I wish I had thought to do something like that for my kids with my father. He knew about them because he’d found photos of them online. My aunt said he seemed so happy when he’d talk about them, but he’d never met them. We never exchanged letters or phone calls. I didn’t tell my kids anything about my dad until I found out he’d passed away.
I had my reasons, as people do. I was afraid of my father. He’d never threatened me, but I knew he was capable of violence. The last time I saw him, he was serving time in state prison for shooting a drug dealer who owed him money. Still, that shooting happened over 10 years ago. He did write some mean things about me and my mother, but now that I think about it, he probably couldn’t have hurt me or my kids after he got deported back to Hong Kong.
I can’t reach out to him anymore. He killed himself a year ago. He apparently left a note saying that he didn’t have anything to live for. In my head, I know it’s not really my fault. I didn’t make him swallow the pills, and I didn’t break off communication with him just to hurt his feelings. I genuinely felt scared that he would hurt me after he got out of prison.
Still, I regret that we weren’t even writing letters when he died. I wish I could go back and send him photos of my kids and stories about funny things they said or did. I like to think that my staying out of contact with my dad was to protect my kids, but I wonder a bit of that was just an excuse. He was hard to be around. He was demanding, verbally abusive, and usually running away from the law. But he was also suffering from undiagnosed depression and anxiety. Before I got into treatment, I was pretty hard to be around too.
I don’t know what would have happened if I had reached out to my father. Maybe things wouldn’t have worked out, just as I suspected. Maybe we could have found a way to put the past behind us and just enjoy Zach and Kaylee. I wish I could go back and find out.
I’d like to think that some essence of my father, untouched by his anxiety and depression, is still around. I’m not sure I believe in reincarnation, but as physicists say, “Energy cannot be created or destroyed; it can only be changed from one form to another.” All the energy of my fear and hatred of him is gone. What’s left is a deep ache of sadness.
My family will be celebrating the Day of the Dead at a friend’s house and also at Zach’s school. Whatever differences my dad and I had, he still deserves to be acknowledged and honored.
Have you lost anyone that you had a difficult relationship with? How did you cope with your loss?