Thursday, September 06, 2007

Between ambivalence and grief

I didn't know my dad very well. In fact, I have very, very few memories of him, even fewer positive ones. He walked out of my life when I was 10 and really never made much of an effort to be around after that. He remarried, had another family and pretty much wiped the slate clean of my sister and I except for two, maybe three, summers of required visitation.

Yesterday my father, Mark Stephen Bowen, 52, died.

I am all at once sad and angry and regretful. I had a dad in biology only, and now I don't even have that. And that makes me sad.

I am angry that he never made much of an effort to want to know me or my family. I am angry that the efforts I did make years ago to keep in contact went unrequited. I am angry that he didn't take better care of himself and that he passed this damned genetic predisposition to heart disease on to me.

I regret I didn't try harder to develop a relationship and he never got to know his granddaughters for the wonderful people they are. I regret that he will never know what he missed in us.

It is always sad when someone dies, whether you personally knew them or not. He was my blood, but I didn't really know him, so I am stuck in that tremendously confusing place between being sad for the loss of an acquaintance and being sad for the loss of a relative. I don't know where I'm supposed to be, emotionally. In some ways I feel like I'm not sad enough, in others, I feel like I don't need to shed many tears for someone I didn't really know.

But, dammit, he was my dad, flaws and all. The few positive memories I have are good ones, there just aren't many, and they are from so many years ago I'm sure they are colored with youthful wishes.

Of course I mourn his death, I would be inhuman not to. But even more, I mourn for the lost opportunities, all the years that went by without a word, from either one of us, each content in the status quo. Most of all, I cry for my younger self, the one that needed him to be the dad he could never be and the things I can never change. The older me got over needing a dad around a long time ago, and turned her back on begging for fatherly recognition.

I will go to the funeral, and it will feel bizarre to be around all the people I don't know, the family he chose over my sister and I so many years ago. I will make the trek to Michigan, not because I feel a driving need to be at his funeral, but because I have to be there for my sister.

She knew him better than I ever did, she forced him to have a relationship with her, something I wasn't willing to do, and for her, his loss is deeper and so much more overwhelming. And right now, I think she needs her big sister around.

17 comments:

nell said...

I'm sorry your Dad died. I hope that it is as good for you to be with your sister as it is for her to be with you.

Wendy said...

I'm sorry, too, Jenn. Parents always seem to disappoint (gulp, I'm one now....), and yet you hold out hope of some things improving over time. Being there for your sister may ultimately feel good for you, and maybe you'll meet some interesting "relatives" -- try not to hold your dad's behavior against them. There could be a silver lining here. Maybe?

MP said...

:-(
I'm sorry...

Have a safe trip..hang in there!

I have to note>>>>man you dad was young! I always wonder if he was meant to get in a whole bunch of stuff in his short life and part of that meant dissapointing you because you could handle it...
I'm not sure if I belive that or not...it is one way of thinking though.

Queen of Shake-Shake said...

(((HUGS)) to you Jenn. Don't worry too much about how you feel or what you should feel. Just feel whatever it is you are feeling in the moment.

Will be thinking of you.

Pentha said...

:( I've been there, Jenn. My mom left my dad (for cause) when I was 8 years old, and he was never a part of my life again. After hating him in my teens for the pain he'd cause my mother and us children, I tried desperately to build an adult relationship with him in my twenties; by my thirties, I had given up.

When he died in 2002, I had already shed so may tears for the father I never had, I hardly wept at all. Like you, I wept for the little girl who never had a daddy and now never could. I had given up on trying to have a relationship with him, but still -- I hoped. And with his death, my hope died.

I am so sorry for your loss ... for the loss you suffered as a girl, and for this new loss which tears open old wounds.

-- Pentha, wishing you a measure of peace today

Ninja Of The Mundane said...

Jenn, I'm sorry for your loss. But don't look at this funeral trip as a time to grieve what you've lost, but to be open to what there is to gain. Who knows who might open their hearts to you there ... and share a window into the dad you never knew. I see great potential for catharsis in this trip if you allow for it.

Was your sister any happier for the relationship she forged through force? Did it give her what she needed to have?

slackermommy said...

I'm so sorry, Jenn. Hopefully going to the funeral and being there for your sis will give you some closure. As much as I make fun of my mom or talk about how evil she is I know that her death will still be hard on me. Irregardless of them being awful parents they still gave us life. I think that's what makes it so hard. I'll be thinking about you.

Dorky Dad said...

I know how you feel ... I went through the same thing years ago when my dad died. That's why parents who leave their children really cause a lot of pain -- those relationships are so important and valuable that you can't help but feel it when they're missing.

I'm so sorry for the loss of your father, and for your sister and your family.

Sona said...

My sympathies.

I've lost a parent as well. No matter what the relationship was (or was not) there is something profound about losing a parent.

I hope you find peace.

Marriage-101 said...

52 just seems so young.

I have a similar relationship with my dad, and I wonder if I will feel these same emotional conflicts. I think I will, since I already do.

Happy thoughts your way...and to your sister.

Diesel said...

I know a woman who is in a similar situation with her dad. He's still alive, but she keeps expecting to get the call some day... I can't imagine what kind of person doesn't want to know their own grandchildren. Not a happy person, I can tell you that.

kristi said...

I am sorry to hear about your Dad. My Dad pretty much did the same thing. He remarried when I was 4 and started over with a new family. I stayed with him for 2 weeks when I was 14 and that was enough for me. He died a few years ago and I didn't go to his funeral...it was 8 hours away.

Rebecca said...

Jenn, I'm so sorry. I've been there. You're in my thoughts. . .

Linlee said...

Sorry to hear of your loss.

goat roper said...

My thoughts and prayers are with you always. You are an incredible woman with a wonderful family, it saddens me that Mark chose not to know you. I am so proud of you.

Lisa said...

So sorry for your loss Jenn.

Nancy @ World Wide Rolves said...

Wishing you peace.