I love my father. I always have. But I love him a whole lot less when he gets “stranded” West of Louisville trying to sneak past us without seeing my kids. Which may be fine if I didn’t have to know about it. But he got caught. And I had to save him. Again.
He is an honest man. A responsible man. But in this last year I have watched him make some God awful questionable decisions. And they’ve all had to do with my family. It’s getting more difficult not to take it personally.
When I moved away from home, he gave me more than my fair share of shit. When I would mention my parents lack of seeing their grandchildren, his favorite phrase became, “Well…*you* moved”. And also…”People move away to *get* away”. I was ‘people’ in that proposal, I guess. The purpose for that one always struck me as guilt, because I felt he knew better. As I understood it, every move he had ever made in his life had been for better opportunity for him and everyone he brought with him. But maybe there was more to it that I never understood, after all, I knew him to live by his own aphorisms. If not truly for opportunity, maybe he, himself, had always been trying to get away. I don’t know.
He came to us ailing last year in May. So there was a time, a short time where I saw his softer and more vulnerable side. A short time. In keeping with precedent, as it’s always been prone to do, our honeymoon ended quickly. He is nothing if not consistent. And it was a rough go that lasted until December. He chose to leave my kids at Christmas to go see a buddy in St. Louis. This same buddy he was road tripping past us to see last week when his transmission gave out. It was then he needed me. As he needed me last year when he hadn’t taken care of his own health. He used to say to all of us that no one needed him until the world falls in. Now here I stand, as his world falls in. Repeatedly. And my position is only to wait until such time it happens again.
This may be what it was that he felt long ago. As a provider and disciplinarian. Maybe not much else. That he was only a Saver. He used to say he was the “Fixer”. I always thought he took pride in that. But I can see now how being needed emergently can come awfully close to offensive when you don’t feel you serve much other purpose to someone. In his case though, if he had been willing to be more to us than a Saver, he would have been. But he is a very difficult man to get close to. And that has never changed. But he is consistent. So we learned to count on what we counted on, and not on what we couldn’t.
I see him here with my kids. With me. As I did as a child. I see the limits of his tolerance reached. I see the unbending opinions pushed. I watch the patience slam to an abrupt stop. The lectures ahead. The voice raised. I see his old ways of force. It is hard not to take it personally, for my kids now. So I struggle to always remind myself of something. This isn’t new. It isn’t particular to my children. He is consistent. And he never really was one for the stress of the many variables of family life. He did sign on long ago, but I don’t think he knew the fine print held a lifetime of ups and downs full of hardship. Things he couldn’t control. People he couldn’t control. And more loss than he would have ever agreed to. Things he couldn’t Fix.
So I let him carry on for these times he’s around. Because he was our Fixer. And he isn’t anymore. I know that’s hard for him. I know the loss of a controlled life is hard for him. Same as I know having people to answer to his whole life saved him. In a place I don’t like to think about, I feel he was always trying to move away to *get* away. But the responsible and honest man in him brought us along each time. He wouldn’t have done that differently even if he could have. It wasn’t in him to do it another way.
He doesn’t have anyone to save anymore. He doesn’t have anyone to answer to anymore. This is something he can’t fix. It is something I can’t fix. So I will continue to save him as many times as he tries to get away. Even if that is all he needs from me. It will always be hard not to take it personally. But I figure by now I owe him one. Or a million.
Be well, Friends
Well, we know where we’re goin’
But we don’t know where we’ve been
And we know what we’re knowin’
But we can’t say what we’ve seen.
And we’re not little children
And we know what we want
And the future is certain
Give us time to work it out.