Why I Really Don’t Miss Daddy So Much
Copyrighted by Lorna Tedder. Originally published in Third Degree and Rising.
It’s weird how I sometimes forget that Daddy’s dead. I don’t miss him. I really don’t.
Some people, judgmental ones who don’t really know the situation and some who do but are judgmental stone-throwing bitches anyway, would probably say not missing him makes me a bad daughter. I think it speaks more for the relationship we had.
We weren’t close. Not since I was 9 years old and he suddenly realized I was heading for puberty and he seemed to withdraw his affection. I have no idea what the real reason was, just that I remember the exact moment when I was no longer Daddy’s Little Girl and how rejected that made me feel, like it was my fault for things I didn’t understand. I remember him dowsing me in shame for growing up. Maybe that makes sense why, in the days before he died, he was still making excuses for the relative who molested me when I was in middle school and blaming me for not stopping the man.
Over the years, I tried many times to do things to build a relationship, gave up many times, tried some more, and then in the end gave up to preserve my own sanity. Some stories just don’t have a happy ending where trying enough times or trying hard enough will give you the victory you want.
I wasn’t the rebellious teen daughter no one could talk to. My mom and I were very close during my teen years. My dad clammed up, emotionally unavailable and shut off to the rest of us, still pining away for the maternal love he never received from a woman who could be just as emotionally unavailable to certain people as he could be. Then again, I don’t think he ever had a clue how a loving relationship between parent and child might look, and if he knew how to respond when one of us reached out to him, he never showed it.
I know he loved me, but knowing it wasn’t enough. Actions would have been good. Words would have been great. Even once, just once, when it wasn’t done as a manipulation tactic.
I don’t recall the last time he yelled at me for no reason—Gods, breathing was plenty enough—but I do remember the day I walked out of his hospital room after his heart attack years ago. That was when my ex said something to the effect of, “You can’t kill him—you’ve spent all this time trying to save him.”
It had been touch and go in the Cardiac Care Intensive Care Unit and they’d rather quickly moved him to a hospital room he wasn’t ready for and he was soon in regular ICU with the nurses there assuming he’d die that night. I noted while there that the highly revered CC-ICU had a great success rate but many of their heart patients tended to die a week later in the regular ICU. He couldn’t be left alone in his hospital room because he would pull out his tubes and was too likely to fall out of his bed if someone wasn’t there 24/7 with him and close enough to reach him the second his hands when for the wires and tubes. I spent one of those first nights sitting in the chair beside him, rubbing his tube-infested arm and singing softly to him for hours to soothe him just as I used to do with my babies when they were tiny and fretful. He was too out-of-it to remember I’d ever been there.
After several weeks of that rollercoaster ride, the docs couldn’t get him to cooperate on anything and his health was not improving. He’d insist on ice cream and refuse to eat anything else, slowly starving himself. We’d beg, we’d plead. He’d fake a fall (a long-term pattern) all because he was mad that my mom went home for a change of clothes after sleeping for days in a straight chair by his bed. He kept us all on a very short leash, as close to his bedside as possible and he was the center of attention every minute. And with a ready dose of guilt if we said the wrong thing or didn’t move quickly enough or had to go home to our jobs or kids.
The docs had asked to us do whatever we could to encourage his mobility and dexterity or he wasn’t going to make it. And I did do what I could. I tried to be emotionally supportive when I was already at my wit’s end, but he lashed out at me, tore into me in front of the family, staff, anyone down the hall with ears. No worse, by far, than most other tongue-lashings but one that happened when I was the most…raw…the most fragile…under huge stress for not being at my job and not being with my kids and trying to make things easier for my mom and being supportive of him. It was my breaking point.
The only thing that kept me from completely falling apart before I could find a quiet place alone to bang my head against the wall was that my oldest brother was there at the time and I thought, bless him, that he was going to pounce onto Daddy’s hospital bed and literally jump down Daddy’s throat. I will never forget my big brother reprimanding our father for the way he’d spoken to me.
That was seven years ago.
In the five months since Daddy died, cleaning up his old messes has been a massive undertaking. He left behind quite a legacy. There’s also the legacy of discovering how many people in town are kind and wonderful to my mom—there are many!—and how many my parents did business with over the years who cheated them routinely because of my parents’ blind trust in anyone who wasn’t one of their three children. We’re still finding things like overcharges for lawn mower repair for things never even unscrewed, let alone replaced. Or how underinsured the farm was at much higher premiums than if they had ever bothered to shop around for insurance or anything else rather than blindly trusting 1. people they knew from church and 2. relatives who weren’t their children. But it’s coming together at last and my mom is getting into a good place, if she’d only remember she doesn’t have to work so hard anymore.
It’s strange that while I don’t really miss Daddy, I still occasionally hear him. It’s usually a snippet on the wind. A negative comment or a sneer. He doesn’t do it very often though. For all those times he accused me of never listening, now he’s right.