This post was written by my friend Karen Blessing from Baking In A Tornado where it was first published.
I took each letter out of the mailbox noting who everyone was from, which were junk, which were holiday cards. And then there was the one that jolted me. I stuck it on the bottom of the pile in my hand, but the whole way into the house I knew it was there. And I knew what it was.
After the cards were hung and the junk mail trashed, it sat on my counter. And it sat.
From an attorney in my home town. Not a surprise really, or at least it shouldn’t have been. I had, after all, returned from a whirlwind trip there less than a week ago. Just a legal formality, I shouldn’t have opened it. I wasn’t ready. But I did. And there it was. Filled in on the line labeled “Estate of”. My dad’s name.
Relationships are fingerprints. No two are alike.
People who have lost a parent say that they know how I feel, and to some degree they do. And to a large degree, they do not. Because although my new normal is that I have a parent who’s gone too, to a great degree my loss is just so completely different from theirs. The fingerprint of our history totally unique.
On the outside, my dad was a successful man. He owned his own business, had a beautiful home along the reservoir, a successful marriage, went on fun vacations.
What was on the outside was not what was on the inside.
Dad’s core was shaped by his upbringing. He grew up poor, with a mother who was pushed to her limits and with no real male role model. From what I hear his father had diabetes, was diagnosed so late that he had gone blind from it. He spent his life on the couch feeling guilty for not providing for his family, for being a burden. He was a broken man.
My grandmother was resentful. She had to work at a time when women really did not. She also had 2 children to raise, a husband to care for and special meals were required. She had to be constantly exhausted, completely spent.
When his father died, my dad was in the service and on a boat to Europe. He was sent home where he arrived after the funeral.
Looking back, it seems to me that dad really sort of raised himself. Bonding wasn’t something he learned to do, relationships were not his forte. Money was an issue, anxiety a way of life.
Dad had help along the way, but he also helped himself. He joined the service, went to college at night while married and, with help, started his own CPA firm. He even, years later, while running a successful business, went back to get his Master’s Degree in Taxation. He also was able to join with my uncle in real estate ventures. And he spent time serving his community as a member of the town Retirement Board, advocating for public retirees for over 30 years.
And, third time’s the charm, married successfully. A marriage that saw him grow as a person in ways I would never have thought possible.
My relationship with dad was close, not as most people would define close, but in the only way, he was capable. He was defined by his personality but, I believe, severely limited by his upbringing. Money was always an issue. He was generous if it was on his terms, unsolicited. Like the day I came home with my brand new driver’s license to find a car in the driveway. And not just any car, a convertible.
But, even though I’m not one to ask for help, whenever I did go to him he wouldn’t say “no”, but whatever I needed, I always got less.
We had ups and downs. There was so much I’d have loved to have talked out with him, so very much unresolved in my mind and heart. But dad wasn’t one for emotion, baring souls, heartfelt conversation. I always thought “someday, maybe” until Alzheimer’s robbed us that possibility. By the time I knew that it would be too late, it already was.
But I was always “daddy’s girl”. Despite the limits of the relationship, that was never in doubt.
Weeks later it came. No fanfare, just a plain envelope. With a check inside. Not even an explanation, his name not mentioned. But I knew what it was, dispersion. The ledgers had been reconciled.
The fingerprint of this relationship remains on my heart, which also harbors ledgers that all the money in the world cannot reconcile. But where there remains unconditional love.
Which I know was returned.
I miss you, Dad. I always will.
Karen is a former Director of Social Service, Retail Buyer, and SAHM to two boys now adjusting to a semi-empty nest. She shares her thoughts, sense of humor, graphics and unique recipes on her blog. She also administers the seven multi-blogger monthly writing challenges she created and runs 3 private Facebook Groups.
Relationships include having been a Huffington Post Contributor, on the TODAY Parenting Team, and a contributor to What the Flicka. She’s been featured on multiple websites including BlogHer, BLUNTmoms, The Daily Meal, Mamapedia, GenerationFabulous, Foodies Network, Wellnez TV, Better After 50, Midlife Boulevard, The Daily Meal and Treat a Day. She’s affiliated with the Culinary Content Network and has been published in the Life Well Blogged series and in the book The Mother of all Meltdowns.