We didn't talk for years.

He left town when I was 16, said he'd be back in a few months, came back late....just to say he was leaving again. And that time stayed gone.

I wrote. I tried. He didn't.

Then he did. But I wasn't ready. He'd hurt me, badly. What's to say he wouldn't do it again? Just like all of his girlfriends.

I let him know when I was ready. He was gone again.

Then he showed back up in my e-mail box. This was 3 years after he'd left. He wrote regularly. I started to feel like maybe this time it was real.

......It wasn't. He stopped. He left. Again.

He didn't know where I went to college. He didn't know what my major was. He knew nothing about my first boyfriend, my first love. I got married. I had a baby. And he wasn't there.

Then there was a last ditch effort on his part, a mass e-mail saying he was deleting his account, and anyone who wanted to stay in touch should write. So I did. And he wrote back.

We corresponded like that for a while. Then he asked if we could talk on the phone.

And he told me he'd been diagnosed with cancer. Non-Hodgkins lymphoma. And treatment wasn't working, but it wasn't getting any worse, it was just kind-of...there. Thus the reason he was trying to get in touch with me, to find out if I was interested in any of his stuff after he died.

What a great way to renew a relationship.

So we talked fairly regularly. I went to meet him a couple of times, and he met my baby and my husband. When I got pregnant again, I asked him to come stay with us for a while when the new baby was born, to help out.

That's when things went downhill. Again.

He doesn't like my husband. He seemed to have formed an opinion against him from the first time I mentioned even having a husband, I supposed since in-laws aren't "supposed" to get along, or some bullshit like that. My dad had his typical self-righteous attitude, while I was in the hospital with the new baby, and it interfered with my husband's parenting of our older child, so my husband kicked my dad out. It appeared that my dad wanted me to speak up on his behalf, but I'm a firm believer that immediate family comes first when it's not something where they're obviously in the wrong. Besides which, I was in the hospital where my newborn baby was in the NICU; I had other, more important things on my mind.

That was a year and a half ago. My dad and I haven't talked much since then. Basically holidays. At least the ones that usually require an obligatory call to people to whom you wouldn't necessarily talk to otherwise.

Until last weekend. When he called and wanted to set up a time to call back this weekend to talk to me. But I was free. I wasn't doing anything. Why not now?

It's finally gotten to the point where the doctors have said there's nothing more to be done, and the cancer is killing him. He has 6 months to a year to live.

And I don't know how I should feel.

Of course I'm devastated. It's my dad. I do love him, despite everything. It's one of those things that defines unconditional love.

But would I have done anything differently, knowing then what I know now? Would I have tried harder? Should I have?

My kids won't know him. They'll grow up being told he was someone who died when they were young, too young to remember. Like my granddad. Which won't really affect them much. But now I wonder what my mom went through.

And to top it off, my husband is faced with losing his dad, as well. He doesn't have a relationship with his dad, either, and has the same regrets, or is thinking of having them.

But at least he has his sister to get through it with him.

Sometimes "bonding experience" is not the right expression. How do you bond with someone over death?

How can I comfort him when I can hardly hold myself together?

How can I be comforted when there's no one else to do it? When I don't dare show that I need it?

How do I let myself grieve for something I'll never have?

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Comments:

Chica...
Nov. 18, 2010 at 11:55 PM

Honestly, if you feel sad you can probably grieve about what you did have and you should allow yourself to because it is perfectly healthy.  It's harder to live with regrets so if you miss this opportunity to try to mend it before he dies then the grieving process may be worse (I have a friend who went through this).  Tell your dad how you feel in a letter if it's easier for you.  I hope the process gets easier for you. 

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