My Father’s Funeral

father_funeral
Royalty Free

My father’s funeral was hard. It wasn’t because he’d died. It was because I had to endure sixty minutes’ worth of stories that didn’t resemble my own sporadic, dysfunctional experience with him.

I sat there. My youngest daughter draped in a black kimono to my right. My husband dressed in a black suit to my left. My oldest daughter donning a black dress to his left several inches away at the other end of the pew. My stepmother and her daughters sat across the aisle, on the first right pew, catacorner from us. My dad lie in state in front of everyone, his body shriveled from his final days of self-starvation. He wore blue. Later, he would be cremated.

His best friend, Michael had driven one hundred miles from Columbus to Atlanta. We’d talked earlier in the week and he’d already agreed to speak at the ceremony because as he put it, “They don’t know.” I didn’t know who “they” were and what “they” didn’t know, but it seemed that any best friend ought to have insight if his buddy died. I eagerly awaited his stories.

Michael began with his adoration of Daddy. Dudes looked up to him, Michael included. They all grew up in Cabrini Green, one of Chicago’s most famous projects. You know, from Good Times? Friends imitated Daddy’s walk, his talk and his motivation. Daddy had tried out for the Chicago Bears because he showed impeccable athletic skills. As the story is told, not many African Americans made it during that decade.

Michael was right. I didn’t know. I was a part of “they.”

“Tony didn’t curse. We didn’t curse,” Michael continued. And here’s where a lone tear stopped on top of my right cheek and rested there.

Perhaps Daddy didn’t curse in 1962. But by 1989? He did.

He cussed when he told me to “stop acting like such a bitch” to the girlfriend he’d started dating one short week after my mother’s burial. And as much time and space had passed between my sixteen year-old and 42 year-old self, I will never forget how confused and alone it felt to hear him utter those words.

Next up was my stepsister. She praised Daddy’s commitment to her and her two sisters.

“Dad was always giving us advice and,” she could barely get the words out without swallowing and choking on yesterday’s memories, “he was just such a good dad to me and my sisters, and we’re just gonna miss him.”

By this time, my tear ducts were dry.

Daddy was a great father figure and dad to her and her sisters. This was a fact. While he was being super-dad to them, he’d dropped his obligation towards me. That also was a fact. We were all adults when he and my stepmother married. I in my 20s and they in their 30s. But nothing was ever healed between us before he re-married and desired us to be one big happy, blended family. Pain lingered from the time he’d given up his parental rights. Its thick cloud followed me for two decades. And even though I’d semi-healed the situation, a knot of remembrance tightened as I sat and listened to how wonderfully he loved them. It hurt.

I want to tell you about everyone else’s words. But I can’t. I shifted to survival mode. Dwight’s fingers made small circles at the top of my back. My cousins spoke. I wanted to say something, but appropriate words wouldn’t surface. Folks didn’t have time for me to outline our relationship. It seemed useless to say that we’d re-connected the past three years, but only due to his throat cancer. Silence was best.

Someone sang “Goin’ up Yonder” strong enough to elicit a wail from my stepmother and cue gentle hugs from her daughters. My own emotions were wrapped up in that knot and buried at the pit of my stomach. The preacher didn’t know Daddy. They’d just moved to Atlanta a month prior. His demonstrative stance held little meaning. I’d bet money he’d given a similar eulogy at the previous homegoing from where he’d rushed in.

Eventually, it all ended. Everything. The knot began to loosen. My father’s funeral was the grand finale concluding our rollercoaster relationship. All of the memories, good or bad, sealed in the navy blue casket, later to be incinerated. Purged. The energy surrounding our relationship would no longer control me. It really was over this time.

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121 thoughts on “My Father’s Funeral

    1. Anna, I’m terribly sad to hear that you’re an incest survivor. Thanks for sharing that here Thank you also for the compliment. I’m currently working on a project that you’d might be interested in. If you don’t mind, I’ll send you the details if you provide me with your email.

