Monday, 1 August 2016

WHEN THE BOOK CLOSES ON A PARENT'S LIFE

the loss of a parent - when you feel sad that you don't feel sad

MY DAD DIED LAST WEEK

My dad died last week. He was 78 years old and had suffered from dementia for the last six years. His death was more sudden than expected because he was physically healthy, although his memory was long gone. The struggle I have is that I'm not sad. I'm sad that I'm not sad, but I can't muster any strong emotions over the death of my own father.

THE END OF AN ERA

His passing has made me think back to my childhood and to the way we were parented. It was a different era and fathers were less involved with their children, but I still felt his notable absence throughout my childhood, adolescence, and adulthood too. He was an only child who did not seem to be able to share himself with others selflessly. His life revolved around his own needs and wants and we were on the periphery of it.

My mum says he was a man of his time, but I have friends who have fabulous relationships with their fathers, or who have happy childhood memories of their fathers playing with them or teaching them life skills or hobbies. I have none of that. Nobody tossed me in the air, gave my bear hugs, tucked me in at night, told tall tales, came to my sporting events, or even visited me and my family regularly later in my life.

SEPIA MEMORIES

I scoured through my photo albums looking for memories - (I'm the oldest child, so there are more photos of me than there are of my brothers.) My grandfather was a hobby photographer so there were some extra pictures that he'd taken over the years. I found a few shots of dad and me - a couple when I was a baby and a couple around when I was about three-ish. You can see one of them above where I'm looking particularly stylish while we were visiting my grandparents.

The photos stop after that. There are no family Christmas shots, no celebrations, no holiday snaps, no embarrassing father/daughter pictures.....nothing. The next photo appears when he is walking me down the aisle at my wedding and that's it. No other father and daughter moments recorded. No lasting memories captured to look back on, probably because there weren't any in real life either.

WHEN YOU HAVE NOTHING TO SAY

His funeral is this week - my brothers thought about speaking, but declined and I just can't. I have nothing to share and no golden moments to reflect back over. I keep thinking back and trying to remember something, but there is nothing I can even faintly recall. It's sad, and I'm sad that it's sad. It's not what I wanted for myself and I made certain it wasn't what my own children experienced. Being treated as an adjunct to someone's life is not how a child should experience their relationship with their father.

Pam Leo — 'Let's raise children who won't have to recover from their childhoods.'

Rather than let it all be swept away, I thought I'd make August my month for thinking about parenting. Lessons I've learned from being parented and lessons I've learned from parenting my own children. I hope I have something to offer in the broad spectrum that parenting covers. I'm certainly not an authority on the subject, but I'd like to think I've experienced both sides of the coin and have some thoughts worth sharing.

WHAT IS OUR LEGACY?

I hope when it's our time to pass on, our children have something worthwhile to say about their mother and father, and their love for them. I'd like them to know they were loved beyond measure and to know we invested ourselves in them and their lives. I hope I leave some sort of legacy and I will be missed when I go. 

Dad really left us a few years ago because that's when he forgot who we all were, his passing is the closing of a book - I just wish there'd been a few chapters in there somewhere that included his children. RIP Dad.

This post was shared at some of these great link parties
To keep up to date with my posts, feel free to add your email into the spot especially for it on my sidebar or follow me on facebook


my dad died and I'm sad that I'm not sad - here's what I've learned

60 comments:

  1. I could have written this word for word. I experienced the same thing with my father's passing. I get so tired of hearing the excuse, "It's just how men of that generation were". They were human beings right? It does not require a certain time period to born in for a father to be emotionally involved with their child. A good father is a good father, and a bad one is just that. I felt no sadness after my father died, just a vague sense of loss. It's more than a shame. Our children will grieve our loss when the time comes, because we gave them the only thing a child ever really wants from us...Ourselves.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Kristine - thanks so much for that - it is exactly how I feel and I struggle so much with the "generation" excuse - I'm so glad we're doing it right with our kids. x

      Delete
  2. Hi Leanne. I feel your pain. Having a difficult relationship with someone so close to us is always complicated. It is always worse because the "romantic" version of what a father " is supposed to be" and a family is "supposed to be" puts all kinds of pressure on us. It's nice when we have those really good relationships, but I'll bet that there are at least 50% of us that just had okay relationships. And yes, that was even more complicated by the fact that he had dementia. Not an easy time regardless. I hope you are able to come to terms with it all and find a sense of peace. Maybe that is the greatest gift of it all. ~Kathy

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Kathy - you are so right about us romanticizing our version of fatherhood and family. I've done it all my life and been disappointed every time. It's almost a relief to have the closure and peace and to be able to move on from it all.

