The Ties That Find Us
My biological dad died early in the morning September 26th. I hadn’t seen him in something like 20-25 years. The last time I actually ‘interacted’ with him was the day he showed up at the house after having disappeared from our lives for years, and he learned that I was no longer that frightened little boy that would weep quietly while being smacked around. In fact, I was a strapping young man who carried quite a right hook by this point in time. My neighbors carried him to his truck that day and encouraged him not to return. A very different time and place. A lot has changed for me since then. Apparently, not much ever changed for him.
I used to carry a lot of what I would still call ‘justifiable’ anger towards him and wish him ill. I had to carry a lot of weight as a kid because he chose not to care for the family he created. Up until that last interaction with him where my ‘right’ explained my feelings to him clearly, we also had to deal with occasional trouble from him as well. No child should ever have to carry those types of burdens, and therefore I have no regrets about my hard feelings toward him. Occasionally, people would even advise me that I should make peace with him before he died. Those people never had to negotiate with their dad using a right hook, which made their advice both unwelcome and useless. At the same time, for self preservation, feelings that hard have to be shed at some point, lest they shape who you are as a man yourself.
I used to think I’d be thrilled to hear of his demise. I would think about all the wonderful ways he might perish- Beaten to death in a bar fight? Throat cut by an enraged husband? He made no end of bad life choices that could have easily left him disappearing completely after wronging the wrong sort of fellow. But alas, he died of old age in a hospital. Nana Melton used to say things like, “Too mean to die” and “Evil is hard to kill.” Probably all true in his case.
However, the end is inevitable for all of us, and his end did find him. I used to wonder if I would ever even find out if he died. He had alienated everyone who ever cared about him, so there were no ties between he and myself. There is much I don’t know about his end, so I will share only what I do know.
Up until his health failed, he had been living alone in a trailer somewhere in Missouri. As far as I can tell, he had no friends locally or otherwise, and what little family that still kept in touch with him was distant.
After it became clear that his days were numbered, I did in fact begin to get a few scattered emails letting me know that he had little time left. These emails reached my immediate family as well. I did not respond to them or because of them. If you wait until you’re on your death bed to make peace with anyone, no matter who or why, you waited too long. There would be no making peace with this man anyway. I had no obligation, desire, or need to do so. I believe one member of my family did go to visit him before he died, and in fact that is how I got this last (and the only one I have) picture of him. And as far as I know, only the one person visited him.
There was no obituary or memorial service for him. If there were even tears, they were not shed by anyone I know.
I do not know what became of his body. I believe some contact was made between the hospital and another member of my family, but essentially, it left me wondering what happens to unwanted cadavers.
Most importantly, I waited several days to write this story because I really wasn’t sure how I would react to his death. Joy? Regret that I hadn’t gone to see him? None of the above. I got the call mid-day, thanked my sister for letting me know, and went on about my day. No joy. No regret. A hint of sadness that a human being could reach an end so dismal that few people even knew, let alone cared. His end was the product of his lifelong choices. That hint of sadness subsided quickly. I may have left my hard feelings for him in my not-so-distant past, but the memories that created them are still there, and extinguished that hint of sadness very abruptly and entirely.
I told my kids. They knew little about him, aside from the fact that it was a choice I had made long ago that he would not be part of their lives. They trust my judgment, and they made the appropriately correct assumptions about what sort of man their own Father would forbid from ever meeting them. I stand by that decision today. For my kids, it was even less of a blip in their Wednesday than it was in mine. The death of their Grandfather, not that they ever thought of him as such.
Initially, I wanted to write something about the experience because I would hope that I could get through to even just one person who might be derailing their own lives with bad choices, so that maybe their end would not be so empty. At the same time, the types of people who make that many bad life choices for so many years, really aren’t likely to be reading this or any other similar article.
I chose to be more, and therefore I am. It is a choice. In my case, I wanted to be nothing like my own father. Some kids have a good father or father figure to look up to, and they also get to choose whether they want to be that man, some of him, or something entirely different. We all get to make that choice. My own dad made his choices poorly, and I am proud that I did not follow in his footsteps. It is unfortunate for him that he never knew the good man I became, much less would he have ever been proud of my doing so.
The situation is only unfortunate for him. It is a blessing for myself and my own children. The ties that bind us may have found me to let me know of his end, but those ties did not bind us in life. In our case, it was best that we were not bound by his poor choices. It was also my choice to cut those ties. Again, I stand by my decision to do so.
I suppose that in some ways, Karma was just looking me up to let me know I made my choices well, at least in this one very important matter.
Choice. Make yours good ones.
Cheers from The www.ThreeFiveZero.com Choice