I was away from home (finally!) in nursing school when I received the frightening news that my father was in the hospital. After being rushed home, I discovered that he had had a serious heart attack despite the fact that he was only thirty-eight years old. He was a smoker, which was fairly common during those times, and he drank a lot of beer. Without doubt, both of those facts strongly contributed to his heart attack, but, when he died unexpectedly, personally, I was naively convinced that he died, because, to put it carefully, he occasionally was not, in my opinion, a real nice person.
He grew up in the 30’s and 40’s— the youngest boy of eleven children. I don’t know much about his early years, but I know his mother (my Granny) was a saint and his father (Papa) was a distant, perhaps ineffectual, slightly mysterious, background presence. Daddy’s family was poor but never hungry, clean but not fancy, and southernly religious without being tight-ass (although they were members of the Church of Christ, which was, traditionally, very …hmmm…conservative.) My father was a typical teenage boy from what I hear from his cousins. He was occasionally rebellious, liked to work on cars, was his high school’s photographer, and liked pretty woman. He married my mother (a very pretty woman) when they were very young and had five children by the time he was 27 years old. So, maybe, he was a classic victim of his times?
Maybe he drank because he was unhappy and unfulfilled. Maybe he was unhappy and unfulfilled because he drank too much. I don’t know a lot about him. Parents didn’t talk to their kids about stuff like that. I can only guess at answers to the questions about which I wonder. I do know he loved to do DIY projects (just like me,) and he was a photographer once (like me,) and he loved his mother and siblings. Additionally, I know none of my sisters or my brother have bad memories of their childhood. I know my relationship with him did seem a little more loving after I left and went away to school, so I like to think that, with time, we would have come to some kind of conciliatory non-confrontational meeting of the minds. His other children loved him and speak of good times. I can not. My experiences with my father, while not classically abusive, were, nevertheless, not nurturing, and, certainly were not the stuff of which good memories are made. But, I try to let it go and remind myself that if he had lived longer, we might have eventually developed a more sustaining relationship. Maybe there would have been better outcomes. Or,maybe, he just didn’t like me and things would not have changed.
BUT, and this is BIG, if he hadn’t died, my mother would not have met Bill, my wonderful stepfather (and my real father) and the love of my mother’s life. So things turned out the way they were meant to turn out. I don’t need to complain. I would like to know why my father didn’t seem to love me, but I definitely know that my mother and Bill do. So, hey, I just count my blessings. Lots of people aren’t that lucky!