The time spent with my father went so fast. He arrived last Thursday, and went back to NJ this morning. I took vacation days for the whole time he was here, which was a first for me. Normally I’d go in a day or two while someone is visiting from out of town, but this time I truly wanted a vacation. I’m really glad I did it, too.
I really like my parents. I mean, I love them very, very much. But I like who they are, too. This is important. I think that both of my parents are good people at heart, even if they are both very different. My mother is sincere, hard-working, completely caring and loving. My father is a thinker, honest, self-aware and snarky. I feel like I was dealt a lovely hand in getting these two people for parents. I know a lot of people aren’t as fortunate, or have issues with their parents, or don’t like their parents. My family is small and fractured (the divorce did that) but it’s strong. I know how I stand with my sister, my mom and my dad at all times. I love them, like to talk with them, and now I have learned to savor each and every moment I have with them.
I’ve been thinking a lot about time the past few days. I don’t like seeing my parents getting older. It scares me. I worry about them both, and want them both to be as happy as they can be. I want this so very much. I want this more than pretty much anything, really. If I had to choose between publishing my book and seeing that both my parents were thoroughly enjoying their lives in health and happiness, I’d choose my parents. I do wish they hadn’t split up, like pretty much every child of a divorced family. But what happened, happened. And the people my mom and dad became in the aftermath are very complex.
My mother has health issues. Most of these stem from the aneurysm and its lingering side effects on her personality and sense of self-preservation. My father has guilt issues. He’s also conflicted and unhappy about where he is in life at the moment. While he was here, he talked a lot about things he wished he’d done differently in his life, going back to his teen years. He gave my sister and I advice, and expressed an intense desire to see us become “empowered” women as we age. Most of all, he thinks about moving to Arizona within the next few years, when he ‘retires’ (he says he doesn’t plan to ever stop working altogether; but he does plan to collect social security). His wife, however, does not want to move here. She is being a little selfish, if you ask me. She doesn’t like the heat, and wants to be near her children. Well, that’s all valid stuff, but seriously: she could try to work on considering the Arizona option since it is so deeply important to her husband. My dad has given her everything she would have wanted, I think. They have a house that is entirely HER style, with her stuff everywhere. You wouldn’t even guess a man lives in that house, what with all the pink and flowers and knick-knacks. She’s getting to work a retail job while he is working very hard in a little machine shop with no heating or A/C six days a week. (She doesn’t want to go back to an office job, since she hates ‘working for women.’ So instead, she’s working at a home improvement store, when she could be earning a little more money to contribute to their household. My Dad didn’t draw this conclusion; I did.) He’s in his mid sixties now and he’s still spending entire days on his feet, lifting heavy engine blocks and doing the kind of labor most people never even attempt in their lives. I worry for him. I want him to be able to retire happily and find peace with himself. I think he has worked hard enough all these years (and suffered consequences of his actions), so he should be able to retire where he wants.
He just loves it out here. Of course, he wants to be near my sister and I, but he also likes the state of Arizona so much. He is attracted to the lower cost of living here, lower taxes, great climate for three seasons of the year, the little towns in the mountains and the friendliness of the people here. While he was here, he talked about how much he wanted to stay. He wanted us to drive him through mobile home communities, and checked out various parts of town to see where he would most prefer to live. He’s dreaming. He’s hopeful and wistful.
And seeing that hopefulness was kind of heartbreaking, to tell you the truth. I could see how badly he wants this, every day, in his eyes. I saw his mind turning all the possibilities over and over as we talked or did anything. I saw his eyes light up when we pulled into one particular mobile home park that I think he fell in love with. And I saw him watching my sister and I as we talked and laughed… the way he smiled to himself when he saw both of our houses… how he asked to take Hurley for a walk yesterday, calling him “baby”… and I saw a man who really loves his children, and is proud of the way we turned out as adults. It’s touching to know he feels this way. It enhances my understanding of my father as a man. A man who is aging, and is feeling contemplative and serious about his future all at the same time. He gets emotional, but like any Real Man(tm), he tries to downplay it or even hide it. I love him for his honest emotions.
