Like most families, our story is complicated. After a fairly idyllic childhood, my father walked out the door and never returned. Naturally, even that part is more complicated than a patently dramatic statement. Suffice to say, there’s a longer story and someday, maybe I’ll publish it. But for now, the fact is he turned the world my mother and I thought of as solid and comfortable into chaos one August morning in 1973.
For the next 47 years, after awkward initial attempts to stay connected while I still lived back East, I only saw him once. I kept our contact to exchanging letters because talking to him was just too painful. Even though he had my phone number, he never called. But he did ask to pass it to his step-son, so he could call me in an emergency.
I got that call in late October 2020. He’d been admitted to the hospital with continuing heart issues but died in the Covid ward of a rehab facility. I listened to the step-brother I’d met twice describe what had happened, shed a few tears and studiously told myself it had very little to do with me. I wished him Godspeed and carried on.
Around March, I got a call from a lawyer who was assisting with the probate for my father’s house. He’d willed it to his two step-sons and me, since the woman he’d left us for predeceased him by 10 years. Long, emotional story short, probate recently closed and we got a very nice check.
Nice enough to pay off our house, with a little extra to play with.
I always wondered how I would feel when my father died. Sad? Angry? Guilty? Turns out, really none of the above. I feel a little sad that I don’t feel much at all. It took me a long time to understand that he not only cheated on and left my mother, he also cheated on and left me. And when I realized that, years ago with the help of a psychologist I was seeing for a while, I pretty much cut him out of my emotional life. That might sound cold but I know a lot of adult children in the same situation who feel the same way about their parents. Betrayal and abuse are no small things and some of us just can’t get beyond that. And that’s ok.
So, the week before Thanksgiving, we paid off our house. And what paying off our house means to me is freedom.
The freedom to worry less about bills.
The freedom to relax a little.
The freedom to work part time so I can devote my afternoons to writing.
That means an actual blogging schedule. Maybe selling a few articles/essays/stories. Dusting off and polishing some old writing. And self-publishing 2 or 3 novella’s next year.
In the end, I feel grateful to my father for funding my chance to explore the possibilities that time, money and my own self-doubt postponed. Turning 65 has made me hyper-aware of the passage of time and I intend to make the most of this gift and I’ll appreciate every minute and opportunity.
So, thanks Pop! Wish me luck!