Sunday, January 26, 2014

Day of Obligation

I have this childhood memory of walking with my father through a crowded, smoke-filled room.

I was very young and apparently the only child in the place.

While my subconscious keeps telling me it was a bar, I find it hard to believe my dad would ever bring me into a saloon at that tender age.

Wherever it was, we got separated and all of a sudden I was alone in a sea of towering adults. I was so small I couldn’t see any faces, just bodies.

Frightened, I grabbed at the nearest sleeve, looked up and said “Daddy!”

Only it wasn’t Daddy. It was a total stranger looking down at me. He laughed and it seemed like everyone in the room joined him. And I was more frightened than ever.

My father found me seconds later and we walked out together. I’m wondering now who that man was and what he must have thought when some strange kid grabbed his sleeve.

Of course the irony here is as I got older, life got harder and my relationship with my father became strained. I stopped looking for Daddy and started looking to escape.

My father couldn’t accept the fact that his children were growing up and that we didn’t need to hold his hand anymore. I only wish I could’ve figured that out while he was still alive. It might have made both our lives a little easier.

That memory came back to me only recently following a phone conversation I had with my sister.

“I’m going to church today,” she told me one morning while I was at work.

Today’s the Day…

I searched my mind for any holy days of obligation on the Catholic calendar and drew a blank.

“What for?” I asked.

“It’s the anniversary of Dad’s death.”

I felt this chill come over me. It was indeed the seventh anniversary of our father’s death and I had completely forgotten it.

I know this never would’ve happened with my mother. I can sense the anniversary of her passing coming closer as we come into July. I think I would know that day even if I didn’t have a calendar. Or at least I like to think so.
I tried to shake off the sense of guilt I was feeling, but it hung around me all day like a low-grade fever.

What kind of son would forget the day his father died?

I had a particularly bad day at the office, where I could do absolutely nothing right, and I was sure I was being punished for my thoughtlessness.

And just to drive the message home, one of my coworkers had left his coffee mug by the men’s room door, placing it so I could see the cutely simple drawing of man in a tie standing above the word “Father.”

Whoever had left the mug there forgot to come back for it so I had to see the thing every time I went to the can.

Okay, I thought late in the day, I get it. I’m a rotten son. Now please take your goddamn mug before I smash it to pieces.

I didn’t go to church that day. I tried to atone for my sins on Facebook by writing a tribute to my father as if I had planned to do it all along.

I can’t do undo the past; I can’t go back in time and make things better between us. But I’m thankful he was there to lead me out of smoky rooms.


Ron said...

Rob, beautifully expressed post Truly beautiful.

And I love how you concluded it...

"I can’t do undo the past; I can’t go back in time and make things better between us. But I’m thankful he was there to lead me out of smoky rooms."

You're right, we can't. Yet, I truly believe that those who pass on have an expanded consciousness, seeing the overall picture of what was. And that THEY, like US, did the best we could at that time. And that all they feel now is the LOVE. The love they had for us and the love we had for them. And that love continues.

Your relationship with your father is somewhat similar to the relationship I had with my father - it wasn't as close as our mothers.

Yet, all I can remember now about my father is how much he loved me - and I him.

All the other stuff is not important.

Just the love we shared.

Again, beautifully expressed post, buddy.

Have a faaaaaabulous week!

Rob K said...

Hey, Ron, thanks so much for your thoughts on this most sensitive issue.

"The love they had for us and the love we had for them. And that love continues."

That's so beautifully put and so incredibly true. It gives me a new way of looking at my relationship with my father.

And, as you say, all the other stuff really isn't important.

Thanks so much, buddy. Have a great week!

Bijoux said...

Rob, so sorry for your pain. Relationships with parents just seem difficult for most.

Rob K said...

Oh, thank you so much, Bijoux.

I think it's important to recognize this pain and then make a sincere effort to move on and not let it weigh you down.

Jay at The Depp Effect said...

Oh, it's so painful, isn't it? When the relationship is a difficult one, guilt is the overriding emotion after a loss - and there's absolutely nothing you can do about it except try to understand what went wrong and ... well, just try to be a better person in the present, if you can.

I didn't have a close relationship with my Dad. He was an admirable man in most ways but didn't seem good at relating with growing children at all. I can see this looking back, but of course at the time I felt it was all my fault. I had a closer relationship with Mum, but as she aged it got strained for various reasons. I can 'feel' her anniversary approaching just as you describe, and every year get riddled with guilt and depression because I could have, should have done this or that and been more understanding.

I think the bottom line is that very few people have that ideal child/parent relationship that leaves them feeling a great sense of personal loss and grief but no guilt or pain when they die. I think guilt and pain are a big part of it for most of us.

Rob K said...

Thanks so much, Jay, I really appreciate your thoughts on this.

I think we've been conditioned by movies and TV to expect this ideal, loving relationships with our parents, whereas reality can be a lot more complicated.

We all wish we could have done a better job with our parents. But all we have is now and we have to make the most of it.

Take care!