Father’s and Son’s

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It’s Monday October 15th. It’s been a month since my Mother died. It’s really strange how time goes by. On one end, it feels like it was just yesterday that she died. On the other hand, it’s amazing how fast time has gone by. It’s been a whole month.

Most of this last month has been for the better. Most days are better than I thought they would be.

Part of that is that I’m getting to know my Dad. Not just on a Father and Son level, but from the perspective of one Man to another. I’m learning who he is as a Man, not just a Father.

It has been really good getting to know my Father the Man. It helps me understand myself better and maybe why I do some of the things that I do and have done. The apple truly doesn’t fall far from the tree.

I can see now where I get some of my behaviors and ways of being. I get it from him. A lot of the ways that I view and interact with the world have come from him. Now maybe you may be sitting wherever you are, reading this, and think, “Well duh Rob.” But understand this for a moment:

My parent’s got divorced when I was eight years old. I only saw my Father on the weekends in the beginning. That was maybe for a year. After that, I didn’t see much of my Father, and by the time I became a teenager, I only saw him occasionally when he came over to the house to work on one of his cars. Even then I didn’t see much of him as I was busy with school and friends. So we would see each other for a few moments at best.

We were distant and estranged as far as I was concerned. I have to admit, during my teens and into my twenties, I didn’t think much of my Father. I didn’t like how he handled things and I didn’t want to be like him. Saying something like, “You’re just like your Dad,” was fighting words to me back then. I wanted to be nothing like him.

I thought that my Mother got the raw deal in the divorce even though she was the one that wanted it.

I know better now. I heard my Mom’s side of the story many times growing up, and over the last few years, I’ve been getting my Dad’s side of it in bits and pieces. Now that my Mom is gone, I’ve been getting even more of my Dad’s side of things, and I have to admit, they make sense. They are the missing puzzle pieces that I didn’t know were there.

I’m glad for the time that I have with my Dad. It’s important to me. I’m glad that I’m getting to know him not only as a Father, but as a Man. He’s been honest with me when I ask him questions, he holds nothing back. He’s also answered every question that I’ve had so far.

I understand myself better now than at any other point in my life. I understand that many things I do and have done are “nurture.” They are the things I’ve learned from my friends, my society, and my culture. I’ve also noticed things that I would call “nature.” Maybe I’ve actually learned them without being aware of it, it’s totally possible. But I kind of doubt that. These are the things that have just sort of “come naturally.” Much of it I see and hear from my Father when I ask the questions that I’ve asked.

I highly recommend to all you Men in particular, and to everyone out there reading this, talk to your Dad if you are able to. Talk to him about being a Man. Don’t just ask him what it’s like being a Father, ask him about stuff that relates to being a Man.

Hopefully you have that option in your life still. If you do, if your Father is still alive and you are able to contact him, do it.

Talk to him and do stuff with him. I’m going over to his house later today and we are having steak. We’ll probably watch NHRA drag racing too.

Get to know your Father, not only as a Father, but as a Man. You may get answers to questions that you didn’t know you had. You may get some understanding into yourself that you didn’t know you wanted or that you needed.

 

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After

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It’s Monday September 24th. I buried my Mother on Saturday the 22nd. I’m putting dates and if necessary, times to keep things straight for myself, and for you the readers of my blog. All of what I’m describing here has already happened.

Friday the 21st we had the viewing for my Mother. It was the longest two hours of my life. Every minute felt like an eternity. I just wanted it to be over. My legs were sore and stiff for standing in one place for so long.

My Father was overwhelmed by how many people that showed up to pay their respects. He really had no idea how many friends and family that he had. He had no idea the impact he and my Mother made on these people, this community of car lovers. He was hoarse by the time it was over, he talked to each and every one of them, told them stories about how they had met each other or some of the adventures that they had had with each other over the last two decades.

The girlfriend told me earlier that morning that her Mother was coming either Friday or Saturday, to stand in support with me and to pay her respect to my Mother, whom she had never met before.

I wasn’t holding my breath for my girlfriend’s Mom to make it, but I won’t lie. I hoped she would, and I found myself searching the faces of everyone in that receiving line, hoping I would see her. I found myself disappointed that she didn’t make it to the viewing on Friday.

Seeing my Mother in the casket… I lost it when I saw her there. It brought the reality of the situation home for me. It made it all too real. The mortuary did a fantastic job with her though. Many times in the past, at most of the funerals I have attended over the years, the body doesn’t really look like the person who they once were. They don’t usually look like themselves. My grandparent’s sure didn’t. But my Mom… She looked like herself. She looked like my Mom. I could swear that she was taking a nap. I could swear that she was breathing.

Many of my extended family showed up. My Mother’s sister, her brother, their children, my cousin’s. Same with my Dad’s side. It was interesting. We are not close to any of them. Haven’t been in years. There’s some bad blood there that goes back a long time. Guilt and culpability on all sides. My parent’s and I are much closer to some of the “car show people” than we are to our own blood. And that’s okay by me. I’m good with it. I have nothing against my actual blood relatives, they’ve done nothing to me in particular, but I’ve seen the shit that went on over the years. I’m just not close to them and that is what it is. You reap what you sow.

