They call him Daddy in the steady stream of texts between a group of six. I only recognize half the numbers, that’s a telltale sign. Their father, my father, our father is currently in the hospital under some dicey conditions. No one knows how this is going to end, for now, we just share medical information and opinions regarding care.
He had seven children with two different wives. I’m his oldest from his first union and I have a twin brother. He had five kids with his second wife, sadly one passed away a handful of years ago. His second wife died over 20 years ago in a car accident. Tragedy is no stranger to them…and to think there was a time when I thought they were the lucky ones.
My father passed in and out of my life when I was a child. A bitter divorce, insane ex-wife and a court system which leaned toward mother as the custodial parent, stacked the odds against a consistent relationship. Add in a remarriage, kids getting moved out of state and starting family number two and you have the makings of a really pathetic after school special. It’s predictable and accurate in it’s decay.
My brother and I were trained to hate our father from our earliest memories. Some of it was his own actions firmly attached to years of hate spewed from our mother. She referred to our father as “shithead” for as long as I can remember. I don’t recommend that if you are sharing custody, even if the person is indeed a “shithead”, it just makes the kid wonder if they are 50% shit.
Not surprisingly I had some substance abuse issues as a teenager and got myself tossed into treatment. I straightened myself out at the age of 15 and did some serious self reflection. I wrote to my father when I was 16 in the hopes of creating some sort of a relationship with him. I acknowledged that I had only heard one jilted side of the story my entire life and that I was open to getting to know him. He never responded to my letter, that was 34 years ago.
About a year before his second wife died we started to bump into each other at family events, mostly weddings and funerals. I was in my early 30’s at the time and his other children ranged in age from 10 to 20-something. They didn’t know who I was, had no idea that I existed. Eventually it got less weird to see him and his family. We had pizza at his house two days before his second wife died in a car accident.
The thread of a relationship frayed some more as he had more pressing concerns to attend to and then life just went on. I got married and had kids of my own and before you can blink a decade or two is in the rear view mirror with just fistfuls of occasions where our lives overlapped. It wasn’t intentional at this point, we just went with the tide.
It’s Father’s Day this weekend, so I’ll sit in the hospital room and visit with him and whichever family members share my schedule. It will be awkward and silently awful for me as I try keep my twig of a branch attached to the family tree. All the while, surrounded by bigger, stronger branches that through no fault of their own, get my share of sun and nutrients.
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