      Liked by 2 people

    1. It happens girl. A lot of times people don’t understand our perspectives, luckily we have one another. We all have to be brave for each other. Just because they don’t want to hear our voice, doesn’t mean we silence it. Thanks so much for the lovely compliment.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Daal I empathise with you. I have seen this time and time again, when people have died how they are elevated to sainthood. Shocking and unbelievable!!! I am glad to see that I am not the ONLY one this has happened to,not because I’m a sadist, but because it would hurt too much to take this on board. At least there is a certain solidarity in knowing that you are not alone.

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      1. Indeed – it somehow validates it – makes me think I’m not just seeing it the wrong way.

        whenever 2 people connect, there’s a sort of push-pull that can emerge – to which I am not immune. ie if I’m with a friend, & she starts complaining about a 3rd person, depending on circumstance, I might feel compelled to see the 3rd person in a better light. its almost as if my friend’s anger relieves me of the need/desire to take up the same feeling. weird, yes, but I believe completely normal and frequent too. its like, ‘whoa! a) that’s what anger looks like & b) they’ve got it covered, so now I can be the saint here.’

        not easy being human… LOL

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      2. Daal, you.ve hit the nail on the head once again … not easy being human at all! LOL
        And yes, I get that about the third person thing.
        Where have you been girrllll? LOL Was it something I said??? Only kidding, I know you have other blogs to see, blogs to go to …x

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      3. so sorry – am overwhelmed by trying to keep up with social media – am doing my best to keep up with lots of people, build a following that might eventually be interested when I publish my novels. how the hell do people do it?! blogging & Facebook are as much as I can handle, & that’s not counting trying to actually write & then having a life…

        despite my whining, have not forgotten you, your wisdom, and your kind encouragement, dear Marie 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      4. No need for apologies dear Daal. As long as I’m still there in your consciousness, that’s ok with me.
        Yes!!!! So overwhelming to keep up with everyone. I have only a couple of hundred followers (only? That sounds so ungrateful doesn’t it?), but my point is that with the followers that I do have, I’m kept busy keeping up. Goodness knows how I would cope if I had thousands of followers. I would probably have to hire people to handle my correspondence (a bit like the Queen! lol).
        I’m sure we will be crossing paths many, many more times in the coming weeks/months/years ….:)x

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  1. Great post and I empathise completely! Relationships are and always will be a controversial topic. Its funny how one person’s annoying behaviour can be a thing of beauty to another – there’s just no explanation for it!

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    1. I’m always glad and sad when people can empathize with the post. I’ve begun to use relationships as a sort of meditation now. There’s so much to learn about life and grace, if you let it. I absolutely agree about how we perceive others. It’s like one person can LOVE the person I LOATHE lol. Thanks for reading and commenting.

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      1. So, So, So true!!! I agree entirely. It is sad and glad when this happens! My father who has been a complete monster for at least 90 per cent of his life is now deemed as an angel of light, and me (the victim, for want of a better description) is now the unforgiving person who has imagined all the awful things that he has done. Go figure! It’s good that we can empathise with each other , but oh so bad as well.

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      2. I so agree with you, KE. My father who has been an absolute monster for the best part of his life is now being seen as an angel of light and I am now the unforgiving person who has imagined all the awful monstrous behaviour of his and seen as being the one who upsets the apple cart and why am I being such a pain by bringing his behaviour to light. How has that happened??

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      3. I stopped trying after a while Marie. But I totally understand. For a while, I felt like I was a crazy person, as if I’d done something wrong. I’m here to tell you that you’ve done nothing wrong. It’s all a matter of perspective. However, I didn’t find peace, until I just let it go and stopped worrying about him or how other people perceived the situation.

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      4. Thank you Kathy. It’s so sad when a parent doesn’t “parent” you. It’s equally sad when a child has to not only parent him/herself but parent the parent too. We do feel as if we are somehow responsible and it does make us feel as if we are going crazy. I’m so glad I discovered you on Sunday – reading your post allowed me to see that I wasn’t the only one going through something like this and though I wouldn’t wish this on anyone, there’s a kind of solidarity in knowing that others have been through a similar experience and they live to tell the tale and can offer compassionate and loving advice on how to move on and forward. I’m working on letting go – it can be hard work, but I think it’s the only way. So good to know you have found peace.

