Today I'm going to go a bit more sentimental and follow up with a couple of articles around the topic and around my personal situation. Perhaps you know others who may be experiencing something similar or you may yourself be able to relate.
Our relationships with our parents are as individual as we all are. There may be shared experiences and shared perceptions, but in general, like all things, we review things from our own lenses. How we interpret something could be drastically different than how someone else interprets that same exact thing...OK, pretty vague right?
Well my father passed away one year ago today. We were not close in the Hallmark version of the word. I share the blame for that with him. He had his demons and I stayed away in part because of that but then also in part because of convenience - life was easier if we sort of avoided each other. Maybe we would talk every couple of months or on major holidays, but in general, since I was 20 or so, we were largely estranged - still having love for one another through our blood ties and common mannerisms, etc. but largely unaware of what REALLY made the other one tick.
I've long since forgiven myself and him for our relationship choosing to set boundaries, etc., but in retrospect, I wonder what we could have done over the last decade + if we had both made the effort. I can truly say, there was a point in my life where I likely would not have really missed my dad if he had passed away - there might have been a hole, but it may not have been one that couldn't be filled easily in another way.
But today, I look back and I do miss him. For the last 3 years or so of his life after he retired, he had quit drinking which made him infinitely better to be around. I was able to have "good" conversations with him and he was genuinely opening up about his interest to be a part of my life as I was wanting to get to know more about him. I was able to visit with him a couple of times for day trips and learned SOOO much more about who he was. We were able to have some of the deeper conversations that we weren't able to have before around our beliefs and about our professional interests. Many don't know, but he was a psychologist before he was a lawyer in the Air Force - and as a market researcher, we could actually talk about a lot of common ideas (i.e., sample sizes, methodological design, etc.).
It was a side of him that I really hadn't ever seen other than the cursory 30,000 foot view. We bonded even more on a failed attempt to bring my grandmother out east - 8 months of planning and buy-in from gramma only to arrive in Lincoln, IL in February 2017 and be asked to turn around and go home. So we made sure to arrange for care locally before heading out on the pre-planned road trip back to Virginia. A couple of days and nights on the road and we really did catch up.
These last couple of years were really special in being able to catch up more and get to know each other without the specter of an inebriated dad coming into the picture. Don't get me wrong, when dad was drunk he was never violent with me, but he was very difficult to talk to even with his amazing intellect. But the last couple of years sober, he was great to listen to and learn from.
So a year later, after an unsuspected death I find myself truly thankful for the last couple of years I had with Dad. I do love the man and I see a lot of the good and bad parts of him in me - and it is really helpful for all people and men to understand more about what makes them tick and where we can improve before getting TOO wedded to our ways. I am blessed to have some of his intellect, but thankfully I don't have too much of his dependency issues on smoking and drinking. That said, I like to eat sweet things and need to do more with that...I am also impatient at times (or frequently) and quick to defensiveness which can make me difficult to appreciate at times too ;)
But I am happy that I wish I had more time with the man. We will be interring him in Arlington National Cemetery in January into his final resting place. I look forward to getting a second chance to say goodbye. I do wish he could have been able to see my girls and future boy a couple of more times, but I will do my best to try to keep his memory alive for them. But if I have to look back and think about things, I don't blame him for anything and I understand who I am is who I choose to be, but I guess I do have a couple of regrets -
I wish he could have sobered up earlier. I don't know the motivations that drove him to it and why he couldn't quit sooner - that is something I can't speak to, but I do wish I had more time with him in that state.
I wish I had really asked him more about his work and/or gotten to meet a few of the people he worked with before he passed - their stories at the funeral last year were great to hear and it might have been nice to have heard a few more.
I wish I had some more chances to understand his memories of relatives and life and gotten a little more perspective on where we Sherwood's came from.
I hope that someday I will be smart enough to see when what I am doing is getting in the way of a relationship that I value and love and to be able to move forward quickly and not waste time in anger, grief, pity or something else. Life is short and unpredictable and what really matters is our interaction(s) with each other - our relationships are what we should value above other things - we need to be quick to ask for forgiveness and quick to forgive.
Here are a couple of articles / stories similar to this.
The Psychology Behind Strained Father Son Relationships:
What's It Like to Fall In Love After A Parent Dies:
7 Ways to Keep Your Loved One's Memory Alive: