Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Outline

     My dad died last night. I didn't know him, not the way that a daughter should know a father. I had been in contact with him for about six years, speaking with him over the phone on a regular basis. That was a huge step considering I may or may not have spoken to him during the first 36 years of my life... I find it horrifying that I don't remember. What I do remember are years of indifference. When I was growing up I didn't know until around the first grade that not every family was unlike mine. I had a mom, a brother, two uncles, a great-grandma, a grandpa and a "hey you." The "hey you" was grandma... I didn't figure out until about second grade that you could have two grandma's. I am pretty sure I thought it was illegal for the first seven years of my life so I just referred to my gran as "hey you" as my great-grandma was Grandma Mac. I thought this scattered smattering of relatives was what went on inside everyone's house.
     Back to the indifference... there was a picture of my mother in a beautiful white dress and a handsome, dark-haired man standing beside her smiling through the thick black horn rims of some pretty dapper hipster glasses. That man, I was told, was my dad. My family answered my questions when I asked. Questions as to his location, his name, his current situation and whether or not he could ride a bike were the main questions that I asked. They were always answered, never with anger or snarkiness; they were just answered. I asked if he was going to come back, I asked if I had made him mad, I asked if he left because my brother hummed all the time and it was really annoying, I asked and I asked and I asked and they always answered. Finally I stopped asking because answers get boring after awhile and in all reality we don't ask because we want to know; most of the time we ask because we want something fixed. Nothing was getting fixed.
     After I stopped asking questions, I started getting angry because nothing was getting fixed. There was no "Dad." I wanted to know why. I stopped wanting to know why and settled for angry. And angry, when you get used to it, stops being angry and starts being bitter and that's what I was for about 20 years. During those 20 years, the "bitter" years, I was selfish and stupid. I put myself before anyone. If I didn't get what I wanted the right way, I found a way to get what I wanted. I was a liar, a manipulator and I was cruel. I was in it for myself. Because I had a "right." I had been abandoned, I had been left behind. I had suffered at the hands of another and I deserved better than what I had been handed. I had my crutch and I hobbled around on it when I didn't want to meet the expectations of life. I used it as a weapon, as a wall, as a means to an end. Anger     It was only after I had my own child that this stopped. Slowly but surely God revealed myself to me: a liar, a chameleon, a manipulator who had duped so many, hurt so many. And once this was revealed... Let me just tell you, once God reveals your true nature to you it will never stop uppercutting your blatant ignorance. TRY to ignore it. Impossible. So you start backtracking... I started backtracking. And as I went back to the last place where I had left some semblance of a decent human being I came across that bitterness and then the anger. The difference was that I was walking with someone while I backtracked... You know that cheesy footprints in the sand poster? Let's just say that while there was one set of footprints in the sand, right beside it was a deep, wavy crevice where God had dragged me kicking and screaming... not nearly as poetic but relatively accurate. At the end of this journey, I found my sister, Hallie, and after some time, I heard the voice of my dad for the first time in my life.
     Our conversations on the phone were all of the things they should have been: enlightening, revealing, frightening, full of laughter, full of tears and, at times, brutal. I wanted to know him and I wanted him to know me so I held nothing back from him. I'm sure I scared the hell out of him a couple of times. He was honest with me, revealing little bits and pieces of himself here and there. I grabbed onto them and tried to piece together the man that was on the phone. Slowly but surely he began to take shape, but that is where it ended with us. He was an outline.
     He is gone now and the irony does not escape me. All of the comments I see on my sister's social media about what a great man he was and how he touched so many lives, they fill him in for me a bit, but only with gray where there should have been color. I wanted the color. I have only an outline.
     But I have a sister and another brother and a step-mother. I have cousins and a wonderful "adopted" sister. I think I have an aunt somewhere as well? I hope I do. And I hope against all hope that they will help me fill in the outline...

3 comments:

Christine Alexander said...

Beautiful.

Deborah Robnett said...

Prayers for you Jami, that they will fill in the outline for you. XXOO

Marcy Grubb said...

You are amazing. Thanks for sharing! Praying for you and your family.