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  2. This is very traumatic and sad, K.E. and would be emotionally damaging to any child or adolescent. I respectfully submit that at some point during the funeral, every family member thought specifically of you. Because although your Dad’s choices re his new family were presented as unimportant to you, everyone else has been aware of their great substance since you were a teenager. Kids are the biggest deal there is, even when people behave as if the opposite were true.You were his first born, natural daughter and you were supposed to feel a huge, deep loss because that’s what you suffered when he made his decision.
    IMHO, children almost never feel worse when the truth is expressed, but they do feel worse when it is covered up. They might not feel better, but they don’t feel worse. Yet, as in my own family as well as yours, that’s exactly what their job too often is.

    I’m glad you could let it go! But if you get that job assignment again, I hope you feel free to send it back.

    I’m sorry to be so chatty, Reading yr blog has been unexpectedly evocative for me today, and I felt that perhaps I might share something helpful – but if I’m way off, please don’t allow me to impose.or feel obliged to reply. It’s possible that I’m just babbling (:

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  3. This is very traumatic and sad, K.E. and would damage any developing human. I respectfully submit that at some point, today, every family member at the funeral thought of you. Exactly of you. You were the girl
    . Children almost never feel worse when the truth is expressed, but they do feel worse when it is covered up

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Wow. Such power and feeling. I can’t even begin to know how that must have felt. But I do know the strange feeling of hearing stories about someone that just do not resonate with you due to a totally different experience.

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  5. That must have been so hard for you, to keep inside your truth. Respect for not destroying the image they had of your father. Sorry for your loss, sorry for the loss of the opportunity to re-build a relationship with him.
    I tried, got rejected and let it go to a point. Indeed, there are days it still hurts. Somehow I think, i feel, it will never really stops hurting, since the little girl in me, at moments, still longs for her fantasy 😉

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    1. That was the main frustration Patty and I’m glad it shone through. My experience with him was so vastly different than theirs that I felt uncomfortable even saying one (harsh) word. It was a quiet time verbally; however, I did write quite a bit on this blog seven days leading to the funeral and then lessons learned that day. One day it will stop. The day it stopped for me is when I realized that I’m not that little girl any more. Like you, sometimes I long for a different reality, but I recognize when that feeling surfaces and I’m able to say, “Hey…live in the present.” Wishing you peace 😉

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      1. Remembering standing at the grave of my grandfather, watching my biological dad being a hypocrite…I do resonate with you.
        You’ve read my quote “Live in the now, with the wisdom of the past, with one eye on the future. A future that we all can make happier, more loving, more positive.”
        With people like you in this world, I’m sure I will find peace 😉

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      1. You are most welcome dear Patty. About the healing: I was really screwed up at one time and never thought that life could be any better. My small inner child was traumatised, but I can tell you that there is a lot of restoration and healing for me/her. There is hope. XxX

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      2. I think you interpret me wrong Ms Marie. I am fine and happy. However it’s only natural to sometimes wish things could be different and/or feel sad a bit, because it didn’t turned out the way you wished 😉
        Have a lovely week, XxX

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      3. Dear Patty, you can Just call me Marie.:) It looks as if I thought things with you were a lot worse, and I am pleased to know that I got that wrong!:) It’s good to know that you are fine and happy and I hope it stays that way for you.:) You have a lovely week too. XxX

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      4. Kathy, how long have you got?? hahahaha It was our mutual friend, the delightful Anna Waldherr of avoicereclaimed who left comments on your blog saying that she liked comments I have made. So that’s how the ‘resurrection’ came about.
        Interesting that you use that word, as at the moment, I feel as if I am going through a period of resurrection. It feels amazing … just in case you’re interested to know! LOL
        The downside of resurrection is that you start sending messages to people who have moved on and are feeling much better …lol

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      5. Aha! Resurrections are great and I’m glad to hear you’re in the middle of one. Usually that means there was a little reflection and renewal…let’s see how many more “r” words I can squeeze into this answer lol I’m always happy to listen to your resurrection stories 😉

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      6. On Reflection, I thought it was interesting that you used the word Resurrection. It seems like it is a time for Renewal and that is probably why this post has been ‘Resurrected’. I don’t believe in coincidences, things happen for a reason. Perhaps it is now the time to Revisit this post and Reflect on how Real it is for you now. How did I do with the “r” word? Yea I am so competitive, I know. LOL
        btw, can you see the irony of using the word ‘resurrection’ in connection with the word funeral? Mmmm….

