My father is entering into the final passage of life. After years of an unwillingness to properly treat his diseases, including diabetes, high blood pressure and congestive heart failure, it’s clear he won’t experience the long life span of his now deceased family members. His paternal grandmother and grandfather endured the Oklahoma Land Run only to flee the dustbowl for Norwalk, California. They lived into their early 100s before departing this earth. But my dad, like his father before him, has succumbed to a life of quiet desperation seeking an escape to somewhere – anywhere – else.
The last few weeks have been challenging. Not because of his pending departure, but because of the twisted role he played as a father and the failure to be the man he could have been.
A very conservative Baptist minister, he raised me and my sisters to fear. We feared his unexpected wrath as well as his attempts to instill a fear of a vengeful and angry God. His fits of violence, couched with scripture, more often included a clenched fist as well as the occasional beating with the leather belt.
He, of course, resorted to this as a way to mask his own demons including a lack of confidence, an embarrassment of his own poor upbringing, and his own inability to be a proper father or loving husband.
I’m dealing with anger when I should be feeling grief. I recognize he led me to create a hunger for myself to create something more as a result of who and what he was. And yet, some of his own characteristics creep into my life, one’s I despise and fear, and I, too, find resentment for these twisted seeds of nature.
As my sister and I approach this final stage, I’m reminded that I am not who he attempted to “raise.” I hopefully am becoming a much better version of that person; someone who, inspite of my flaws, will continue to grow, stretch, and learn.
Most of all, unlike my father, I hope to leave a lasting positive and uplifting legacy that people will reflect kindly on. If even by the slightest of margins, I truly hope I can, at the very least, do that.