Four years ago I wrote about the relationship I had with my father. Today's would have been my father's 85th birthday and so I dug back in my blog archives to read it. I've done that each year since I wrote it.
In that post I wrote that I don't think of my father each day. At the time it was true. At least I believed it was true. Maybe it was only my perception at the time because now I pay attention to it more and I find that while I likely don't think of him each and every day I probably think of him most days. We'll call it 28 out of 31 days.
As I grow older I look back on the relationship I had with my dad and I find more regret creeping into the mix of feelings it brings. By nature I'm not one who dwells on regrets forever. Oh I regret plenty but I also am the sort who thinks that I can't change it now so why keep stewing over it? I've also found that over the years the regret I feel has changed. It used to be regret over not having the sort of relationship with him that I wanted. That all daughters deserve. I regretted that my dad and I weren't close. That I felt that he was disappointed in me. That I did things that disappointed him. That sort of regret would soon morph into me being angry with him. Anger that some of his disappointment in me was something he could have fixed if he'd just bothered to do it. He was the adult. He had more control that I did. If he was so worried about my grades or my lack of focus or my inability to reach goals then he sure could have stepped up and lent a little guidance. But that sort of anger is like the regret I can't fix now because it's too late. Why lose my mind over something that can't be altered now?
Now the regret I feel when I think about my dad is regret over my not taking advantage of the time I had with him. So many questions I wish I could have the answers to now. I regret not asking him more about his childhood. My dad lost his mother when he was six years old. What sort of effect does that have on a kid from rural Mississippi? Why didn't I ask him about his school years? Ask him about his extended family? I found out recently that his maternal grandmother didn't die until sometime in the 1950s when she was extremely old. There must have been stories about her my dad could have told me. Why didn't I ask him more about the 22 years he spent in the Navy? I know he had some adventures I would have loved to have heard.
Well I know why I didn't ask him these things. Because I was too shy to ask. Because I never felt close enough to my dad to feel as though asking him to tell me stories was an okay thing to do. I hate that feeling. I hate that he never felt close enough to me to volunteer to tell me about his life. I had 30 years with my dad and sometimes it feels as though he is some mysterious figure. If I wasn't there to witness it myself - if it didn't happen in my lifetime - then it's lost to me for good.
But I can't fix that now. And eventually I believe I'll be able to think back on my dad without so much regret. I've put away most of my anger and I'm making place for the regret.