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  6. I’m so sorry for your loss Kathy. Sending virtual hugs your way! It’s hard losing a parent especially if there were issues. As I was reading your story I remembered when my mother called to tell me my father died and I felt nothing. I did all the duties I felt obligated to do as the eldest child but after everything was done I cried but it was for not feeling because he was my father but I didn’t know him and really wasn’t all that crazy about him. Oddly enough most of the people who attended his funeral didn’t like him as well, it was an odd situation and I was so glad to get through it.

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  7. Such an open and heartfelt write. This, “Pain lingered from the time he’d given up his parental rights. Its thick cloud followed me for two decades.” I can relate. “The energy surrounding our relationship would no longer control me.” I thought so too, when I buried my father. But after twenty years of his burial, new (or perhaps old) information I didn’t know came up and threatened to undermine beautiful memories of my childhood. Thank you for this honest and profound post. Wish you peace, joy and love, Kathy.♥

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    1. First of all, I have missed you terribly Khaya!!! Glad you’re back. It always amazes me how similar these situations are. It’s like we (daughters) need a massive, non-commercialized healing process. I actually received some more information from an unexpected person a few months after this. It was the most bizarre event. At any rate, I do hope that you didn’t allow it to undermine your own memories. You’re welcome and thanks for reading and commenting. And WELCOME BACK!!!

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      1. Thank you, Kathy. It’s amazing how we just connect with others, and then transpires we have so much in common. Well, the information I was made privy to, still lingers (because of other stuff); it’s a long story. But the good in all that, it inspired me to write a whole novel (it’s still in editing process) in order to purge and re-write the story, the way I would have like it to end. See, advantages of being a writer, we can shape our worlds they way we want them to be. :-). Take care, it’s always good to read you…!

        Liked by 1 person

  8. Sorry for your loss Ms Kathy. If time can heal all wounds, it can certainly mend broken relationships and broken hearts. May God’s embrace and comfort be upon you as you come to terms of the meaning of his loss and the emptiness it may have had created in your heart.

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    1. Thanks Ben! I agree that time helps, and I would add taking a good hard look at oneself and working on things from the inside out also helps. Thanks for the kindness and positive energy.

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    1. Thanks Dr. D! I certainly appreciate those words. Rising above anything is so very challenging, but not so much when you realize the alternative is to remain stagnant and bitter, ya know? Thanks again for the kindness 🙂

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  9. Written with deep, raw, and open emotions. I felt that same year on my right cheek reading this. You brought me into your Dad’s funeral with you. My God we have a lot in common. My relationship sounds a bit like you and your Father’s. And for that I’m truly sorry. Thank you for opening yourself up like this to expose your feelings. XO

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    1. Thanks Lennon! And I knoooow, right? I noticed some similarities long ago when you posted something about your dad. I’ve actually added you to a list of writers I want to contribute to a future project…stay tuned. As always, thanks for reading and commenting luv! I appreciate it.

