Monday, 10 August 2015

Family ties

Sadly, I have a funeral to attend this week, for a lovely elderly relative.  It will be a fairly untraditional and very low key affair; she was from the secular and somewhat eccentric intellectual side of the family - my dad's.

I'd love to think I could be even just a little like her in my final years - still attending educational courses, travelling and embracing new technology into her early 90s and keeping healthy and youthful until very recently.  Funerals are so hard, aren't they, and this will be no exception, especially as I feel desperately sad for the husband she leaves behind -  my dad's brother.  In recent years, I've seen more of him than I have my father.  And this is where it gets weird and is the reason I feel the need to write something here... because my dad may be at the funeral too...

So, I was trying to work out how many times in total I've seen my father since he and my mum divorced around 35 years ago... There can't have been more than about a dozen occasions and the last time was around 2005.   He lives the other side of the country, frequently forgets my birthday (as he did again this year); he's only phoned a handful of times and then only when there's been big news (like when he was getting married!)  Oh and one time to ask if I could record something off the telly for him when he was at a conference in Japan....  that may not sound so odd until you know that it was completely out of the blue - we hadn't been in touch for a couple of years beforehand and I didn't know he was in Japan.  So our relationship seems pretty non-existent.   I know that on paper, or in the eyes of anyone more judgmental, it might seem like he's not a good father, yet I feel the need to explain that he is a good man - he's just, well I don't know, but I think perhaps he has a degree of Asperger's. He's highly intelligent, something of a mathematical genius in fact (god knows where those genes went - down the back of the sofa?) and I know he has a kind heart and a very gentle nature.  He's just 'different' - and I really don't think he knows how to 'be' when it comes to interacting with his two daughters.  I simply think that we are not a part of his world, but - and it's difficult to explain - there is nothing deliberate or harsh about that, it's just the way it is.

Anyway, I'm just airing this now because tonight I'm full of so many mixed emotions at the thought of seeing him, particularly on such a sad occasion, that I'm already steeling myself for it.  I may report back, or I may not -  but I've realised that however bizarre and confusing it might be,  I actually really do want him to be at the funeral, because I don't want the next time I see him to be at his.


14 comments:

  1. All the best C.
    Swiss Adam

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  2. Wow - interesting post.

    It got me thinking back to that fateful weekend in 2004. As I was just sitting up from about 2 hours sobbing in the featal position and in my head was saying "You have to either do something about this bloody drink problem or kill yourself you loser" my wife said quietly and calmly. "I can't go on like this. We can't go on like this. You have to sort yourself out or leave".
    A few days later I'm telling a couple of perplexed kids that Dad is going away for a while to a place that helps with people like him and I didn't know when I'd be back. In all honestly I didn't know if I'd ever be back. I spent time in rehab over the next few weeks vacilating between going home or going to a "half way house" on the south coast. I actually now visit clients there in a voluntary role which has some cyclical irony to it somehow.

    What would my relationship with my kids have been like if I'd not gone home? Also from the day I did go home to this the deal is straight and simple. If I ever drink again I don't go home. I've promised to never put them through what they suffered before. If that happened today what in 20 years if was still about would my relationship with them be like? Distant without a doubt, largely as for me I think that would be better for them.

    This isn't meant to be in anyway drawing parallels with your Dad it just is what happened in my head as I read it and thought about myself. I hope the funeral is as good as these things can be and that you at least have some good time in the presence of your Dad.

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  3. I always think that funerals are about the departed person's life and she sounds to have had a long and interesting one worth celebrating. I can imagine you must have so many mixed feelings battling it out at the thought of your semi-fictional father being in attendance. Why semi-fictional? My own Dad is almost entirely a work of my own imagination as I have had so little reliable information from the only witness available.... and not the most consistent or trustworthy witness at that. So I guess I created a mythical father whose presence I have sometimes found quite comforting at odd moments of stress.