      Delete
  3. Leanne it makes me very sad to hear your story. My dad is also a product of his time, he has a strange way of showing us he cares, and he can seem a bit selfish at times. I had the pleasure of reconnecting with him as an adult child recently and we had a wonderful time. I keep thinking maybe he just had trouble dealing with kids in general. But you are so, so right, it is up to us as parents to make sure we do not carry this through to our own children. A great reminder that things don't always have to be this way.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think the men of that particular generation were allowed to be selfish. Nobody expected more from them - some stepped up regardless, and some were happy just doing their own thing. I'm glad you had the chance to make some recent memories with your dad Mary.

      Delete
  4. Sending so much love your way.
    I'm in the place of feeling as though it's just hard to be a human :-) but I, too, don't buy the generational excuse mainly because I'm seeing it everywhere in men of this generation. <3

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. We all have that inner selfishness Carla - some more than others. If nobody challenges us on it and we are allowed to take the easy route and ignore others in our lives, there are consequences - having nothing to say at your father's funeral is a consequence.

      Delete
  5. Love and light your way...you have done a lot of processing already... losing a parent is a milestone along life...such a sad one. xo
    Carol

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think that's a big part of it Carol - one of the milestones to becoming the older generation. I've had plenty of time to think about it but that doesn't fix things and that's a bit sad in itself.

      Delete
  6. My father was a stoic Irishman who wasn't very demonstrative with hugs and close father/daughter talks. I did search and find pictures that showed me a loving, caring and supportive dad. It helped when he was gone. While reading your beautiful post of loss I thought of this quote, Leanne. "Be the person you needed when you were younger." —Ayesha A. Siddiqi <3
    https://meinthemiddlewrites.com/

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's a lovely quote Mary Lou and something I've tried to be for my kids - maybe I don't always get it right, but I'd like to think they will have some happy memories when it's my turn to leave this world x

      Delete
    2. Yes Mary Lou I think that is what we can take away from a less then ideal childhood. Be the person you need. Great quote.

      Delete
  7. Loosing your Father to dementia and then the rest of him, my thoughts are with you. I too do not accept the generalization excuse of bad parenting from Fathers or Mothers.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Exactly Haralee - it's an excuse and it's sad for so many of us who had non-present parents...

      Delete
  8. I am so sorry for your loss...on both fronts. I don't know about it being a generational thing but the feels or lack of, that we got from our Dad's shaped us into the parents we want to be. After my father died I remembered feeling that sense of loss but more because I was holding out hope he would someday transform into the father I needed him to be. I don't know if we really greave the loss of the person or this hope.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You are so right Melissa - I think that's what I feel the loss of the most - the hope that he would realize what he'd missed out on and make it up to us in time and contact. But that's life in all it's imperfection I guess.

      Delete
  9. Leanne - thanks for sharing your honest feelings about the passing of your father. From reading the comments, it looks like many have experienced the same thing. I grieve for you for what you didn't get from your dad. I look forward to reading your reflections on parenting in light of what you have experienced. Hugs.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks so much Cathy - I guess it makes saying goodbye easier but that is small consolation at times. I truly hope I have done a better job with our kids.

      Delete
  10. I am so sorry for your loss, Leanne -- both the physical and the emotional. I hope you are able to be strong.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you Lois - I think the funeral will be the hardest part, but that's part of closing the book isn't it?

      Delete
  11. This hits home for me. My relationship with my father was lacking as well. When he died I felt relief- how's that for honesty? RELEIF. A release from the drama, the lies, the turmoil. I've settled into the belief (fact) that some people are just not good at parenting and I don't take it personally. Let's give each other a big virtual [[hug]]. This too shall pass.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Cheryl you make me feel so much better because underneath it all I think Relief is probably a fairly dominant feeling. I don't want to feel that way, but it is what it is. Thanks so much for making it easier to accept and I'll take that virtual hug x

      Delete
  12. I am so sorry for your loss, both now and a few years ago.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Rena - I'm so glad that your experience with a parent with dementia is so much better than mine was.

      Delete
  13. Wow. I am so sorry. I lost my dad when I was 25 years old, and he was the sun to me. I think about him every day. I think it is so healthy that you can acknowledge your true feelings. My mom and I had a difficult relationship, so I can relate.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'd love to have had a dad that was the sun to me Tam - I bet he was a huge influence in making you the adventurous woman you are today :)

      Delete
  14. What a beautiful post, Leanne. I am sorry for your loss, but I am even more sorry that you didn't get what you deserved from your father. You are an extraordinary woman for breaking that cycle and bringing your best to your own parenting endeavors.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh Rica what a lovely thing to say - thank you so much for making me feel better about myself. I think one of my biggest concerns is not continuing the cycle of absent parenting.

      Delete
  15. I'm sorry for your loss, Leanne. You write so honestly. It must give you comfort to know you have broken the pattern of neglect by being a loving parent to your children.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It certainly helps Helene - it would have been lovely to have a role model though.

