Seven years ago tonight, my father died. My sister posted, on her Facebook page, about how much she missed him, and how he was her "hero" and "best friend." Later, on a post where I'd discussed my goddaughter's visit as wonderful because she was smiling so much, my sister commented on it, saying "She has gas." When there was a reply to that, my sister said that the comment was a "family joke."
I don't actually recall that joke. But then again, I don't recall a family much of the time.
I sometimes forget that for her, my father really was all those things. It's hard to reconcile. It was, in many ways, like we actually had two different families, and the one she had was so different than the one I had. She even has a habit, when she speaks to me, of referring to our parents as "her" parents.
"Well, you know my mom," she'll say to me. Or, "Well, it's just like my dad always said..." I long ago gave up trying to change it.
I don't think about my father much. That may reflect poorly on me. Most times November 30th runs around, there are a few moments here and there where I recall, and I take a moment to consider. This year, though, it was pretty much in my head from getting up to going to leaving work. I was really glad I'd had a lovely visit from my goddaughter and her mother. That was a lovely thing to remind me of smiles - I'll sound like a sap, but her smiles are so infectious.
I'm told most grow more fond of the dead. There's supposed to be a softening to the lens of the mind, but it isn't happening. My father and I had such a troubled relationship. Our personalities had quite a bit in common - both of us were quicker with words than consideration, and certainly could be stubbourn - but with opinions we were mostly opposed. The barest ground we could meet on - literature, management - wasn't really enough to cover the sheer acres of ground I didn't dare tread.
My sister speaks of how she'd still love just one more bear hug from her father, and it occurs to me that I can't recall ever having one. Mostly, I recall being terrified of being found out, feeling miserable knowing - from wake up to bed time - that there was something wrong with me, and worrying that at some point, what little connection we had was going to fall apart if he learned the truth about the awkward strange boy he'd fathered.
And I remember the vile things he yelled at me while reeling from Atavan in the hospital and holding him down in the bed while trying not to hear things that I can't forget. I recall watching the agonal rhythm play out until it ended, at nearly one in the morning, and how his eyes remained open the entire time.
It's not even that I feel bad about it all - it's that I feel bad about not feeling worse.
And then I take a breath, and change my mind. I think of my in-laws, and Nyx's parents, and my husband. I think how wonderful it is that I see so many children growing up surrounded by such wonderful parents. And I think that the important thing is that we learn. It's not what we've done - or haven't done - but what we will do and can do. It's not what happens to us, it's what we let it teach us.
So I hug my husband, and hold his hand, and kiss him, and figure that maybe there's a kid watching who wonders what will happen when his father finds out, and I think, this. This could happen to you. And you'll be so lucky.