    I cannot imagine having the real man appearing for short and unpredictable intervals, it must take a great deal of strength to cope with. You seem to have a great attitude though, we can't change other people, they are who they are. So just experience his company for that one day and then put back on the armour that shields you from his absence. I used to wonder if it would be easier to cope with the parents we actually have/had if we weren't constantly bombarded by ideals of how that role should be played.... but sadly the AWOL father seems all too common these days, even in fiction. I think it is the role that really sorts the men from the boys.

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  4. I hope that the celebration of your Aunt's life is a good one, it sounds as if it will be. Someone with that much zest for life is an inspiration to us all to live whatever time we have to the full.
    As for a Parent, sometimes the opposite extreme, where it's almost symbiotic, can be equally difficult......

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  5. The last sentence cut me to the core. It always feels slightly odd to hope that a funeral goes well for someone, but I particularly hope that this one does, in every respect.
    (I actually started singing 'Father's Name Was Dad' to myself at the top of the third paragraph, I might've known that you'd post it.)

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  6. Families are funny old things, aren't they? (I'm almost completely estranged from mine these days, apart from my mum.) I hope the funeral goes off without too much family drama, and proves to be a happy day. I know it sounds almost impolite to wish anyone a happy funeral, but so often a funeral is the event that faciliates a reunion, and everybody can agree that a happy reunion is better than an unhappy reunion. At the very least I hope the day will bring some comfort to your uncle.

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  7. Life and lives are such complicated things and it's so difficult to truly understand another person, even such a close relative. It's very much to your credit that you have tried to not judge your dad too harshly. I'm hoping the funeral goes as well as such a thing can for you all. Take care.

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  8. Thanks to everyone... really appreciate all your comments, insights and good wishes... it's tomorrow and involves some travelling so I'm off to get a good night's sleep!

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  9. A quite important statement you say and that is 'thats the way he is' how many times have I heard that in my life as an excuse for behaviour 'we may not agree with' Actually I believe there is no excuse in not keeping intouch (and it is a two things as well) it is because of being lazy or too wrapped up in your own world....sorry about the rant and I hope he lives to an old age...talk to him, skype him, email him......

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    1. Old Pa, I do understand and appreciate the point you make - I can only respond that the thing with my dad is so nuanced and has so many weird strands to it that it's perhaps not quite so simple... however, at least I did see him today, and it was fine but very strange and now I'm just trying to process it all.

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    2. You are right of course there are always more to things than meets the eye. Great that you saw him even under the sad circumstanses....I am not the best at keeping in touch but I am making a big effort...it is so much easier with all the media available.

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    3. Thanks Old Pa. I know you're good with your offspring - Tune Doctor is evidence!
      Since seeing the way my dad was yesterday, at 86, it's been a bit of a wake-up call, regardless of everything else.

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  10. It's strange and unpredictable this parent thing - I always thought I was fairly close to my Dad until my Mum died and he essentially just dropped his kids from his life - we were all grown up and could handle it but all the same it hurt. In his final few weeks when he was confused and struggling with understanding he seemed to forget that he'd forgotten us and took up where he'd left off a number of years before - leaving us as the bewildered and confused ones. In a way I wish he hadn't since it made everything that was going on even harder, but was also a reminder of who he had the capacity to be.

    No real insights there I guess but just to say that it's people and we can't rely on them to be perfect or predictable and perhaps the best we can hope for is that when the connections do happen we can only grab on - sometimes they, or us, let go again but it doesn't negate that connection ever happening.

    Hope it goes/went well anyway.

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    1. Thanks... I can understand how your own experience with your dad made things harder, when one just gets to grips with things being a certain way and then they flip again. And I completely agree about people, we can't rely on anything - and it's frequently a combination of complexities. I try to live by the notion that we should never expect anything from anyone (and I learned that with both my parents really) but nor do I ever want anyone to expect anything from me - I'm just as fallible!
      The funeral itself was inspiring - may write more later - and seeing my dad was the right thing but still a massive headfuck - possibly more on that later too....!

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