The Man Who Almost Was
The last eight months have been tough. Illness, death, surgeries, retirement, moving...all those serious life changes they warn you about. You know, all the stress inducing ones. In the background, a granddaughter suffering with a debilitating disease and to a much lesser, but still off putting degree, this Mother's Day was my first without a mother.
So, I find myself in a daily quandary, my brain a-jumble. I stare off into the abyss, overwhelmed, hanging on the ledge not really trying to pull myself up. Getting by is fine for now.
I have 3 pairs of glasses and often can't find even one pair. I walk (limp) into a room and can't remember why I'm there. I'll make a phone call and feel surprised when someone I know answers. Making a grocery list feels like writing a thesis.
Yet, oddly, I find myself thinking about Father's Day. Perhaps to get a jump on it, to not forget. Even though my father is dead. My husband is a father, my sons-in-law are fathers...so maybe that's it.
Or, maybe not.
Lately, I've been thinking about my stepfather- who is just as dead as my father. He and my mother were married over 30 years. A miracle of midwestern stick-to-it-ness if you ask me. But, stick with it they did. Until his death several years ago.
I've discovered when you're feeling a little beat down, your brain goes places it never would if you felt stronger. You don't have the energy to keep at bay the feelings you'd squashed before, or you realize in a weak moment you feel differently all together.
Barely a teen when my mother and stepfather married, I felt no love for him. Just a casual disdain that grew into a lazy hatred then settled into an annoyed apathy.
He was an alcoholic. Cruel, unreliable, unpredictable. Both my mother and I knew it from the get go. She married him anyway, as bad men were her comfort zone. I can't say I felt disappointed. Experience had already taught me that fathers were absent, uninterested, unavailable, violent.
He ruled our house in a surly silence, where something always felt like it was moving in for the kill. We waited every night till eight o'clock when he'd stumble off to bed, in a drunken haze and our collective sigh of relief signaled safety at last.
If you'd asked me to list his good qualities, I couldn't have. But, I would've been wrong. He had some. I just never gave him his due credit.
He was the first man to ever tell me I was smart.
He was the only parent I had who told me I could, and should, go to college.
When I got a B in history because my teacher didn't believe in giving A's he drove to the school, without my mother, and had a talk with the teacher. My stepfather was 6ft. 4in, 250 lbs. He came back with my A.
He expected me to get A's and if I didn't, his disappointment could bring me to tears.
He taught me to work. He fought my mother when I wanted to get a job while still in high school. He lost.
He spent all day catching a rabbit for my science project. He was falling down drunk...but this isn't exactly a Hallmark card, is it?
He thought I needed limits set, not money handed out. My mother disagreed.
After he had the stroke that signaled his downfall, he mellowed. He became a loving, adoring grandfather to my daughter's daughter. He'd let her do anything to him she wanted. He never raised his voice or his hand to her. But old habits die hard, and I kept watch, a bundle of nerves when they were together.
She still points to the stars and reminds us that Papa Ed is there among them.
When he finally died, 12 long years later, of various smoking and alcohol related diseases, I felt nothing. Not sad. Not relieved.
Now, I feel something else. Not love exactly. But a grateful affection. Not for the man he was, but for the man he tried to be, but couldn't.
5/16/2014 02:51:28 am
That was lovely, what you found out. It's amazing how we can find emotion even after time passes. Maybe it's because time has passed? IDK
5/16/2014 04:15:46 am
Yes, it is. Time and our own life experience. When we figure out that it all isn't as easy as we thought.
This is so honest and real. I think we can all relate to people we have known that we did not necessarily like but still honor in some way. I will be buying your book and promoting it on my blog. If it is half as good as your writing here, I am in for a treat.
5/16/2014 04:16:58 am
Thank you, Barbara! That would be awesome. What is the name of your blog?
5/16/2014 06:46:17 am
You write so well. This is so honest and raw and yet beautifully written. You should write a memoir, you have wonderful life stories to tell, and you tell them so well.
5/17/2014 08:05:27 am
Thank you, Claudia. It would be hard to write a memoir until everyone in it is dead! I've got a while...
5/16/2014 07:36:58 am
I love this piece. Humans are complex creatures, aren't we?
5/17/2014 08:06:02 am
We are, indeed. Thanks, Carol for your support of my work.
Another beautiful posting Kathleen. My own father had plenty of faults, but he did some good things as well. Now if I start to think about the negative I stop and try to focus on those good things and just let it go. Thank you for sharing this. You're an amazing talent.
5/17/2014 08:06:42 am
Thanks, William. I think I've just been lucky enough to have had a really weird life!
5/16/2014 10:01:28 am
That was beautiful. By the end I had tears in my eyes. I think as we age and have had life kick us in the butt a few times we learn to appreciate the imperfections of others. I share the sentiment of others, you are an amazing talent.
5/17/2014 08:07:21 am
Awww...thanks Suzie. How nice you are! And thank you for subscribing...now the pressure is on to write more.
5/16/2014 12:46:50 pm
Absolutely wonderful writing, when I am reading it I hear the sadness that is in your heart right now. I recognize it. You're looking back from now and thinking it could have been alot worse and now sometimes it feels worse maybe not the exact problems more complex more important as we watch our kids and grandkids growup.
5/17/2014 08:08:22 am
It's funny how time changes our perspective. That and learning that living isn't as easy as it looks. Thank you, Rena, for your kind words.
5/16/2014 01:48:15 pm
Been taking a little hiatus myself - yes the Mother's Day thing. They say the 1st one without them is the toughest - guess you and I can both attest to that now. This is a wonderful post, Kathleen. So real and filled with emotion and so very giving and forgiving as well. There really is good to be found in most people - some you just have to look extra hard to find or see it. So very glad that time and your heart have led you to where you are today. Excellent post and I thank you for sharing it with us!
5/17/2014 08:09:40 am
Yes, it is hard, isn't it? All those "firsts." Thanks, Marcia, for your nice words. They mean a lot to me.
5/17/2014 08:10:50 am
Thank you, Diane. It's really too bad people can't live long enough for us to appreciate them. It often takes their absence to let you see them clearer.
5/22/2014 06:20:45 am
That's such a beautiful piece with lots of emotions. It's too bad that your stepfather struggled with alcohol. He could have been a great man. He tried and I'm glad you remember all these important events:)
5/22/2014 07:10:36 am
Thank you Manal! I appreciate your kind words. Sending you hugs back from Colorado.
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