On November 12, 2018, I celebrated my 50th birthday. There should’ve been a post about it, however, I was suffering from “Oh my God I’m about to be 50 and my life is a shitty mess and what have I done to deserve to make it this far??!!” Yeah. A 50th post is coming though. So yesterday I turned 50 and today I found out my father died. He was an absentee dad. So how do you mourn for someone who you have no emotional connection to, but had a hand in your existence?
I look just like my father. When I was little, 3 or 4 years old, I remember going almost everywhere with him. I looked so much like him that everyone called me “Little Earl”. That’s his name, Earl Parker. My mom and dad divorced I believe when I was around 7 or 8 years old. After that, I saw him less frequently. I remember always having to call him so my sister and I could go spend weekends with him. He lived in a one bedroom ground floor apartment that he shared with his brother, my uncle. My sister and I slept on a lumpy mattress that sunk almost to the floor in the middle and had a big rusty spring poking out that you had to dodge in your sleep. My father slept on the couch with his Colt 45 always on the glass coffee table. Sometimes he had a car, most times he didn’t. We would walk to the store to get our meals for the weekend, which included some sugary cereal and cans of Chef Boyardee. Oh, and he always had a Playboy centerfold picture hanging in the bathroom. And you know what? My sister and I were in heaven! We didn’t care about the deadly mattress, having to walk wherever we went or the super inappropriate pictures in the bathroom, all we cared about was being with him. That’s ALL kids care about.
When I was 12, I was about to make yet ANOTHER call to ask to come and spend the weekend with him. I stopped dialing the phone midway and put down the receiver. I went into my mother’s room and told her I’m not calling dad anymore. Why does the child have to make the first move? Why am I always making the effort? When we were with him everything was cool, but it seemed as though when we weren’t, we were out of sight, out of mind. It made me mad, and at 12 years old I made the decision to put the ball in his court. The ball never got picked up. I’m not saying my dad didn’t love me, but actions speak louder than words.
Of course I went through the whole “Why doesn’t he love me! Why am I not good enough for him!” phase. Started looking for love in all the places and faces. Textbook. I was angry, sad, frustrated, confused. It was hurtful to grow up around friends who had both parents. That’s no dig on my mother, but as a kid, you don’t want to seemingly be the outcast. My friends never treated me differently, but I still carried that weight of not having a dad around. It wasn’t until I was in my late 20s/early to mid-30s that I started having conversations with God about it. I kept holding back forgiveness because I felt forgiveness lets him off the hook. Forgiveness, as we know, isn’t for the person who hurt you, forgiveness is for YOU. To release the pain and give it to a higher power. It releases the weight, a physical weight that you can feel. Forgiveness is for your healing and your sanity. Too many people are walking around with aching backs, arthritis, cancer, all that manifested from carrying around years of unresolved hurt and anger in their physical bodies. I said a prayer, I screamed, cried, and released that pain and at the end I said “I forgive you.” I forgive you for not being the father I thought you should’ve been. I forgive you for abandoning me. I forgive you for not trying hard enough. I. forgive. you. He was the father to me with the knowledge he had, and that baggage I could no longer afford to carry.
God is funny. About a year ago I started having thoughts of “how would I feel if my father died?” Came out of the blue, or did it? Would I cry? Would I be angry? Would I feel guilty? I hadn’t seen my father in about 15 years. My sister kept in touch and was very close to him. I started including him in my prayers. It doesn’t cost a thing to pray for someone. Still, I was wondering why these thoughts starting coming to me all of sudden? Was he thinking about me and maybe the universe was trying to cross our paths? Would I have been open to the idea of seeing him? I honestly don’t know.
So this morning I get the call from my mother and my aunt that my father passed away. My mom is so dramatic. “How are you? Are you sitting down? Is anyone with you?” Mom, what’s wrong? Your father passed away this morning. (dramatic pause). I was standing and I plopped down on the bed. I muttered “Oh.” My mother and my aunt were waiting for the agonizing wailing and the rending of my garments. It didn’t come. They started offering the little information they had. I asked about my sister and of course, she is a mess. They kept talking and waiting for a grieving reaction, never came. After I got off the phone I just sat there, waiting for something to happen. It didn’t. I felt a sadness for my sister but not for me. It took me about three hours to call my husband and tell him because I honestly felt no sense of loss. I was numb. I thought I would shed at least one tear, but nothing. I went about my day waiting for a reaction. I purposely didn’t play music in my car as I was driving because I didn’t want to feel as if I was trying to stifle a reaction. I talked to God about it as I drove, I guess trying to make something happen. Nothing. I haven’t told any of my friends because I don’t want to come across as being a “grieving child”. It’s weird.
So now comes the next part, do I go to his funeral? Am I obligated to be part of his death when he wasn’t part of my life? To me, that seems hypocritical. But a life was lost. A life that was connected to me by blood. I wished him no harm, I prayed for him and forgave him. Do I need to see him in a casket? Do I need to show up so other people can say “I know your father wasn’t always there, but he loved you.” (side eye). Then there are the people who will say “You need to go because he was your father.” Why? There’s no law that states you have to attend the funeral of a family member. It would seem cold and cruel to some folks. “If you forgave him, then you should have no problem going to the funeral.” People are great at minding your business, aren’t they? You didn’t make this trek. This wasn’t your journey, this isn’t your experience and it’s not your call to make.
Since I wasn’t in contact with my father I didn’t know what was going on with him, health or otherwise. Apparently, he had deteriorating health over the years and not actively taking care of himself didn’t help matters. As I was told, he died alone in his home. A thought crossed my mind today as I was wrapping up my errands. My birthday is November 12th, my father died on November 13th. Maybe him holding on one more day was his way of trying to make up for him not being there. That at the very least, he wouldn’t allow himself to die on my birthday. Rest in peace Earl.