When The One You Love Is The One Who Hurts You

Today is my father’s birthday. (Well, I suppose technically it was yesterday.)

Honestly, I thought it would hit me more – the grief, I mean. I’m not sure why since I’ve never felt particularly sad on his birthday before. I guess I just thought that maybe since I’m going to counseling, I would be more vulnerable to the date. Instead, I thought about him sporadically throughout the day, but nothing really heavy hitting or weep inducing (for which I am grateful).

It’s been almost four years. Four years since I kicked my father out of my life for being a Grade A Asshole. 

Yet today, as I drive around in my car, I find myself thinking of all the things he brought into my life that I otherwise wouldn’t have been exposed to. Not bad things, either. Good things. Happy things. Things I still enjoy. 

I think of him while listening to Scheherazade by Rimsky-Korsakov or Pavarotti and remember listening to this symphony and many others like it in the van while on road trips. 

I think of him when I play mah jong with friends late into the night. I remember him teaching me, my brother, and family friends how to play mag jong and Napoleon and Hearts and poker. He was a lot of fun. 

I think of him when I take the kids cherry picking and remember all the times he took my family cherry, apricot, and peach picking as we all piled into our old Family Wagon van. 

I think of him when I rush to Glow Worm’s side after he gets a nasty cut and remember the time I cut my finger while chopping okra and he ran to my side as soon as he saw blood. 

I hear him when I make non-committal grunts at the children or make joking noises and pull silly faces at them. 

The memories are soft and half-focused. Almost like a forgotten time. 

I wonder if I should tell my kids more about my father than “He was a bad man.” Because truthfully, He wasn’t always bad. He could be kind and sweet and loving. He could be the life of the party and so much fun. He taught me to enjoy games and family traditions. A lot of the traditions I want to pass down are things he did with us.

I wonder why it is that neither Hapa Papa or I tell stories about when we were little. Stories about ourselves or our parents. We should start doing that more. The kids love stories about us or themselves or their grandparents. They make it part of their stories. 

I wonder if I am betraying my mother by telling the kids some nice things about my father. Or if I will need to always append the good stories with “but he was a bad man.” 

But he was a pretty good guy some of the time. Just not enough. Not good enough. And not what we deserved. 

I want my kids to know that people who are bad for them can be good, too. That good and bad can exist all in one person. And that the people who are sometimes the worst for you happen to be people you love – and love deeply. 

And that sometimes, out of love for yourself and other people you love, you have to cut off and out the people who are terrible to and for you. 

I wonder if my remembering my father in some fond memories is a good, bad, or a neutral thing. 

I decide it is just a thing. 

Happy Birthday, Dad. I don’t know if you are happy or even if I want you to be happy. But there you go. 

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