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      1. I didn’t even tell you I’m sorry for your loss. Sometimes I get in a hurry or someone comes up to my desk or I get a call. I am deeply sorry for your loss Sweetie. Hugs and would love to be apart of anything you’re involved with 💕

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      2. Oh Lennon! Thanks hun. It’s fine, really. I’ll be in touch next year sometime…I know it sounds a long way away, but I still have some Type A planner person in me lol…ttysoon

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  10. I am very sorry for your loss Kathy. As I was reading it seemed I could feel that knot. It’s good though that you also felt that the cycle came to an end. I think the more we try to suppress our true feelings, the more we ache. And it’s very hard when our own experience is very different from others’ experience – often we start to think that must be something wrong about us. But there isn’t… each one of us has a different human experience. This was yours and you accepted that. Time to let go. I wish you inner peace & a great weekend 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks so much Vanessa! I appreciate all of your kind words. You’ve nailed it. For a very long time, quite a few people acted as if I was nutz and all along, I knew I wasn’t. I’ve definitely let much of it go because you know you can’t live in the past. Thanks again for stopping by, reading and commenting.

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  11. I, too, felt your pain as I read this post about your dad’s funeral. It’s so palpable yet it’s a perspective that I haven’t heard–attending a funeral when the memories that you have are different then the memories other people have, yet I know it happens often. My mother was a completely different person to me than she was to my sister. And I’m sure going to her funeral would amplify that fact. So, what’s a person to do? Society expects us to attend the funeral of parents, which I suspect is why you went. We go, I suppose, to release and let go.

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    1. I went because I had spent a great deal of time (3-4 years) healing from the situation, so this was just the closure quite honestly. I also went cause…wait for it…I paid for it. And by this time I really was over most of the past, but listening to all the “stuff you’re supposed to say” at a funeral was unexpected for me. Luckily I had a cousin there who knew my truth cause she’d lived it with me. I’m happy you’ve read this cause I know your niche is memoir. Thanks for all the comments too 😊

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      1. Kathy, you paid for it?? I can’t help but see the irony in this in two ways: First you paid for the funeral of a man who’s parenting was not good. Secondly, you did in a sense ‘pay for it’ by sacrificing so much of your life wanting and needing to be fathered. My heart goes out to you, even though I have commented before, but I’m sure you won’t hold that against me.:)

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      2. Yes. Luckily, I have a husband who’s a little closer to sainthood than I lol and 😉 Plus, we’d thought to take out a secondary policy on him when we heard news of his cancer. I knew that he was in no financial position to have a “nice” funeral and didn’t want to have to deal with paying out of pocket or begging family for last minute requests. So also, luckily I’m still a bit Type A and a planner 😉

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      3. Kathy, your father is blessed to have had a daughter (and son-in-law) like you. I don’t know if (right now) I would be able to do what you did. It’s funny (not ha ha) but yours is the third incident of a daughter playing such a huge role in her father’s (who has not been the father they should’ve been) funeral, and what I have learned from this is that those women have such wisdom and a special quality that I would like to aspire to. I really admire that. It makes me want to be that way too.:))

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  12. So well written Kathy. I really felt your pain siting through the stories of the side of him you never knew. I too have a complicated relationship with my parents but somehow they have conveniently got no memory of 2 decades that are unspoken of except with superficial recollections that are benign but also kinda pointless to talk about.

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  13. My dad died when I was in high school, but he’d left us when I was 6. Which was ok with me as the police stopped coming to the house to referee the fights. I’ve forgiven him, can understand a lot knowing what I know about his growing up as a first generation poor kid in coal mining country. Still, Fathers Day is often surprisingly tough. Thanks for your honesty on this one.

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  14. Wow, this reminds me so much of my mother’s experience at her mother’s funeral – the people we met had nothing but wonderful things to say about my grandmother, but my mother kept asking me, “who is this woman they’re telling me about?” Her memories were of nothing but pain and anguish, the result of mental abuse and family dysfunction.

    One thinks they’re isolated in this experience … but there’s so many others. Thank you for sharing this.

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  15. Minus the abuse and stepfamily, I definitely relate. I felt a shift coming out of adolescence when I started to see him for who he really is…and I still haven’t shaken the distaste I have. In fact, I think it’s even stronger now. I think about his death often [he’ll be 71 next month], and I wonder how I’ll feel?

    It saddens me that our stories are not unique. So many fathers have failed their children in so many ways, yet they go on living happy lives, seemingly feeling guiltless. In my father’s case, it’s a stealthy combo or selfishness, dishonesty, pridefulness and immaturity. But you’d never know.

