One hour

I wake up for a lazy Saturday: coffee, a leisure run, breakfast.

The phone rings early.

“Hello? It’s Ted. You know, Ted? Your dad? I’m in town. I got here last night. I thought maybe we could meet today. You could bring the kids here. I’m busy til about 10:30 and then I have a break and then I am back, but there is a break in between….” I can’t even get in an answer of acknowledgment. The words are coming rapid-fire. It’s like they are punching out on a typewriter, scanning across my brain, and I’m supposed to simultaneously digest and comprehend. Also, I generally see my dad once a year and this is out of season.

I try to answer. “One of the kids is away this weekend. I’d only be coming with one kid.” I feel like I am yelling. He is already explaining times and where I should bring the kids. I don’t bother explaining again that one of my kids is away. There are more complex details. It’s like an overseas phone call when you used to have to pre-pay. You talk fast so that you don’t get cut off mid-thought.

I don’t want to go for a visit. I do it so my kids can see their grandfather. It’s about creating a neutral opportunity for my kids to have a relationship with him and not tainting that with my own opinions.

I go for a visit: me and one kid. It’s what I expect. Sometimes I silently cringe when he says things that are inappropriate or demeaning. He does this unknowingly but I spent most of my youth trying to explain this to him. He will change when he is willing to change; often I don’t think he sees a need. I also don’t need this in my life.

I watch my son’s reaction to all of this. Most of it he doesn’t understand. He looks at me quizzically and then gets bored and plays games on my phone. How much of a connection can you make in one hour? We talk about nothing. It doesn’t have to be deep and emotional conversation, but it’s a conversation that leaves me with nothing. It used to leave me feeling sad – as though I had expectations of a resolution that never came. Now, I use up my hour and head home with thoughts of the day ahead.

It’s strange how we spend so much time with a person and then can drift completely apart. Sometimes we outgrow a person and although we are linked genetically and hereditarily, our thoughts — the people we are — could be from two different places. We inhabit different cultures, we are from different tribes.

I’m learning that there is much less sadness now. But it’s not just deadness in its place. It’s just an acceptance that our connection is in the past, not the present. Even then it was shaky at best. I visit to show my kids who their grandfather is, not for my sake. My Self in this has outgrown the emotional battles, the self-esteem issues, the anger, and frustration. My Self has moved on, leaving sadness alone and drifting behind me. A wisp of smoke that remembers and then dissipates.


25 thoughts on “One hour

  1. “I’m learning that there is much less sadness now. But it’s not just deadness in its place. It’s just an acceptance that our connection is in the past, not the present” This feeling brings me to my kees…. even when I am not feeling the sadness I can’t stop the tears just yet.

  2. This made me a little sad because I could relate to some of the things you described. Hugs to you and your enlightened self. There is peace in acceptance, and always hope for change.

    • There is always hope for change, but I’m not hoping for it. Does that make sense? I’m much more accepting of how things are now – perhaps that comes with age and distance – as it puts ME in a better place.
      Hugs to you as well. It’s not always an easy place.

    • Denise, I’ve had to learn to deal with what I didn’t get and learn how to find it elsewhere. Being a family does not automatically create a bond. I’ve grown weary of trying to defend and explain myself. I barely have time for people I *like* in my life – I think my sense of familial obligation is dissipating.

  3. Go you for letting your children meet their grandfather.
    And double go you for coming to terms with who he is, and what your relationship is with him, at least for now.

  4. Tania, I’m sorry that your dad is such a letdown to you. I was very lucky in the dad (and mom) department. My mom bought her rainbow almost 14 years ago, and my dad, at age 86, is still kicking but growing more fragile. When my father was more active, he’d take daily trips to the mall where he’d hang out with other senior citizen guys. Many would grouse about their kids, especially how they had such crummy relationships with them. My dad would remind them that they contributed to the problem. He put more than a few distant, absent and lousy dads in their place.

    • Virigina,
      Thanks for this. It’s good to have words to describe how I feel and let down is a good fit. It’s not such an emotional clinging anymore — it’s a let down. I’m thankful you had a good go in the mom/dad department. The more kids and parents I see (being a parent now) I see how easy it is to screw up and how much of an effect it has on a kid. I like your dad’s approach to parenting: it’s present and astute. So often parents wash their hands of a situation and assume it has nothing to do with them. Sadly, we reap what we sow.

  5. Good for you for putting aside your needs or (un-needs) for your kids. I’m not sure I could do that and not project my feelings on the situation.

    I have moved on. There was no point in trying to be a daughter to someone who didn’t want this daughter. I don’t even know if he is still alive, but your post made my heart twinge…just a little bit for someone that I don’t even know but am supposed to feel something for.

    My children don’t even know that my Dad is not my biological father…it just has never come up. Plus I’m not ready to explain that being a father does not automatically make someone a Dad.

    • I think your last sentiment summed it up for me. Biology is interesting, but not necessary. My kids sometimes wonder why I never see my “dad” or who he is, but I don’t have to give excuses or reasons.

      This is the way things are – because it’s better this way for everyone. Sometimes it’s hard to not want the traditional, but since I didn’t come from that place there is no point In speculating.

  6. Tania, obviously I’m very behind on reading your blog. I can so relate to everything in this post. I have the same type of relationship with my dad. He’s never made much of an attempt to get to know his grandkids and I can honestly say you can probably count the number of times he’s seen my children these past 15 years on one hand. I’m strangely relieved for them. We have a facebook relationship now. Strange indeed.

    • Angela, I’m slow in writing and posting so you’re not as far behind as you may think. Plus, I *know* you’ve been busy.
      Families are strange things — the older I get the less genetics and heredity means to me. You find your own little clan in the world, and they may not be who you are related to. When I was younger I used to think it so strange that you could have a nuclear family, grow up and move away, and then almost never see them. It fascinated me that this could happen. And now — I am there, and I know the reasons. You grow out of what you thought you needed. I hope you have found peace in your situation as well.

      • I have learned to accept the way my sister and I grew up, and I know that I’ve done a better job of raising my own kids. You are absolutely right; my true family now is a mix of family and dear friends, and most of us are unrelated by birth. I do strive, however, to stay close to my grown kids, to see them often, even if we don’t live in the same cities. My current bout of cancer has brought us all much closer together as well–and it’s very gratifying to see what wonderful, caring, loving adults they’ve grown into.

      • I think you learn what you DON’T want to (with your own kids) when you have adverse experiences growing up. Family comes from all places.
        Seeing the photos that you posted of your kids with you in the hospital were really touching. It was great to see you all together — you being supported and them as part of who you are. I’m sure they are amazing people. Well done you!

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