Wednesday, July 14, 2010

My Father 1942 to 1984

[This blog post is a few days late from its originally scheduled day. One, I wanted to wait to the last possible minute to write it. Two, I chose to have my head explode in a shower of migraine glitter.]

Everything I am about to say needs to be taken with a large grain of salt. Up until last year, I actually thought that I had a firm grip on who and what my father was like. Last year, one of my relatives pointed out that I had no clue what he was really like…and so it goes. I can only remember him from my point of view, and memory is plastic.

I should have caught onto the fact that I did not remember him correctly years earlier when I was talking to one of my other relatives, and I accidently mentioned him. The response I got was "Don't mention that bastard to me." After that, I noticed that a lot of my memories of events were not the same as those of my immediate family.

Because of the ragged state of my memories, I have to presume that they are right and that their memories of my father are true and mine are false. Unfortunately, as I noted already, I can only remember him from my perspective which makes things a tad sticky. One of the biggest changes in my worldview that I had to make given the falsity of my memories is to accept the fact that the man would absolutely despise me.

When I started college, I presumed that he would have looked favorably on this maneuver. I seem to remember him buying me lots of books as a kid, and encouraging me in my studies. Unfortunately, the truth as the rest of the family tells it is that my father thought that reading was an utter waste of time. Given how much of my time is spent in the stacks, the ghost of the man must positively loathe my existence.

Now, I will admit that I have done things that would anger him. For instance, I have never kept a single promise to the man. I made three promises to him in my lifetime, and recently I broke the very last one. First, I resumed working with computers. Second, I have no children. And third, I am no longer dealing with my immediate family.

I have good reasons for each betrayal, but it does not matter. The only thing that matters is that I did not keep my word. The last betrayal was especially painful. At a certain point in time, when one has a memory problem such as mine, one has a choice: they can either live a lie, or they can walk away from those whose memories do not match their own. Living a lie is a form of insanity, as is walking away.

The reason that I have been thinking about this lately is that the other day was the anniversary of his death. And the fact that I decided to break that last promise recently.

The amusing part is that the person who made the promises to my father was not me. That person was a different man if my relatives' memories are true; he is not me, for my experiences are different than his were. Many of my recent flare-ups are a direct result of my reactions not being the same as his. Tactics that would have stopped him dead in his tracks merely annoyed me.

The breaking of this last promise was going to happen sooner or later. It was either break the promise, or assume the role that my familial memories had chosen for me. Every time, I realized that my memories did not match theirs, the rift between me and my immediate family grew larger. Honestly, I did not have the strength to live the life of a failed criminal flipping burgers for the rest of his life, friendless and loveless (not that I have served a day of jail time in my entire life, and that is public record).

And my failure to be able to live that doomed existence is what makes his ghost howl at me, and my immediate family hate me. Maybe the person that experienced what they claim happened, who knew my father as he truly was, is capable of living in that family and in that direly existence.

But I am not that man, for my memories are different. Memory is plastic and I can remember him only from my point of view, as wrong as that might be. My father therefore is not the same man that my siblings knew, and that is a type of insanity on an universal scale.

1 comment:

Norma said...

Good for you. Good for you.

This post makes me want to applaud.

You had to choose between betraying him and betraying yourself, and you chose correctly.