Friday, June 19, 2009

"Cats In The Cradle"

My mind has been in a muddle since last weekend about some family stuff and I've not been able to concentrate on much of anything else. I've not done any writing during this time, nor have I done much knitting. I've kind of let my current life fall by the wayside while I've dwelled intensely in the past.

I caught up with my brother (finally, after four years) a week ago and he gave me the news of my step dad's passing a little over a year ago. I'd not known of my dad's whereabouts either for a good many years, but I was not surprised to learn that he is now gone.

Without going into detail, I'll just say that my relationship with my stepfather was not a good one through the years. He was a real son of a bitch when we were growing up and it caused a HUGE rift between me and him, and me and my mother...and caused me to literally run away from home at the age of 15 - never to return to their house to live again.

In later years, my mother apologized to me for all the crap that happened during those growing up years. We mended fences and got an opportunity to have a real mother-daughter relationship the last ten years of her life. I think it was God prepping us for what would be difficult days for her...and for us in her final year here on earth.

It's strange that the news I got about my step dad's passing comes only three weeks away from the eleventh anniversary of my mother's passing. She died July 5, 1998, the day before my youngest child's' eleventh birthday. And this coming Tuesday, June 23, would have been my mothers 68th birthday.

This news this week has put me in a place I haven't been for a very long time. I've been in a world that existed long, long ago, reliving in my head a lot of my child hood and the later years when we had better relations. I've relived the time my mother was struggling with ALS (Lou Gehrig's Disease), to which she eventually succumbed. I have also been struggling with immense regret and time lost for so many of those years. Time that I should have taken to be more attentive to the family of my youth instead of working so hard to put all that behind me and move on.

My brother and I have talked several times this past week. We talk about what we are doing today and eventually the conversations end up being about the way we spent our childhoods. This is something we've not done much of through the years really. We've touched on it here and there, but always end it at just touching on it. Now that our dad is gone, it's almost like we have permission to talk about this stuff now. Before, we tip toed around certain subjects almost like we were afraid he would find out we were talking about these things. And to some degree, I felt ashamed of running him down so much because I knew my mother would never have approved of such hateful talk. But what was always said was never anything but the truth...and still is today.

I think what I have the most regret about is the fact that I didn't have sense enough back all those years ago to realize that if I didn't pay more attention to others instead of myself so much, maybe things would have been better back then. Youth is most certainly wasted on the young.

For some reason, God saw fit to not give young 'uns a lick of sense about anything in life. Instead, He gave us this cocoon of self centeredness and rudeness and stupidity that we're supposed to break free of, and in the meantime, we create all this shit that eventually causes huge amounts of regret. I think if kids were given some wisdom and a little common sense at birth, maybe there wouldn't be so much turmoil in the parent-child relationship department. At the very least, kids should be born with a smattering of 'respect your elders' so that all hell doesn't break loose that to which inevitably leads to losing precious time with family...whom does eventually pass away.

Thinking about the old days and comparing it to where am today is a hard thing to do. The way I grew up has had immense influence on the way I've lived my life since I left home. For some people, if they've had a lot of bad during their childhoods, they try hard not to do those same things as adults. Some take the good of their growing up years and carry it forward. In my case, I've done everything. In my early adult years, I did only the things I knew...which was mostly bad, unstable type things. As the years rolled by, I learned through trial and error, and lots of mistakes that there are much better ways to live life than what I knew as a child. I'm still learning.

Today, I'm a lot different than I was back then. I think the biggest difference in me between now and 25 years ago is that I've learned to forgive and to forget. I used to harbor a lot of hate and resentment towards my folks...especially my stepfather. That hate and resentment spilled over into other areas of my life...and as a result, I lost a lot of people and a lot of things that were precious to me.

I figured out, the hard way, that harboring hate and resentment doesn't do anything. It doesn't accomplish anything. It doesn't solve anything. The only thing it does is turn one inside out with twisted, debilitating, anger that ends up ruining a person, inside and out...sometimes for life. And in turn ruins those around them because it can't help but spill over onto everything else that person touches.

I held a lot, and I do mean a lot of hate for my stepfather for too many years. But in the last few years of my mothers life, he ended being a pretty stand up kind of guy. He quit drinking. He quit smoking. He quit physically, verbally, and emotionally abusing his own children. He learned to truly love and cherish my mother the way she deserved. And in turn, she learned to love him the way she knew it was supposed to be. They were happy in their last years together. It completely broke my dad's heart when she died. He never wanted anything else in life but her. Once the alcohol and the tobacco and the hatred were gone, he finally saw her for who she really was, the way she really was, and pampered her the rest of her life. When she was gone, he was gone too.

Two months after my mother passed away, my step sister, my step dad's first born child and daughter died from complications of colon cancer. She was only 40 years old. She truly was my dad's baby and loved her like no other. She was special. She was born with cerebral palsy, but lived the most phenomenal life. She went to college and got her degree in language arts. She married and had two sons. She was my best friend during our growing up years.

He lived almost ten years longer than my mother and his daughter. It really is a shock to us all that he lasted that long...because of the horrid life style he lived his whole life..and because of the heartbreak he suffered from losing my mother and his daughter. He spent his final years with my step brother in Arkansas.

I don't know the details of what kind of life he lived those last ten years. I can only hope they were comfortable. I'm pretty sure the bottle became his best friend again during that time. I guess he felt like that's all he really had left in life. He was crippled with severe arthritis and couldn't do much of anything. He had emphysema the last 20 years of his life. He and I only spoke with each other three times after my mother died. I saw him only once during that time. I kinda wish now I'd have made more of an effort to keep up and keep in touch. More regret for me to wrestle with now.

I made my peace with my folks long ago about all the crap we endured during those growing up years. I made peace with myself about all of that too. I let go of all the hate and the resentment and the horrid memories from what should have been an innocent, joyous time as a child. I've moved forward and done things to the best of my ability to be a respectable human being. But mostly I've let go. Let go of so much bad and made room for the good. There's so much more good to life and to people than there is bad. It's so easy to see the bad. It's harder to find the good sometimes. But it's there, and it's there in immeasurable abundance. We just have to be willing to see it and accept it.

I hope my dad is at peace now. I hope he is finding the rest and the joy and the comfort he sought all his life...and I hope it's with my mom. May they both rest in peace.

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