I am lucky enough to live near my Mom, and I see her a lot and talk to her almost every day. There’s nothing she doesn’t know and we talk about anything and everything. I give her a hard time with certain things because I care. I got to this point because I’ve had the luxury of proximity all these years. I spent–and spend– lots of time with her, and I feel like I do know who she is, for the most part. I wish she was more outgoing and motivated, like she was when I was growing up, and I still hold out hope that my sister and I will figure out how to coax that lovely woman out of hibernation, somehow. I ask a lot of her because of how deeply I love her. I don’t want to lose her. And, again, I really only want her to live the best life she can and to feel fulfilled, healthy and happy today and always.
I think that my dad’s visit was another step for me in learning more about who my father is, and who he will be one day. It’s amazing to gain this insight and strengthen the relationship we have as adults. In the time he was here, we made new memories and learned new things about one another, and appreciated being together. My sister and I were both so very sad yesterday when he left. We don’t feel like we have enough of him. We can’t help it– we want to have him near us as we all get older, more than we can say.
Maybe we are being selfish. I think my dad’s wife is selfish, but what if we are the selfish ones? Is it too much to ask, honestly? How realistic is it that he can move out here and have everyone wind up happy? I’m not really sure. I’m really trying to see both sides of this.
Today, things feel a little less sad than they did yesterday, when he left. It was a tough day, though. I cried hugging him goodbye before I went to work. Later, when I got home, I cried again because the house felt so empty and quiet without him there. I haven’t washed the sheets on his bed yet, so seeing that through the door of the guest room started me off all over again. I turn into a five year old, and say, “I miss you, Daddy” and bawl because I really don’t know when I will see him again.
I have a lot to do, and many things on my list this weekend. We’re having a Halloween party on the 30th so I need to get my decorations out and begin getting the house ready. I also need to finish making my costume, and consider making Hurley’s costume (we are going to a Howl-o-ween Party at the groomer on the 29th) besides cleaning up the backyard. All the storms and rain brought up a massive amount of crab grass and weeds through the gravel, so I have to get rid of it before it gets worse. I got a tip from my sister to try pouring straight bleach on weeds to kill them, so I’m going to try that on the ones I can’t dig out. I’ve also got to get a little lawnmower for my grass, which looks like it is finally ready to be cut for the first time. Also, we have Hurley’s class tomorrow morning and then the contractor comes to hang up my dining room chandelier. (My Dad couldn’t do it because my ladder isn’t tall enough; it’s cheaper to hire this guy than to buy a ladder.) All of this stuff will help keep me busy and hopefully not too caught up in being contemplative and brooding.
Oh, I should give a quick rund0wn of what we did while Dad was here! we went to Payson, and rented a cabin for the night in Pine. We brought Hurley and he was very well behaved up there! The skies were gorgeous at night, with more stars than you could ever see anyplace else, I think. And it got cold at night! We wore sweatshirts and lit the fireplace. We also drove out to the Mongollan Rim and admired that awesome view before we drove back to Mesa.
The rest of the time, we stayed in town, and did a variety of little things here and there. Dad wanted to help us at our houses, so he and I got a lot of stuff at Lowe’s and set to work all day Sunday. We sawed apart the fallen tree branches and broke it all down to be hauled away in the trash. This was actually a bigger job than we expected, since the branches really were larger than they first appeared. After that, Dad hung my mirror in the hall bath as well as the little medicine cabinet that’s been sitting on the floor in there for months now. He also hung a hose-hanger out back, and set up my hose in the reel-box/hideaway thing in the front.
At my sister’s house, he changed out two light fixtures and cleaned out the gas grill she and BIL got from a relative for free.
We drove all around town, ate in several good restaurants, had a dinner with BIL’s parents, and visited the shooting range. He wants to buy me a gun, and I really am considering getting one now. Before this, I was almost phobic about not wanting to be near a real gun. I loved firing my BB guns when I was in school; Dad had bought a haystack and some paper targets, and I would spend hours in the backyard target shooting with the rifle. It was a lot of fun back then. Maybe, just maybe, firing a real gun could be fun, too. I just need to learn how to do it.
This could be me! (If I went back in time, of course. And wore overalls.)