I am currently trying not to panic.
A friend’s father is dying and I am a mess. Obviously, not the same as her and her feelings. But nevertheless, I am reminded of when another friend was remembering her father’s death and my ensuing panic.
Grief sneaks up on a person.
All I can think of is my dad dying and how I both wish he were already dead and how devastated that would make me feel because of its finality and how I would then no longer be able to scream at him and demand answers and for him to apologize.
But what answers would suffice?
What response could he possibly give to justify or make amends or adequately explain and make it better?
I want to scream.
How could he? How could he do this to us? How could he have walked away from us when we were so small?
Cookie Monster (9) is now at the age I was and Glow Worm (5) is the age my brother was when my father first left us. If I count the time I don’t remember, then Sasquatch (2) is the age I was when he abandoned my pregnant mother for awhile and went back to Taiwan and left her to close up a failing fish shop by herself. Due to all that stress, she lost the baby.
We were so small.
When I look at my children, I wonder if I was ever that young. I know that logically I was those ages. But I do not know if I have ever felt that young.
How could he walk away and not look back? How could he abuse us and hurt us and not feel any remorse? Any regret?
How could he do it again when we were adults and grown and had children of our own? Yes, we did the cutting off, but all the same. How could he?
Why does it matter to me so much? Why do I care? Of what worth is a liar’s opinion of me?
And then, fear slips in.
I want to know why for so many reasons.
To extend grace. To understand. But mostly, I wonder. Maybe I am bent the same way he is bent.
What if I am just like my father?
What if I judge him lacking only because I have yet to reach that breaking point?
What if I turn out to be just like him? Faithless. Selfish. Abandoning.
I think I could never do this to my children but maybe that is the Real Lie. After all, didn’t I want to walk away last year?
But still. I understood the sentiment.
I think maybe if he explained himself, I could figure myself out and answer the question of whether I am also one who abandons. Who talks a big talk but can’t ever execute.
Maybe that’s why I fear death so much because that is the ultimate abandonment. The final departure.
But is it?
Perhaps there is a heaven or some existence beyond the veil. And even if there weren’t, my love for my children would continue on in their memories of me and pass onto their own children.
Is that why I am particularly terrified of my younger children (5 and under) forgetting my love for them if I die in their babyhood? And why I freak out when I drive up mountains, winding roads, bridges, anything with an edge? Why my nightmares are literally of these same things and us careening off a cliff at full speed?
They say when children hit about eight or nine, their memories consolidate and they end up losing a lot of their childhood memories – despite them remembering when they were younger. If I die before then, isn’t that akin to abandoning them because they cannot developmentally remember me?
I cannot bear it.
I cannot bear even the idea of my babies not knowing how much I love them. To not be certain of my desperate, chest-constricting love for them.
It sends me into a panic. Always.
It is too much. Too much to bear the idea – the thought – of my babies feeling abandoned. By anyone but especially by me. To have the core of their identity and goodness so warped. So twisted.
To ever hear that constant refrain: You are not good. You are not worthy. You are not loved. You are not worth staying for. You are not worth living for. You are not enough.
Isn’t that the core of it?
No matter how old I am, how far removed it feels on a daily basis, how much I feel I have grown or matured or replaced a lie with a truth, that fear is always there. Waiting.