Death of a Stranger

I dealt with the loss of my dad a long time ago so his recent death has not really affected me much emotionally. I never felt emptiness or a gaping hole from his absence. I never had the stereotypical issues that a lot of misguided people say are supposed to accompany a fatherless household-like sexual promiscuity,  behavior problems, and fear of emotional intimacy and commitment. I never felt abandoned though that’s basically what he did to my mom and me when I was a baby. I never knew him but was aware from an early age that my life was probably better for not having to deal with his often cheating on my mom and his many addictions which would also have caused severe financial strain (not that there weren’t financial hard times, they just would have been worse). I know he had his positives. In the brief encounters I had with him I was able to recognize (from an observers perspective) qualities of a creative, talented, and funny human- I will probably always remember his distinct laugh. I didn’t hate him or wish any ill will on him. I never blamed him for anything or held bitterness toward him. My feelings for him were and are basically what I feel for a stranger. I can respect that he was another human, that others loved him, that he had good times and bad, that he made good choices and bad, that he most likely lived and loved and struggled and learned. But I never formed an emotional attachment to him. I wasn’t offended that he chose not to be a part of my life but I couldn’t muster any deep love for him. Growing up I never wished I’d had a dad. I was well loved, respected, and supported by my mom. My home life was stable. Communication was good. I had family and friends and I had faith in something bigger. I grew up knowing his sisters and my cousins and I treasure those people and their influence. I feel sad for their loss- to them he was valued and loved and known. Their memories of him are mostly good. Because of my love for them I am sad for them. I don’t regret not having known him like they did. There is no way I could have known him like that. I know enough about relationships to understnad the dynamic between a parent and child is different than one between siblings  and different between uncles and nieces and nephews and different between mates and different between friends. Neither he nor I ever seemed to know how to begin a conversation because there was always that pesky reality that we were in fact father and daughter. It was always awkward and avoided.

I suppose as an adult I could have reached out more to him and tried to form a bond. But honestly I didn’t want to risk the eventual disappointment that comes from having to take care of a person who chooses unhealthy addiction over anything else. I’m sure a part of me did fear I’d be taken advantage of financially or emotionally because his dependence on drugs (and I’m almost sure depression) always won. Some have the opinion that family is blood and you care for your family no matter what.  Maybe that’s what some people were taught but I didn’t grow up believing that. Maybe that is one thing he inadvertently taught me with his absence.  I may have been his daughter… But not really. He and I were strangers with our mutual family in common and for them I grieve.

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