    I appreciate this piece. Thank you for sharing.

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    1. I had to re-read to see what abuse. Funny, but not. I never thought about his calling me a name as abuse, but I guess it is. I also think distaste is a good way to describe what it was. I agree that it’s sad that many daughters can relate to some abandonment or whatever emotion about their dads. I’m going to keep you in mind for my next project. Thanks for reading and commenting kelley kelley!

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      1. Emotional abuse is like that. We don’t recognize it as abuse until someone else points it out to us. Anytime someone rejects someone that they’re suppose to love and protect, that’s a form of emotional abuse.

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  16. A funeral of a parent is tough enough emotionally without all the trauma of your relationship with him. Your anger about the ‘other’ side to him mentioned by so many others is so palpable – I feel your pain, hurt. A whirlwind of emotions. I hope as the days, months pass you find peace and reconciliation within yourself.

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    1. Thanks Annika! I appreciate those words. I literally got through those feelings shortly after the funeral last year, but I’m glad I’m able to to convey those feelings, especially so others know they’re not alone and it’s not “weird.”

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  17. This was powerful writing about something we both share, our distant fathers who apparently knew how to pack a punch verbally which I do believe has more impact then physical punches or scraps I have had with another. I have thrown phones across the room from my father’s judgmental tones & inflections to his sharp, biting words towards me because I am too much like my mother (a Prince song is playing inside my head as I type this too. I loved Prince,but moving along)or a strong reminder of his failings with my mother since they divorced when I graduated high school. Your article ended with the purging which will if you allow be your blessing too, not because you didn’t love him and would have appreciated by far better then stinging words that were a real measure of how easily we were replaced with second comings I call them of their chance at another relationship. But for anybody this is for you the flame of forgiveness because that is basically all they were capable of as parents inclusive of mine who aptly moved on and made me feel like an evil person when I finally went to his house where he was living with his second wife. They pulled down the curtains, the blinds, she was peeking out from behind them and he answered the door after several knockings. It was as if they had to batten down the hatches when all I had wanted to do was see for myself if he was happy and ask why he couldn’t he have been more of a man and just told everybody instead of doing it this underhanded way. They treated me like the jealous wife, I wasn’t. I remember crying for days over that episode. it clearly left it’s mark. They made me feel like I was packing heat and I don’t like guns. Like I was a scene clearly written out of the Tombstone script, “You tell em I’m comin and hell is comin with me…” I can pack a mean, mean verbal hell when totally stirred up, but I was a young woman not up to that stage of growth, widsom and maturity and apparently they were not either with their reactions. As always, you are a beautiful woman and spirit inside and out. You are a powerful writer. Keep that passionate voice coming through that keyboard. My father did the same thing as yours, took in that wife, had another daughter by her, after the five he had with my mom and they had a by far much better life financially, security and stability wise. I called him the other day(I have to make the effort because he surely doesn’t) because at 81, he ain’t gonna change. That in & of itself was always my greatest sorrow in life and the fact that he left us girls behind in an unstable situation with my mother which is another story in and of itself. Sending you much love today. My peace too…ginger meeder

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    1. Hey Ginger! Where have you been luv? Thanks for these amazing words. There’s nothing I can say to make those experiences with your dad feel better. That, I know. So, I’ll just say I understand. I think daddies truly don’t understand the value they have, especially for daughters. For me, every subsequent relationship hinged on how I felt about my dad and how not close we were. BIG hugs to you and thanks for the read and kind words.

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  18. A powerful piece, KE. “They” will never know the person your Dad was with you. Laying it all to rest must be a sad relief. Brave of you to share so honestly, I’m sure many people have experienced the same mixed feelings.

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    1. Thanks Joan! That’s what I’ve had to come to terms with. Even my own family members have acted as if I’m just mean and need to get over something. Unfortunately, I’m sure many have. Thanks for the read and comment.

      Liked by 1 person

  19. I feel you on this one. my Dad and I were estranged from one another from the time that I was 13 until the time that he died (I was 47 when he died). I felt this huge sense of relief when he died.

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