Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Nostalgic Wax, Part III: Lessons Learned from His Funeral

So, at the end of one of my birthday posts, specifically the post about LadyTee's gifts, I mentioned the shadow box.

She'd gifted me a shadowbox for my father's flag.

It reminded me of not the actual funeral, but things I learned about myself and those around me during the funeral preparations and the aftermath. I've wanted to write about it, but I didn't because there was so much, and I just didn't think I could remember everything. But around birthday time, I ponder about my personal year, and the major events therin.  And my father's death was a major event.

I know I have written about a little of this, but I always have a different perspective once there's a little distance and time from it all.

So some things that stood out.

1. I can get along with my mother when I have to. It's no secret that I don't deal much with my mother. These days, I just try to support my sister's desire for a relationship with her, and it looks like Kentucky is getting a bit older and not really all that willing to put up with our mother's mentally and emotionally abusive behavior. (Lord knows I don't).

But I called her up when my father died. Out of respect really, because that was her first love and they did have a baby (me) together. I don't think I was interested in how she felt. I just thought it right to call her up. She asked if I needed anything from her, and she could tell I was exasperated with the whole thing, so for once she just left me alone about it.

But I did have to call my sister in for a back-up. Just in case our mother came to the funeral and lost her natural mind. My sister is a pro at handling her. And my sister had me laughing with an interesting saying that she'd come up with, since mother seemed to be about to run off the rails in their conversations:

My sister would sigh and say, in a high voice... "Jesus be a fence, a referee, and a counselor!"

That meant any old thing could happen. I was NOT in the mood. I told my sister, if our mother start tripping and showing out, deal with it. Because if I had to, it was not going to be pretty.

Mother did well, though. She even got up and said a few words when they asked for people to come up. So good for her. I hope it was her way of dealing with things. I hope it was some closure for her.

We didn't drive the hour to the burial place together. We followed the limo and hearse in separate cars. I don't think I could deal with that. And I just really wanted to be alone with my thoughts. Selfish? Perhaps. It was what it was.

I am not sure anyone got blow by blow pictures of the graveside ceremony.  Mother did. She snapped a ton of pictures. And she sent me some.

And afterwards, she asked me to stand in the grass and take a picture with the flag.

That was moreso for her, not for me. She has some keepsakes.

But I was glad all went well. No fighting, no yelling. No embarrassing scenes. Jesus was a fence, a referee, and a counselor that day.

2.  A conversation with my brother...he's a good guy-I have always been the one to take care of my little brother. I remember changing his diapers and feeding him. I remember holding my arms open so he could walk to me in uneasy steps when he first learned to walk. He's 17 years younger than me, so my memory is long.

So when I told my sister that my father had died, she texted or call him. He called me that evening, and he did something that I didn't expect: we had a long talk about PTSD and the affects of it.

I remember telling my father that my little brother had done tours in Afghanistan and Iraq, and my father saying "Tell him to make sure to get some help, because it can all really mess with you and mess you up. Mess up your mind real bad."

And that's what my brother called to talk to me about. My father had fought in Vietnam, and had returned home in 1969. And had pretty much been stuck in that time period every since. So when I would go over, here in 2014, he was talking about Vietnam.

I never understood that. That was over 40 years ago. Goodness. Come on into the present man, I'd think as I sat and nodded and listened to him.

But it wasn't until after his death that my brother answered all the unasked questions I had. I never understood how one could get stuck in time, and have addictions and what-not. But my brother helped me understand, as he himself has PTSD issues and has to have counseling. He has had to fight to have a normal life and to get better so he could raise his own children.

Never would I have thought that the little laughing baby I use to carry around so long ago would have words to ease the questions swirling in my mind. I am thankful for that, and I will never forget how much I grew from his wisdom.

3. The Importance of Friends - I tend to be a very quiet person. I am aloof, to myself. A bit detached at times. I am who I am. During this funeral time, I had NO expectations out of anyone. The total goal was to get through this whole thing. I hate to admit it, but I was a bit miffed that I had to be involved in planning the funeral of a man who didn't raise me. So I wasn't expecting anything out of anyone.

