So you read my work...
There are occasions when I feel that my father’s family and friends, or as I like to call them The Horde of Tactless Automatons, can sense that I am experiencing various forms of distress. They can go for years without attempting to contact me, but the moment I am in pain their fingertips start to itch. But first, some much-needed scene setting and exposition.
On this occasion, I was trying to navigate my way out of a three-month depressive episode that was the result of arguments I had between close loved ones, tapering off of one anti-depressant and starting another, and the realization that I hadn’t seen much of the world in my thirty-something years of just retracing my steps across one time zone. Also, I was simultaneously experiencing financial distress because my house decided to become a real-life horror attraction.
It started as a simple repair job to fix an outside outlet, and it escalated to my entire house being rewired. The electricians were shocked that my husband and I had not been killed by either an electrical fire or just plain old electrocuted in our pool. It turns out the previous owners were in such a rush to flip the house for a quick sale that they invested in making all the wiring, the breaker box, and the pool pump just look like it was up to code, instead of taking the time to ensure the next owners wouldn’t be hauled off in body bags. In order not to cry in public, I kept making the joke that we were living in The Amityville Horror residence and the house was out to kill us. I made it a point to add in jokes about blood on the walls and a two-pack a day smoker’s voice that yelled: “Get Out!” This was one of the first times that I could remember not being depressed about my father’s suicide or his uncouth family, but the moment that 9,000 dollar bill arrived so did a very salty text.
It began with the usual poorly worded, sentimental diarrhea that boiled down to that they, “missed me and loved me.” Mind you, I take these platitudes at face value because these are the same people that started fighting over his money, while his body was just starting to get cold. Besides, they merrily stole, lied, and slandered their way through the following painful months of grieving and litigation over his money and assets. They pretty much made my journey through the seven stages of grief feel more like fourteen. Then, came the self-serving, backhanded compliment that made me so upset I started to have red, spotty cheetah vision.
They claimed to have read my work, liked it, but I should forgive my father and remember that both him and them by proxy, loved me. First, it is never a good thing when somebody delivers a criticism of years’ worth of multiple essays and poems that starts with them claiming to have read your “work.” That last word is such a nonspecific and vague way to encapsulate all the time I spent learning and developing my skills in both the poetry and creative nonfiction literary arenas. These were genres I didn’t even consider getting my MFA in for crying out cornflakes! Second, if they had “read my work,” as they claimed to, they would know that there are many pieces where I express my sadness over the ordeal and address things that I miss about him.
However, I would be lying if I said my work only involved those two sentiments. Yes, I am angry with him! And I am allowed to feel this way because, and this is the key issue here, HE WAS MY FATHER. And every therapist I have ever seen agrees that my relationship with him was and always will be, upon reflection, different than any other person’s ties to him. And no, I am not saying my relationship with him takes priority. So not salty texts about that PLEASE, in case any of them are reading my “work” again. And look, I even made it a point to bold and underline the previous two sentences, just in case any of them are speed-reading to only find points that piss them off, which I feel is exactly what happened.
Besides, it is not just the end of his life that my pieces are helping me therapeutically workout. I address his past and try to look for information to help me solve the complicated equation that was him or at least try to. I address the disheartening fact that my father couldn’t keep his lies straight, was ashamed of his father’s mental illness and thus refused to seek continuous treatment for his, and was not as emotionally and physically present for me, as he should have been, through my early childhood developmental stages. Also, yeah, I am upset that he had long term infidelity issues because to this day, whether his family and friends, believe it or not, my mother still tells me that she will always love him and continues to list his positive qualities.
Basically, I am having an artistic conversation with him from beyond the grave, which is my right. Also, I am letting the world listen in, just in case they are experiencing similar circumstances. That way, if anyone is going through anything remotely similar in their lives, they can feel that they are not alone. I would like to think my father would have no problem being a part of something that noble and comforting.