      Delete
  16. I pray I'm leaving a positive legacy for my sons and husband. I completely relate to your post. I love my father from a distance.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think it's a parent's deep prayer to be all of that for our children - and even more so when we never got to experience it for ourselves Glenda.

      Delete
  17. Sending you lots of love. You grieved his loss years ago. Thank you for sharing. My dad and I had a very difficult relationship so I totally understand.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Stephanie - it's sad that there are so many of us who grieve a father figure we never had. I am amazed at how well we've all managed despite that!

      Delete
  18. I am sending you my sincere sympathies for your loss. Sometimes when our parents pass away, we find ourselves mourning the loss of the parent we wished we had in addition to the one we lost. Luckily, many of us have been able to rise above those deficiencies that were painful to us as children and have not repeated them with our own children. Sending healing hugs...........

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Ellen and that is exactly what I'm mourning - the father/daughter relationship that was never there and can never be there now. It is comforting to think that (hopefully) we've done better for our own children.

      Delete
  19. Hi Leanne I'm sending you love and a big hug not just because of the recent loss of your Father but also for the years of not having that close relationship which others have with their fathers. At least you have made sure that you have given your children the important things in life of love and caring and knowing that they have a special relationship with you. Lovely post and don't feel guilty about not having anything to say. Sometimes we feel we have to but why be hypocritical - if the feelings or memories aren't there you can't put those on to convince others. xx

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sue that is just how I feel - generating an untrue story just to have something to say at the funeral would not honour who I am as a person and I don't want to perpetuate a lie. It is what it is, he will have a good eulogy because he did enough in his life to warrant one - parenthood was just not one of his strong points.

      Delete
  20. I'm so sorry for your loss d even sorrier that he was never a good father to you. <>

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. that was supposed to say "hugs"

      Delete
    2. Thanks so much Marcia and for the hugs too x

      Delete
  21. I'm sorry for your loss Leanne. Revel in the fact that your relationship with your children is different. Often people parent like they were parented, so by not doing so you have broken the cycle. Much love xxx

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I truly hope the cycle is broken Suzi - I would hate for my children to look at our relationship and have so little to hold on to. I hope they have a wealth of love and memories by the time I go!

      Delete
  22. I'm so sorry Leanne, and for your loss. You sound as if you learned what was important in parenting early on, and was able to find what you needed deep inside to share yourself with your children. Your dad missed out on that and that is sad, but you made a different decision. xo
    Estelle

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Estelle - I hope my kids see it that way too :) I do feel sad for what dad never knew he missed out on though.

      Delete
  23. So sorry for your loss Leanne. It's never easy no matter what your relationship was like and it's often hard to put it into words in front of others.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It would have been nice to do a post on how close we were and all our special moments Rebecca, but it is what it is and I learned some excellent lessons in how not to parent from him!

      Delete
  24. This must be so hard for you, Leanne. I admire your authenticity and the fact that you didn't decide to put on a show.
    Hugs! Stay you!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Corinee - I've moved on from the days of putting on a mask and pretending. It was his choice and it is a pretty succinct summary of my relationship with him.

      Delete
  25. Leanne, I have similar feelings regarding my mother. I deeply feel for you. It's not easy. Wishing you could find something, anything to say, to feel. Sending hugs from Idaho. I'm very sorry..

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks so much - it's comforting to know that I wasn't the only one with such a poor parent/child role model but it is sad for all of us who missed out. x

      Delete
  26. I am so sorry for your loss. Your post was so raw and heartfelt. Truly, feeling nothing is almost worse and scarier than feeling sad. I too hope that our children have a very different view of the contributions we made in their lives and the love that we shared with them. Thank you for sharing your feelings and thoughts during what must be an incredibly difficult time for you.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I really want to feel something Rosie but it's just not there. I guess it makes saying goodbye easier, but I'd love to have heartfelt memories to keep - but it's not to be.

      Delete
  27. I'm sorry for your loss, though with dementia I guess you lost your dad a long time ago. My F-I-L was like that I think - a man of that age, and also from a European cultural background. My hubby is a fabulous father, very different to what he experienced from what I can see!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I love that we chose men who actually understood what it is to be good fathers and involved in their children's lives. We did well didn't we? :)

      Delete
  28. I'm sorry for your loss, Leanne - but I'm sorrier still that you didn't have the relationship you wanted with your dad, and that your memories are painful in many ways. It's okay to feel little or nothing. We all grieve in different ways, based on how we experience life with the person we've lost. In sharing this you've paid some tribute, and found a way to get your words out there. Sending hugs your way.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks so much Andrea - I felt it was an honest response to his death - no glowing fb tribute because that would have been completely inauthentic, but also not a trashing of him either. He was who he was and it was really his loss in the long run and that's really sad too.

      Delete

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...