Skip to main content

My father and I had some things in common, and some definitely not. We were both oldest children. He had one younger sister; I had three. There was one other child born to his parents, but she died of Rh disease, in the days before they knew how to treat effectively or prevent that. He had a difficult relationship with his mother, as I had a difficult one with him. Apparently, his mother had a difficult relationship with HER father, too. So, there is a history of poor relationships between children and the opposite-sex parent over the course of several generations. The reasons vary, but the pattern is there. I guess that's a big part of why I put so much effort into having a good relationship with my sons, (at which I've done fairly well, for the most part) but also may have negatively affected, more than I meant to, perhaps, the relationship the boys had with their grandfather, something my younger son has pointed out to me with some degree of strong emotion at times.

My parents were very close in age, with my mother being the elder by less than a day. This, March 31st, is actually her birthday, with my father's following on, wouldn't you know it, April Fool's Day. I found a certain ironic humor in that fact. A lot of what I have learned about my father's early life came from my mother; things that he shared with her over the course of many years. I really never discussed his early experiences with him, that I can remember. That just wasn't his way, which seems to have been true of many, if not most, men of his generation. He was big, tall for his age as a kid, which led people to expect more of him than he was sometimes capable of, given his actual chronological age and stage of development, creating stresses for him as a child, and seemed to have left him with an unfortunate tendency to demand of his own children "Don't you get it?!" or words to that effect, when we didn't comprehend something that he deemed we should have, quickly enough. He moved away from a childhood "nemesis," only to subsequently have the "nemesis" follow him later to the new place. This also happened to me, in the move from junior high/middle school to high school. If he ever made those kinds of connections between his experiences and mine, though, he never shared that with me.

My parents, though close in age, did not grow up anywhere near each other. My mother was born and grew up in Tennessee, while my father was born in Spokane, Washington, and grew up in Eastern Washington and Northwestern Idaho. His mother's parents (I'm not sure about his father's, although clearly, their families had lived closely enough together that my grandparents met and ultimately married, and I know neither of them went beyond an eighth grade education at that point) had property in Hope, ID, near Lake Pend Oreille, and several ancestral family members are buried in the Hope cemetery. My father made it clear that he did NOT wish to be buried there, and his cremains weren't. He also insisted there be no ceremony of any kind upon his passing. What we did, was have my cousin's (my father's sister's oldest daughter) husband, a Presbyterian minister, moderate a kind of memorial gathering at my parents' home with just my sisters and my mother there. Tears were shed, but not by me. My predominant feelings about my father at that point were mostly anger and a certain sense of relief that he wouldn't be around to "pick at" me any more. I used to go through such ambivalence visiting my parents; as much as I enjoyed seeing my mother, in equal degree I dreaded seeing my father. I could count on him finding something to criticize about me, as reliably as the sun coming up in the morning.

My parents met, because my mother, upon finishing her bachelor's degree in W. Virginia, and her teaching degree in Home Economics and English at Ball State in Indiana, traveled to the state of Washington for her first teaching job, at the school where my father was at that point, the principal. They definitely had in common being children of the Great Depression, having been born in 1927, two years before the stock market crash of '29, and of WWII, which gave both of them their opportunity for a college education. My father gained his through the GI Bill, having joined the Navy at the tail end of the war (he was on a ship heading to Japan when the war ended) and my mother earned her college money from her job at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. (She figured she might well have helped build the bombs that were dropped on Japan and ended the war, and she was always proud to claim kinship with Cordell Hull, Roosevelt's Secretary of State, who was a distant cousin.) They both believed strongly in the value of an education, and were politically liberals in the tradition of Roosevelt, both values they passed along to their four daughters.

I can't in fairness say that the relationship with my father was all negative, nor that I did not get anything positive from him. A lot of my offbeat sense of humor comes from him, and though both parents loved and appreciated music, my dad was the one who "did" it, more so than my mom. He played piano, sang solos and in barbershop quartets, and directed church choirs for many years, though he himself was not religious, and was my first band teacher. (His undergrad degree was in music, and he got into educational administration as a grad student. For the three years we lived in Glenwood, WA, for example, he was, in addition to the superintendent of schools, the band teacher/director and a substitute bus driver.) I've already mentioned the importance of education both parents imparted, and beyond that, the love of books and reading. Though that felt more like my mother's "thing," my father certainly didn't object or hinder that in any way, nor did he ever imply that he thought his girls less capable than boys, or expect less in terms of accomplishments.

