildren. In this unspoken exchange I imagined, he would then ask if we could start over. I am certain that if this had happened, I would have allowed him back into my life. My eyes would have been wide open but I would have wanted to see what might have been. Crazy as that sounds, I honestly believe I would have.

When I left the hospital Tuesday and he was on a teeny tiny upswing, this scenario played itself out in my mind. Memories have come to light over the past few days as my sister and I have been comparing notes. She lived mostly with him and her recollections are clear where mine remain blurry when it comes to details or in some cases non-existent. Margaret and I have been far from close over the years. We’ve had patches of "amicable" but mostly we have suffered from a bad case of emotional PTSD. The victims in this legacy are our children who stood by and never had the opportunity to be the family they might have been.

Our distance is likely a combination of self-protection and fallout from the rift that grew between us over time as we did what each had to do while living under his emotional reign of terror. Yesterday I sat in my car in the pouring rain for an hour and a half talking to her about how our approaches to life with him were different. True to form, I was always defending anyone he hurt, getting right in his face and telling him he shouldn't be such a bully. He would become enraged. My sister took the peace at any price approach and did an emotional rollover whenever he came at her. She just wanted to get through.

At the time I felt this was a betrayal but I now understand it from the eyes of the little girl she was then. Clearly I created the most difficulty for him as he dispensed his anger and verbally assaulted whoever questioned him. My sister pulled on an emotional suit of armor in hopes of dodging bullets. She often went through the motions at the expense of her own emotions. We now realize that each was a viable strategy given our circumstances but both would deliver its own set of consequences. I spoke my truth even if my voice was shaking, and it was.

I also created the most conflict for him. I held up a mirror that was uncomfortable for him to look into so naturally when he was cutting people from the team, I was the first to go. As much as he hated that in me, I know he admired my guts.

It's as if I've been living in a beautiful house all these years and this week I discovered there is a basement full of boxes. Some of the boxes are wrapped beautifully and others are covered in mold from having been down there so long. The emotional boxes exist and I have to see what they contain. Some are heavy and others easy to lift. What do I want to look at? Where will I place the things I decide to save and what of it will I toss? How quickly do I sort through them? How do I let go of the "junk"? As I see it, there really is only one way to get rid of the stuff I don't want and that is to sift through it, to try it on and see if it fits or decide where it goes. Since the New Year, I've been on a rampage cleaning closets and going through drawers. I guess it was the universe preparing me for this exercise.

For me, the most challenging part of cleaning out has always been to let go of the things I no longer use because they just take up space but letting go for me has always been a tough one. I guess it’s time for me to decide what stays and what goes. I am realizing that the deepest pain I feel now that he is gone is the finality of knowing that call will never come. The little girl that still lives in me will never hear him say that he realized how much he hurt her and that he missed out. But I know in my heart of hearts, that in our “moment” at the hospital, as his eyes welled up, he was telling me just that."

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