Tuesday, January 13, 2015

My Father (To See or Not To See?)

(Waimea, Kauai, Hawaii Feb. 1997)
I am my father's first child. Growing up in the Navy he wasn't around as much. We constantly butted heads as I got older. We are/were so much alike. I've seen him cry over my struggles with my parents authority. I've heard him tell me that he loves me. 

Years ago, before my mom died my parents had a huge struggle with their marriage. I found myself in the middle of that horrible wave of events. It affected me personally and physically and I found myself siding with my mom, for the most part. 

I won't go into details of the nasty struggle it was to see my father go through his long mid-life crisis and behave like such a juvenile. It was just as rough to hear the nasty words that would flow from my mom's mouth when I refused to go buy her alcohol to numb her emotional pain. It was 2007. 

(San Diego, CA 1981?)

My 3rd marriage had fallen apart. I was in the midst of graduating college with my English degree. I had plans (already paid for) to go to Ireland for 3 weeks as a graduation gift to myself. I never made it to the airport, much less to Ireland. I had to go care for my mom who found herself alone on 10 acres of property my parents had just bought. (They were getting closer and closer to their dream goals.) The property was in the middle of no where, which is nice; however, she had no car and it was 6 miles to the nearest town. I was in Mississippi at the time. My brother was in Hawaii, to far away to help physically. My sister was busy enough with her own family of 4 going on 5 in Utah. As the eldest and closest to my mom, my brother sent me money and I packed up my life and moved out to care for my mom. 

I blame my lost dream trip, and $1000, on my father. I know he'll never be able to repay me. I know it was 8 years ago. But during that time my father and I drifted further and further apart. 

Despite our differences and frustration with each other, as I constantly made the same mistakes over and over again in my young adult life, every time I returned home, I could always look forward to at least one private ride in the car with my father where we truly talked and opened up to each other. It was those moments I looked forward to when I returned home. It was a reminder that underneath it all there was still great love and compassion between us. 

                                     (1980)

After a large struggle between my folks, I decided I could no longer live under their roof anymore. I was an adult and it was truly time for me to grow up and not going rushing "home" every time my life fell apart. I moved to Colorado in mid-July. 
I visited my folks home twice since my move. The first was to collect my things and cats to move it all to Colorado. I was so looking forward to that car ride. To that private moment where all guards were down between my father and I. It never came. In fact, as we packed the last of my belongings in the trailer and car and were setting out for the 12 hour drive back to Colorado and everyone was saying goodbye, hugs and all. My mom and brother with his wife and son standing around outside, giving hugs and well wishes. My father stood to the side. In my minds eye I felt it was as though he didn't even recognize me as his daughter and first born. For the first time, that I can recall, I had to ask him for a hug. It felt as though he was content to stand there and watch us drive away without saying a word. With no emotion and no love for me. It broke my heart and the true rift between he and I had suddenly grown so large I was uncertain any bridge could be built that large to close the gap. 

About a year later I was at a Dead (what was left of the band The Grateful Dead) concert and thought to share this awesome moment with my father. I felt it was something he'd be excited about for me. So I sent him a text telling him where I was and the band I was about to hear play. The text I received from him was "Who is this?". Apparently he had gotten a new phone and failed to put my number in it... It was the last straw for me. 

                                   (1980)
My last trip out there was a few days after my mom had died, March 10, 2010. On that road trip, somewhere along the way, our cars passed each other as he headed to Utah to collect her ashes and I headed "home" to be with my brother. 

                  (San Antonio, TX?1991)

He remarried on March 17, 2011. I didn't know. I knew he was planning on getting married, but I was never told when it had actually happened. At this point I felt he had abandoned his biological family for a new one. 

We have sent texts a few times. I saw him once as he was on the road between my sister's home and his own. I met his soon to be wife (?) and her two children, a teenager and a toddler. I had offered my home for them to stay at and dreamed of making them a great breakfast the following morning to show just how much I had changed and grown. ... They stayed at a hotel instead. It's the last time I saw him. (2011?) He gave me my mom's ashes, as he "didn't know what to do with it". 
Again, there were no car rides, or even any private moments. I do not recall if he told me he loved me. I do not recall if any hugs were involved as my partner and I prepared to leave them at the hotel they were staying at for the night. 

                    (San Antonio, TX 1993)

Since then we have not spoken to each other. Texts have been sent from time to time. Mainly major holidays and if I'm lucky and he remembers, my birthday as well. The rift between us has grown even larger and it hurts me deeply. I miss the man and dad he once was. 

Now to the point of this long story. I have an opportunity to see him again this Summer. He and his now adopted son (my sister informed me of the adoption) are going out to visit my sister. 

At first I quickly asked my sister if it would ok with her if I went out to visit at the same time and then bring my youngest niece home with me for a visit. She said yes. I promised not to cause trouble. I don't want fights. We Crawford's are good at pretending the past is gone and to not talk about it any longer. 
I now question if this is still a good idea. With my #anxiety and #depression can I truly emotionally handle such a meeting at this stage in my life? How many times has my father driven down the highway passing the many exits to my town and not stopped? Does it matter? How important am I to him truly? 
(Laie, Oahu, Hawaii 2003)

My first instinct was to go and with luck move forward, make amends and try to salvage what is left so that he too can share in my joys and triumphs. And later, as I think about it, I start to get overly protective of my "minions" (my sister's children). I feel this overwhelming need to protect them, to be there and be one more eye on them to keep them safe. Why on earth do I feel such a need as that, to protect them from my father? They should grow up knowing their Pappy, as I did not know my grandfather. 
This trip is months away. In the present it all feels reasonable and a good move in the right direction. To reach out an olive branch, if you will. Will I be strong enough then to do this? Is it safe? Will he accept my drinking? My choice of using marijuana as a medicinal to help with my anxiety? To hide my true self to him would be going against my own values. Love me as I am or not at all? 

What do I do?