Sunday, September 20, 2009

Death Blows

Might as well put this out there: My dad died on Thursday. We were not close, and at this point, he'd been out of my life longer than he'd been in it. The last time I talked to him was about a year ago, and it didn't go well. Dad was as troubled as he was brilliant, which is to say very. He was good at talking; the listening, not so much.

Like most people who lose an estranged parent, I'm not sure how I'm supposed to feel. There is sadness, of course, but also long stretches of utter blankness and confusion. In a way, I was long done mourning his absence from my life, and I am (mostly) finished being mad about the chaos he caused when he was present. Frankly, it's probably easier to forgive miserable parenting once you have children. I'm not making excuses for him, but there are days where I'm acutely aware of how hard it is to show up and be present for another human being, day in, day out. It's exhausting. Life couldn't have been easy for a black man with a master's degree in South Georgia almost 40 years ago, and without going into too much detail, my father had internal struggles that I understand all too well.

But still. By the weekend, I was firing off bitter emails to by brother and sister about things I thought I was done with. My sister, in classic fashion, wrote back, "I see someone is rolling right through the stages of grief. You always were an overachiever." And just like that, I thought about the handful of good things that we did get from him, like a wicked sense of humor. His sarcasm used to get on my mother's nerves, and now she's stuck with three adult children who have raised it to an art form. Sorry, mom.

I'm not sure where I'm going with this except to say it's been a deep-thoughts kind of weekend — but I will not, under any circumstances, write a poem. Gotta draw the line somewhere.

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