I talk about my dad once in a while. There are some links to past posts below. I guess I talk about him, his issues and the issues he has caused me not only because it is relevant to many things I write about but also…well, he is dead. It is easier to write very honestly about someone who can no longer get angry or embarrassed. And I think I have earned my right to be open about what I feel comfortable sharing.
I love my dad. I always defended him as a child. And I miss him as an adult. Sadly, he died slowly in my mind many years before his actual passing. He wasn’t present in my life. And I don’t mean emotionally. I mean literally. He would disappear some times for years at a time. But even when he was around…towards the end…he wasn’t.
I remember telling him that a friend of mine had died. I was 16 and very sad. He basically said ‘that sucks’ and went on about his problems. After that, I slowly tried to stop loving him. I was in a hospital for a month and he never contacted me or visited. And it was always someone else’s fault.
I had a lot of reasons to be angry with him. To hate him even. I could list them. I could also list the ways my life could have been so very different had he been even a little bit more like a real dad. But that isn’t why I am writing today.
This morning, Patch posted a story on Facebook asking readers to share about what their fathers taught them. Here is my answer.
My father wasn’t around much. Sometimes wouldn’t see him for years at a time. His not being there made a huge impact on my life. Because of this, I learned the importance of simple availability to my kids. I knew I wanted to stay home with my kid/s and wanted to spend the majority of my life with them while I could. And I knew I wanted the father of my children to also value that lesson. I owe this to my dad.
My father died at the age of 46, when I was 23. I was alone in the room with him when he died. It was a harsh and quick lesson about the fragility of life and just how short it could really be. I was half his age. I realized my life could quite possibly be half over. Or even more. This changed my priorities and perspective in a mostly positive way. I don’t always remember that perspective or keep those priorities – but they are close enough to my heart so that I never lose them. I owe this to my dad.
My father left this world without any apology or any acknowledgment of his actions. I was left half filled with guilt and half filled with anger. I had to learn how to forgive someone who would never hear it. I had to be okay with never hearing an ‘I’m sorry’. Since then, I have become a very forgiving person. I have forgiven some pretty terrible things. And I’d like to think that this lightens my load. I owe this to my dad.
My father taught me how to make spaghetti (red) sauce. I remember everything about that moment – even where I was standing in his kitchen. I have made my sauce that way (with slight modifications here and there) ever since – for the past 30 years. And it is fucking delicious. He loved food and loved to cook and I inherited this completely. I owe this to my dad.
My father loved to sing and dance. That is what they tell me. I don’t remember any dancing – he was pretty banged up and unenergetic from the time I remember. But I do remember the singing. When I was a kid, I could have sworn he sounded just like Elvis. He would drive around on a summer day with all the windows down and his oldies blasting. His arm would be bent out of the window, his aviator sunglasses were always on his face and he would just sing along not giving a shit if anyone heard him. Not that I have one ounce of talent – but that love of music and singing and, yes, even dancing definitely rubbed off. I owe this to my dad.
My father was funny as shit. He loved to laugh and loved to make others laugh. When he wasn’t being a selfish ass, he was quite charming. When he was around, he wouldn’t let an April Fool’s Day go by without some practical joke. He was the prankster, the joker, the comedian. He made me watch SNL and The Honeymooners. He introduced me to John Candy and Chevy Chase and talked about those guys as if he knew them. I think he kind of idolized John Belushi. Anyone who knows me must see how much this influenced me. Comedy is a very large part of my life and I pride myself on, at times, being able to make people laugh. I owe this to my dad.
I was about 12 when he made me watch The Godfather. Do I really need to say more? I owe this to my dad.
He didn’t teach me how to drive. He didn’t walk me down the aisle. He wasn’t there to meet my daughter. And he never got the chance to taste my cooking. I missed out on a lot, as did he. But he really did provide many lessons for which I will always be grateful. And I do miss him a lot. And that never goes away.
Since I have been thinking a lot about him today, I decided to make my (his) red sauce. Baked mostaccioli with ricotta. I only wish I could fix him a plate.