by Nolcha Fox
Death is a bit of a taboo event. We have rituals, memorials and such, to help us deal with
it. But when my father died in September 2017, I chose to dispense with all that. I hadn’t seen him for over a decade, since both of us hate to travel. My father lived several thousand miles away, and as far as I knew, his only friend was his second wife, who the doctor declared incompetent. So, who would attend a memorial? I didn’t want any of his possessions, since they didn’t mean anything to me. I didn’t want his ashes. I didn’t know what he wanted done with them.
My father and I had a broken relationship. We didn’t hate each other. We loved each other. There was simply a lifelong chasm between us that no bridge could span.
My father was a good man, a responsible man. But he never wanted to be a father. He was a father because he was supposed to be a father. And he resented his children for it.
As a child, I didn’t understand this. I thought that if I tried hard enough, he would love me. So, every day when he came home from work, I ran outside to greet him (much to the horror of my mother and brother).
As an adult, I understand the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over, expecting different results. As a child, I considered it optimism.
Into my 40s, my father and I played out this drama: I wanted him to love me; he preferred to love his toys. When he married his second wife, he wanted me to love her more than my mother. His emails to me were forwarded jokes. Our infrequent and brief phone calls often ended with him bristling at me or having to run to the bathroom.
Then one day, I realized I was tired of the drama, and I stopped playing. For my father, it didn’t matter. He still preferred to love his toys. He still forwarded jokes. Our phone calls were even more infrequent and brief.
About two years before he died, something changed. We started sharing more. About landscaping, plumbing, flooring, and buying and selling houses. He emailed more often, wanting to know how everything was, sharing stories about his health and about life in Florida. We talked more often on the phone. He read my blogs and told me he liked what I wrote. Our relationship was the best it ever was.
And then he died.
Last night, I rewrote the ending to a story that I’ve been wrestling with for years. At the end of that story, I’m a little girl catching tadpoles along a creek. I hear my father’s voice, so I run to catch up with him and follow him home.
And maybe that’s all the mourning I need to do.
Nolcha Fox blogs about life in a Wyoming small town, and writes short stories. Fox’s stories focus on (dark) humor, horror, fantasy, and science fiction.
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