One glaring detail- that I would be alone in the house for five days until my mother and sister returned- somehow escaped him.
Again, I was twelve. There was no one in the house when he left but myself. Of course, being twelve- and not understanding the intricacies of marriage and relationships- I thought it was my fault. I didn't tell a soul about this until my 20's- when I finally confided in my sister.
Can anyone say, abandonment issues? Yes, I've got them.
My sister got the brunt of my father's wrath when he was living with us. She was a teenager. He was strict. I didn't get any of that. I was too young to cause any real problems. We were buddies. We played video games. We joked. We cooked. It was all around great. Until he left.
Which made it so much harder for me to swallow. My father leaving was the first, biggest, and worst betrayal of my life. And- as much as I hate to admit it- I never got over it. And I damn sure never forgave him for it.
I began hating my father then. I cultivated this hate for decades. I mastered it, actually. When he finally died, in 2008, the story I believed about this man was so burned into my brain- I hardly shed a tear when I saw him on his deathbed.
History is tricky. So is the human brain. You make your own history- and what you believe to be true, really becomes true- whether or not there is a speck of truth to it at all. My father wasn't the monster I had made him out to be all of those years. He was a human being- with flaws. I only wish I would have realized that a little earlier.
My father was a widower when he met my mother in the Sixties. His first wife died under tragic circumstances- an annuerism or something. He was in his thirties, with three young children to care for. Naturally, he needed a Nanny. That is where my mother came in. A young, gorgeous Greek immigrant became his first Nanny. Then she became his wife. For damn near thirty years.
My sister and I were the children that came from that union. We were never fully accepted into his family. My grandmother's house- riddled with pictures of all of her grandchildren- was clear of any indication that we even existed. I always felt like an outcast. Even on the day of my father's funeral, there wasn't a front row seat for me. Literally. There wasn't. I sat behind the row of upholstered leather, high-backed chairs, in a folding one. Pretty fitting, I guess.
But whatever. None of that matters. What matters is that my father made mistakes. As people are wont to do. And he didn't do a good job of apologizing for those mistakes. He much preferred the Italian way, of guilting you into submission. This tactic did not work for me. We would butt heads until the day he died. I'm pretty sure looking into my face reminded him of all the mistakes he made. My brother is convinced that he loved me most of all. Now, I can actually believe that.
The day of his funeral I saw him laying lifeless in that coffin. I walked up to him. Touched his face. It felt like pottery. He was so small, so meek, so not the intimidating character that I knew him to be. I thought about the last time I dodged one of his phone calls. It was a Friday night. I was working at the bar. There was a lull in business- I definitely could have answered it and spoken to him for a minute. But I didn't. I remember thinking, "Ugh. My dad." I didn't know that he would have the catastrophic stroke that would render him unable to form a coherent word- ever again- the very next day. I didn't know that was the last time that I would be able to hear my father's voice.
I didn't know.
That's the thing about life. You kinda always have to do your best- because you never know when shit like that is going to happen. I didn't do my best that day. Unfortunately, that will follow me until the day I die.
As luck would have it- I birthed the second coming of my father. Lucien has the same skin tone, the same hairline, and the same furrowed brow. With his long legs, and baby belly, he even has my father's stance. Sometimes, I see him smiling at something in the distance. He's definitely looking at something that isn't visible to me. I picture my father, standing above me, making Lucien laugh- the way that only he could. I picture Lucien, getting the joke, the way that I did when I was a child.
I'm realizing now that these words I'm writing don't even make any sense. I guess the only point I'm making is- don't hold on to anger and grudges. That old adage that says, Don't let the sun go down while you are still angry, would have done me a world of good, if I would have payed it any mind. There are some things in life, that don't have a do-over.
On what would have been your 78th birthday, I'd like to say "I'm sorry, Dad." I'm sorry I'm human. I'm sorry you were, too. I'm sorry I couldn't figure this all out while you were still alive. And in the future, when you come to Lucien, could it be around four o'clock? He gets grumpy then- and whatever you are doing to make him smile, works.