Saturday we had our final viewing for my Mom at 10 am until 11 am. My girlfriend’s Mom was the second person in line that morning. She showed up. It meant the world to me and still does. I introduced her to my Mom. I told her that I wished that they had met each other before that day. I wish that they had met while my Mom was still alive. She talked to my Mom for a bit and then I introduced her to my Father. They hugged and said that they were both glad to have finally met. My Father told her that he saw where my girlfriend got her looks. My girlfriend and her mother look almost identical. My girlfriend is definitely her Mother’s Daughter.

My Father started settling a lot of accounts at the funeral. He was diplomatic and polite, but if he had a bone to pick with you, you got to hear about it that day. My Aunt, my Mother’s sister, got an ear full. So did her brother, my Uncle. My Father didn’t spare his siblings either. They all got some. Right, wrong, good, or bad, he said what he needed to say, and what’s done is done. Personally, I don’t blame him. Most of the things that he said, needed to be said, and those that he said those things to, needed to hear them. Shit had been going on for far too long.

The closing of the casket was the hardest all of for me. I can still see my Mother’s face clearly. It was the hardest because I know I will never look on her face again. I don’t believe in a heaven, hell, god, or devil. I don’t believe in reincarnation or an afterlife. What people describe as a “soul,” to me, is what is our consciousness. When you die, that “soul” or consciousness gets turned off like a light switch. One minute you are there, and the next, you are not. Lights on. Lights off.

Watching the mortuary staff close that casket, I couldn’t catch my breath. I started to hyperventilate. I got it under control some how, but it came back again once we got the cemetery and got ready to move the casket from the hearse to the grave site. I got over it though. I had to. No other choice. I was a pallbearer for her and I needed to get her there. I couldn’t do that one last thing for her if I couldn’t breathe. So I kept on keeping on. Just like right now. I’m keeping on keeping on.

After the funeral was over, we all went to a close friend’s house and had drinks and food. Lots and lots of drinks. Lots of stories about all the adventures that my Mom and Dad have had over the years. Lots of laughter. Lots of tears.

I have to back up for a bit though. I’m getting a head of myself a little bit.

At the end of the service, I made eye contact with my girlfriend’s Mom. I went to her and we embraced and talked briefly. I told her how grateful I was that she made it out for the funeral to pay her respect and to show support for me since her daughter was out of the country. I told her how much all of that meant to me. I told her how much her daughter means to me. I think the world of my girlfriend. I love her dearly. I told her Mom that I wanted to get to know their family better. I wanted them to get to know me better. Her Mom wanted the same. She told me how much her daughter loves me and thinks of me.

I know it seems pretty “blue pill” and fantastical. My eyes are open. I know where this could all lead. It could lead to nowhere. It could also lead to somewhere. All relationships are transitory by nature. You could spend most of your life with someone and you’ll never truly know them because you aren’t them. All relationships end eventually, whether by a decision or a choice, or by death itself. All relationships last but a short time for the most part. It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have them. By choosing to not have them because of loss, you are missing out on life. You are missing the point of all of it. Nothing ventured, nothing gained and all of those slogans and what not.

So back to the get together….

Dad wasn’t done with the what for’s there either. There was one guy in particular that got both barrels. I actually thought it was going to turn violent for a minute there. Luckily it didn’t.

I also smoked my first cigar that night. I’ve always been interested in what the big deal was, but never got around to it. Mostly because since I have no idea what constitutes a good cigar, I didn’t want my first experience to be shit because of a shit cigar.

I see what the big deal is now though. Scotch and a good cigar are awesome. When I was around 16 I got really drunk, like throw up, be sick, and pass out drunk on scotch. From that day until now, I can’t stomach scotch. Or whiskey for that matter. The smell of it alone makes me retch. Drinking scotch while smoking a cigar though, that I can do. Both mellow and enhance the other.

Sunday I pretty much stayed home by myself. This last week I definitely took a tail spin with everything that has been going on. Going to the gym became sporadic. Drinking became the norm for the week. Even junk food showed back up on the menu. Just for that last week though.

I talked to my Brother from another Mother who lives in Illinois Sunday night, I mentioned him in my last post I believe. He was checking in to make sure that I was doing all right. Just shooting the shit with him raised my spirits immensely.

This morning, Monday September 24th, I woke up around 8:30 am or so and talked with my girlfriend for about an hour and a half. We talked about her Mom showing up for the funeral, I told her what that meant to me. The girlfriend and I are in a good place. Life is good.

I called my job and told them that I would be back on Tuesday September 25th. Tomorrow. Life goes on. You got to keep on keeping on.

Thank you for reading these installments for those of you who have journeyed with me this far. I don’t know if I’ll be talking about this again or not. Right now, I don’t think so. I think I’ve said what I wanted and needed to say.

