I’m walking wounded today. Last night I was told that my dad’s wife, Joan, has ”nothing left” to give me as a token of my father. Dad died four years ago, and I finally screwed up my courage this week to ask my Aunt Mary to raise this issue with Joan. Mary got back to me within a day with the bad news, and added rather matter-of-factly, “You should have asked for something earlier.”
Funny, I didn’t think I had to ask for a memento of my dad. She didn’t see it that way.
So I called Joan directly (from work). She has call display, so I was surprised she picked up.
“We had two yard sales, and most everything is gone,” she said.
“That’s unbelievable!” I said. “Why didn’t you let me know? Dad would be disappointed that you didn’t contact me.”
“Your father would be ashamed by what you write about him in your web site!”
Then she yelled, “Good-bye, Stuart!” and slammed down the phone.
Ah! So that’s it. The Blog’s to blame. The Hickoxes get uncomfortable when the word love comes up, especially when I point out that they should look it up in the dictionary. It’s probably why none of them talk to me anymore — which is fine; I have a low tolerance for false sincerity, Bible thumping and bluegrass. The irony is, Dad and I got along fine for his last few years. We talked freely and increasingly honestly. I’d forgiven him and he understood why I was so angry with him. We were close. And when he died I was the only one of his family who had the guts to stand up and speak about him at his funeral.
I tried to call Joan back — let it ring for nearly 3 minutes, until she picked up and slammed the phone down. I doubt we’ll ever talk again. It’s no great loss, really. I would have enjoyed the fleeting pleasure of being able to tell her what I really think of her (just imagine), but I know I would have regretted it later, the way I’d regret kicking a dog. Joan is irrelevant. And she has to live with herself.
I feel dirty and ashamed of myself for feeling hurt by her thoughtlessness. My life is rich; I shouldn’t care that she clings to Dad’s wedding rings from his first marriage, or be so shocked that she threw out the pictures dad had kept of his kids.
What she did was wrong, an injustice. All I wanted was Dad’s tool belt, the one he wore when we built Walden Cabin.
So with nothing to point to when I tell my kids about their Grandpa, I’m left with few options: I could call my lawyer and sue Dad’s estate for 8 years of unpaid child support (if there was a will, I was never told). Or I could ratchet up the ante and write tell-alls here in the blog — riveting stuff like about all the times Joan cried to me for hours at a time on the phone, telling me how miserable she was. Or how Dad confessed to me that he was secretly in love with someone else for almost forty years.
But all that’s pointless. I know. Yet I’m hurting in a familiar way. Tonight I’m feeling like I did when I was ten, when my father left me for a waitress and a trailer in the woods. Joan’s still there and is pretty much the same. Meanwhile, I’m the dad now — of two fabulous boys who I swear will never experience that same feeling of fear, false religion and rejection. Thank God.
You’re wrong, Joan. Dad would not be ashamed of this honesty. He longed for it his whole life. He was just starting to trust and open up the year he died. The problem was he spent his whole life surrounded by people who were as afraid of the truth as he was. Most, obviously, still are.
Thanks for dropping by my blog.