As I came to understand some of the things he had to put up with growing up, (I learned from my mother that my dad's mom used to literally throw him out of the house at times when she got mad at him in high school and he would have to go to a friend's house to spend the night, until she cooled off, for example) I was able to develop a sense of compassion for the child he had been and what he had suffered, though that didn't necessarily make dealing with him in the present any easier! I would not have wished the pain he suffered at the end of his life from the broken bones in his back and ribcage from the multiple myeloma that ultimately took his life, or the dreadful side effects from some of the chemo regimens they tried with him, even though those did put him into remission for a time, on my worst enemy, let alone my father, no matter how difficult our relationship may have been up to that point. My mother said, after his death on New Year's Day, 2005, that he had told her, prior to our last Christmas together as a family, he just wanted to get through Christmas, and after that, he "didn't care." Well, he accomplished that, and left at the end of the old year of pain, and the beginning of the new year, free of the pain at last.

I'm glad, and grateful, that my last words to my dad were "I love you, Dad," even though, or maybe because, it wasn't easy for me to get to that place with him. Having that memory helps.

Welcome, fellow travelers on the grief journey
and a special welcome to anyone new to The Grieving Room.
We meet every Monday evening.
Whether your loss is recent, or many years ago;
whether you've lost a person, or a pet;
or even if the person you're "mourning" is still alive,
("pre-grief" can be a very lonely and confusing time),
you can come to this diary and say whatever you need to say.
We can't solve each other's problems,
but we can be a sounding board and a place of connection.
Unlike a private journal
here, you know: your words are read by people who
have been through their own hell.
There's no need to pretty it up or tone it down..
It just is.

Originally posted to The Grieving Room on Mon Mar 31, 2014 at 05:01 PM PDT.

Also republished by Pink Clubhouse.

Your Email has been sent.
You must add at least one tag to this diary before publishing it.

Add keywords that describe this diary. Separate multiple keywords with commas.
Tagging tips - Search For Tags - Browse For Tags


More Tagging tips:

A tag is a way to search for this diary. If someone is searching for "Barack Obama," is this a diary they'd be trying to find?

Use a person's full name, without any title. Senator Obama may become President Obama, and Michelle Obama might run for office.

If your diary covers an election or elected official, use election tags, which are generally the state abbreviation followed by the office. CA-01 is the first district House seat. CA-Sen covers both senate races. NY-GOV covers the New York governor's race.

Tags do not compound: that is, "education reform" is a completely different tag from "education". A tag like "reform" alone is probably not meaningful.

Consider if one or more of these tags fits your diary: Civil Rights, Community, Congress, Culture, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Health Care, International, Labor, Law, Media, Meta, National Security, Science, Transportation, or White House. If your diary is specific to a state, consider adding the state (California, Texas, etc). Keep in mind, though, that there are many wonderful and important diaries that don't fit in any of these tags. Don't worry if yours doesn't.

You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.
Rescue this diary, and add a note:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from Rescue?
Choose where to republish this diary. The diary will be added to the queue for that group. Publish it from the queue to make it appear.

You must be a member of a group to use this feature.

Add a quick update to your diary without changing the diary itself:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary?
(The diary will be removed from the site and returned to your drafts for further editing.)
(The diary will be removed.)
Are you sure you want to save these changes to the published diary?

Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (22+ / 0-)

    What I want to know is, who's going to pay for these crimes against humanity that those b@st@rds are perpetrating against the rest of us?

    by Kit RMP on Mon Mar 31, 2014 at 05:01:15 PM PDT

  •  Please share whatever you need to share (9+ / 0-)

    even if it has nothing to do with the subject of the diary.

    TGR is a grieving Open Thread.

    Participating here is an act of trust between blogfriends who know each other and between people who have never met.

    We send our needs, our cries for help, our poems of loss and recovery, our honest emotions, out into the blogosphere.  We trust that someone reading our words has been in a similar place and truly understands.

    We trust that someone out there will offer a kind word and stand beside us as we rant and rage about the unfairness of it all.

    We read without judgment and offer presence, not advice.

    upcoming hosting schedule

    4/7     TBM
    4/14   AR2
    4/21   OPEN

    all dates OPEN after 4/21

    If you have a grief anniversary or other significant date coming up, and would like to write a diary for a particular week, please post a comment in the diary asking for the date you want, and/or send me a kosmail, and/or send an email to TrueBlueMajority AT gmail DOT com.