I get to close this chapter and start a new one. I don’t know what I’m going to do just yet. It’ll be good whatever it is.

I Love You Mom. Rest easy. Thank you for being my Mother and bringing me into this world. I’m grateful to you for what you have done for me all through out my entire life up until now. Hopefully I’ll remember your lessons and carry them forward. I can’t live your standards and I’m not going to try. Your standards are your own. I can only live mine.

 

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What Now?

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As I write this, it’s Thursday, the day before the viewing for my Mother, which will be Friday. Ah Friday. Lately seems like all of the interesting shit falls on a Friday. Then there will be Saturday. The day that we bury her.

I’m still sort of in shock. I’m still numb. Maybe tomorrow reality will hit me full force in the face. Maybe not. Maybe that will be Saturday. Then again, maybe not. Maybe it will be weeks or months, maybe even years before this really hits me. I don’t really know.

My closest Brother, Ryan, called me today. He lives in Illinois at the moment. He’s been there for quite a few years now. God I miss him. I really wish he was here. He can’t be though. He’s got his own life and his own shit to deal with.

But we talked. Talked for about an hour and a half. It was really good to talk with him. I got to tell him the things that are going on in my life at the moment and he got to tell me the things that are going on in his life. He’s got some really, and I mean REALLY awesome things that are happening to him. I’m so happy for him. I really and truly hope that they work out and come true.

We talked about my Mom. We talked about how we went to car shows with her and my Dad. He mentioned that she was like a Mother to him as well. He’s hurting too. I know it.

My Mom was a “neat lady.” She was. She was neat. She did the best she could and like all of us really, she had to figure things out as she went. She had to wing it. I’ll always love her for that. She meant well.

I’m relieved that she is no longer in pain. I’m glad that she isn’t suffering anymore. I’m grateful for that. I’m grateful that I got to know her the best that I could.

That being said, my Mom was no saint. She wasn’t perfect. In fact, she was rather heavy handed with me as I was growing up. Even right up to the end, that was how she was. Always giving me unsolicited advice. Telling me what I “should” do. What I “ought” to do. What I “needed” to do. Some of that unsolicited advice was priceless. Most of it was worthless.

I guess in her eyes, I never grew up. I was never the Man before her. I was always her son and the little boy who didn’t have it figured out and would never figure it out. Even at my age of 46. Part of me resents her for that.

I know that I’ll miss her terribly. But part of me is relieved that she is gone. For the first time in my life, I feel truly out from under her. I’m sure I mentioned this in a previous post, but I’m saying it again.

I get to be me now. I don’t have to wear a mask around the family anymore. I don’t have to wear a mask around her anymore. I can be who I am, warts and all. I don’t have to face her judgment anymore. I don’t have to hear her “should’s,” “ought to’s,” and “need’s” anymore. I can be me full time around my Dad now. He can be who he really is around me full time now.

I love my Mom and always will, if it wasn’t for her and my Father both, I wouldn’t be here. I wouldn’t exist.

I still resent her though, to some degree. And like I said, I’m relieved that she is gone. I don’t have to put up with her shit anymore.

I mentioned to my Dad the other day why I didn’t come around much ever since I left the nest and got out on my own. I didn’t have to finish what I had started, he finished it for me.

“You didn’t come around much because you didn’t want to hear your Mother’s shit.”

He’s right. Nailed it in one. I’ve always considered my Father perceptive, but I didn’t realize until then, just how perceptive he really is.

I needed to tell him why I didn’t come around so that he didn’t think it was about him. Turns out he knew all along. He was right.

The girlfriend tolerated my Mother and the sparse visits we made to visit her and my Dad. I knew she didn’t really want to be around my Mom. She said to me one night after we had left their house, “You change when you’re around them.”

“What? How do you mean?”

“I don’t know, you become more quiet, more withdrawn, sullen.”

“I do?”

“Yeah you do.”

I never realized I did that until that conversation. But I did. Did it for years. Honestly, I did that my whole life. I tried to show my Mom who I really was when I was much younger and she didn’t want to see it. Couldn’t see it. Wouldn’t see it. Like many things in her world, her life, she only saw what she wanted to see. We all do that to one degree or another. I know I do.

The girlfriend spoke to me the other day, she hopes that my Dad will wait until she gets back from her trip before he starts to remove Mom’s stuff from the house. She wants to help him do it. She wants to hopefully get a better picture of who my Mom as a Mother and a woman was, and she also wants to get to know my Dad better. She actually wants to spend more time around my Father. She likes him. She wants to see what he’s like now that he’s not the caregiver. She wants to see him outside the influence of my Mom. I do too.

My Father and I get to start new chapters now. Chapters without the influence of my Mother. It’ll be good I think.

No, it will be great.

Life is absurd and so is death. But here we are.

There are no rules really, only consequences. Do what you want. Think what you want. Be who you want. Accept the consequences of those choices. Realize for the most part, none of those choices or consequences will kill you.

Set yourself free.

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