For some reason I took a look at my COVID Journal this morning. You guys remember my OYL posts (I’m gonna do a few more eventually) that drew from the journal I began during the pandemic? Well the journal ended up holding much much more from my life than I included here in the blog. Notes about online dating, and things going on with friends, and petty gripes and valid gripes and rants about how I can’t believe how stupid people can be, and a whole lot of stuff that I’d rather keep off my blog because it’s not helpful and also makes me look bad. I mean, it makes me look like the human I actually am.
I read the entry for October 12 exactly one year ago, and was shocked at how important it was. Not the whole thing, I actually blabbed on about a lot of Covid stuff, then one paragraph said, “My dad died.” And yeah, I had forgotten about that. My dad died last year. And my estranged brother started speaking to me again. This is what I wrote:
October 12, 2020 – exactly one year ago today: “My dad died at some point not too long ago. I found out from my brother Tanner, who found out from Cousin Dave. That’s weird. So I told my other brother Travis, who thought he was being slighted because someone told me and not him. But I set him straight – no, we just have a weird family. And oh. Did I mention that I’m talking to Travis and Bridget again? Fucking 2020. I swear to god it’s all madness. …OK, I checked in with Aunt Judy and he died September 28. I don’t know at what time, or from what. No one’s told me anything. I decided that with Pa gone, I felt safe, and was ready to go to the service. I worked it out with Tara’s dad to watch my house. I checked with Trav yesterday and neither of us has heard anything about a service. Weird.”
My dad was verbally abusive to me all my life (a classic narcissist), and his parenting style could be described as “neglect,” and I did not want to be around him while he was alive, even while he was dying. Maybe it was because I would not go to him that my Aunt – who was caring for him – thought I didn’t want to know that he died. But with him unable to inflict more pain, I was ready to go and pay my respects and mostly to be there for my family, whom I knew would be mourning. But Travis and I never heard a thing, and so I guess there was no service, which is appropriate for a pandemic.
Is it coincidence that I decided to read my journal today, and am reminded that exactly a year ago today I learned that my Pa died? I don’t think so.
I think it is time for me to process my relationship with him some more. Having a parent die and being relieved and grateful for it is a difficult and complicated emotional state. I had to reach out to friends for help with processing my guilt. And it’s something I couldn’t talk to my brothers about, since they didn’t have the same experience. I don’t recall mentioning it to anyone in the family actually, because that’s a cruel topic when someone is mourning: “I’m relieved he died.”
I have family members, especially his sisters Judy and Patty, who are sad and frustrated with my refusal to go to him while he was in his last days. But I knew it would go badly, and I was strong enough to protect myself from his wickedness. Anyway, so I need to repair my relationships with my Aunts, who naturally feel hurt because I rejected their brother.
Furthermore, as I alluded to above, I have to work on my relationship with my brother Travis. I sent one particularly nasty email to Travis in 2010-ish. My brother rejected all communication from me for an entire decade – an ENTIRE DECADE – and simply shredded my heart with his lack of accountability and apparent coldness in that he was willing to cut me out of his life forever. During my father’s sickness, Travis’ wife Bridget went behind his back and contacted me and begged me to connect to him because he needed someone while he was dealing with the inevitable death of his father. I am grateful she was willing to risk damaging bonds of trust with her husband to get us back together. But I had been blaming this on her the whole time. After a flurry of distressed phone calls, it became clear that the burden is more on my brother’s shoulders. Since he had intercepted all mail (including all cards and gifts for their kids) in those years, she said she had no idea that from 2011-2013 I had been desperately trying to mend things and apologize in every way I could think of. I was also trying to call and to send text messages to her, which were never returned so maybe it was all on him, maybe not. She says she never got those.
During our extremely difficult childhood being raised mostly by my dad, I took upon myself the role of protector of my baby brother. I adored him and was totally dedicated and loyal to him (which explains why I blamed the lack of communication on Bridget). When Travis was willing to cut me out of his life and my niece and nephew’s life so easily, it shattered me because I still thought of myself as his protector, and my perception was that he was rejecting my dedication to him. After ten years I no longer adored him, and I gave up trying to apologize because at that point it seemed more like he owed ME an apology for refusing to hear me. So, during 2020 I have had my brother Travis restored to me, but as you can guess, it is a painful and fragile connection and needs more work.
It says something about the persistent trauma of 2020 that these huge things happened and it had slipped my mind. What we have all gone through, and continue to go through, is enormous and we all need to congratulate ourselves for still being here, walking through each day a step at a time. We are amazing! Even if you did the things I did: I was ungraceful at times, let myself sink into depression, drank and smoked too much, gained 15 pounds, said mean things about someone, backed out of a commitment, forgot someone’s birthday, turned my back on someone asking for help. We are beautiful and amazing humans.
We are all still living in the middle of a pandemic, and we are still figuring out ways to get through it. Maybe one of my strategies is to forget how awful things were when my dad died. But hell, why not? It’s a strategy, and I made it through.