    The Grieving Room is open for discussion.  What is on your mind and heart tonight?

    Politics is like driving. To go backward put it in R. To go forward put it in D.
    Drop by The Grieving Room on Monday nights to talk about grief.

    by TrueBlueMajority on Mon Mar 31, 2014 at 06:02:39 PM PDT

  •  dear Kit (9+ / 0-)

    i'm not sure where all the regular TGR folks are tonight, but I hope that preparing this, and recalling these memories in anticipation of your father's birthday, was a helpful experience for you.

    Perhaps community spotlight will take notice.

    thank you so much for writing.

    {{{{{Kit RMP}}}}}

    Politics is like driving. To go backward put it in R. To go forward put it in D.
    Drop by The Grieving Room on Monday nights to talk about grief.

    by TrueBlueMajority on Mon Mar 31, 2014 at 06:17:28 PM PDT

  •  Hi Kit (10+ / 0-)

    Thanks for sharing your story with such eloquence. Grief is such a funny animal, and feelings can be so mixed up.

    Today is the 17th anniversary of the day my partner’s body was discovered. We estimate he died on March 27. For the first time ever, that day, March 27, came and went without remembering. What a strange feeling that is. In a funny way, I feel he would actually be happy. His father committed suicide several years before he did, and he got so upset at his mom for the fact her entire life became based on the grief she felt at her husband’s death.

    Today when I took out the trash, the sun was just starting to rise, and the birds were singing. It hit me. Sometimes I feel the memories are stored in our bodies as much as our minds. A certain smell and feel to the air, the songs of a bird. They can bring to our senses what the mind doesn’t acknowledge on its own.

    •  that sounds like a very big deal to me, Loonesta (7+ / 0-)

      the day came and went and you didn't remember until later?  what an amazing grief recovery milestone


      Politics is like driving. To go backward put it in R. To go forward put it in D.
      Drop by The Grieving Room on Monday nights to talk about grief.

      by TrueBlueMajority on Mon Mar 31, 2014 at 07:22:06 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Your comment brought up a couple of things... (5+ / 0-)

      for me, hearing about your partner's passing. I was away from home, as I've mentioned here before, when my husband passed away, though in his case it was a heart attack that took him, and we don't really know exactly when he died, either. Our guess, based on his Facebook access primarily, was that he went on or around May 30th. My older son didn't get into the house to find him gone until June 7th, which is his "official" date of death.

      There was an English country dance with free admission, this past Friday, the 28th. English was perhaps my husband's favorite dance style, though he enjoyed and participated in many different ones, and I hadn't been to an English dance since the one we tied into his memorial service, which will have been two years ago at the end of this coming September. I could feel him there so strongly, it was almost as if I could touch his ghost. And, to top it off, I met a woman from Seattle who, while visiting friends here in Portland, had come to the dance and in the course of talking, discovered that she had known both my husband and his oldest sister, who had come to English dances during visits from her home in MA. It's been a bit of a while since I've felt his "presence" so strongly as I did that night! Those associations are indeed strong with the right stimuli!

      What I want to know is, who's going to pay for these crimes against humanity that those b@st@rds are perpetrating against the rest of us?

      by Kit RMP on Mon Mar 31, 2014 at 08:14:01 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I'm tired, but I felt the desire (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ladybug53, Randomfactor, Kit RMP, Loonesta

    to check in here.

    Famine in America by 2050: the post-peak oil American apocalypse.

    by bigjacbigjacbigjac on Tue Apr 01, 2014 at 03:50:58 AM PDT

  •  Hi first time here. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Kit RMP

    I'm a single woman, in my seventies, father died in WWII, mother died of cancer in 1997, and despite having a still growing family from my three adult children, I often feel very alone.

    I've been doing some family history work and am so frustrated that I have nobody with whom to check my sometimes faulty memory of how I heard that things had happened.

    I always wanted a brother or sister when I was a child but you can always find playmates, now is when I really need them.

  •  What time is this board supposed to be active? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Kit RMP

    I saw it on someone's tag line and couldn't track it down again.

    I wanted to say Kit RMP that I liked reading your memoir.  I think it's much harder to lose someone with whom we have a difficult relationship than it is someone we are at peace with.  Maybe because the chance to solve the issues is over?  It was that way with me and my mother.

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site