But I got a nice card and donations from coworkers. This was unexpected, as I really only deal with a few people at work. (I am sorry, but I have gotten too old for the complaining, gossip, back-biting, and severe negative judgment of others. It seems like you have to be deeply embedded in these activities to be... accepted). That was a nice sentiment. I appreciated it.

I rarely participate in activities at work. And when there is a death, birthday, or retirement, I go talk to the person and give them a personal gift. Just to avoid all the drama. So I didn't expect anything from anyone.

It was nice to be at the funeral and turn to walk out and see The Cowgirl Cre and her family there. And it was nice to see LadyTee and her family. My sister was there. And a coworker, an administrator in a building next to my own who I make cookies for from time to time. Heck, I think my folks made up half of the audience.

LadyTee has always been my protector. Every since we were 10 years old. "I know you can't handle a lot of things," is what she always says. I think I can. But like I said, I tend to be aloof. She is around to keep me talking and balanced. I had been hollering about how I was just going to go to the repast just to "show my face" and then get the heck on.  She made sure I stayed there for a couple of hours. And we actually had a good time.

4. My father's family are some really nice people.  I guess I shouldn't call them his family. They are mine too, but I don't feel much of any attachment. I was always an anomaly, an odd bird that had just flew in a room to them. I remember one aunt saying "I haven't seen you since you were 4 years old, Lisa. You remember me?"

Uh no. Not some 40 years later.

And that was sad to me. Because they are some really nice people. I get my quiet nature from them. They are super quiet. They are probably like me... they hate a lot of noise and volatility. It made me sad, and sometimes angry, that I didn't grow up around them.

"Now you see why we go get my cousin's kids," LadyTee says of her 6 and 13 year old cousins. "They need to know who we are, even though their parents aren't together. Leave up to him and we would never see them. Then we have a situation, decades later, like your situation, Lee."

I understand now, LadyTee. I wish I would've got to known such nice people as my father's people.

5. Best advice I got during that time. I had various conversations with different people during this time, just to help me with my feelings. There were several, and the ones that I remember clearly are text message convos with my readers Ginae and Lisa B.  These ladies let me just be me. These ladies are so full of wisdom. I am so glad that they poured some out on me.

But I was was perturbed during this time. Things were moving so slow. Honestly, I thought my father's family wanted me to pay for the funeral. I quietly thought this wasn't fair, as he didn't care to raise me. Why should I spend thousands of dollars on this. I remember thinking that I would just offer to do it since they were moving so slow. But I wanted to talk to someone I talk to about spiritual matters at work: a security guard on the job.

She's a much older lady, but she is really wise. I glean something from her every time we talk. And I tend to like people like that. As I get older, I find my patience is shot with people who bring the drama.

Anyway, I told her that I was going to call them and tell them that I was going to just pay for the funeral. She stopped me.

"Don't you do that. They didn't come bounce you to the park or ever come pick you up or call all these years. You sit back and be quiet. They'll call you."

That's what I did. And they eventually called me. There were a couple of small insurance policies. They worked that out and things moved along.

But someone need to tell me that. I was feeling that inside. I felt bad for feeling that. But I remember in my prayers saying, "Lord that ain't right. I don't want to pay for a funeral. But I can recover fast from that. So if I have to, I just want it to be over." All this was so much on my mind that I woke up with wet eyes a couple of mornings. Just in tears. And it wasn't even about the money. Sure, that's enough to piss one off, but the very thought that no one even cared enough to come get me over the past 30 years. No one thought enough to pick up a phone to see about me. It really bothered me.

But the conversation about it all with the security guard... freed something in my heart and mind that day. And I am thankful for that.

There is so much more that I could write about in this post about the circumstances and internal events of that time. So much. But this post would be longer than it needs to be.

I am just pondering and pontificating a significant event in my life this past year... one that shook me up on the inside. And it's not one of those shakeups as when one loses someone close to them., where it takes a very long time to get over them.

It's a quiet kind of shakeup. One where I had to deal with that little girl in me who has felt so alone and neglected by a father that didn't think she was good enough to raise and love. One in which I had to learn and understand that it wasn't about all that. That's just the little girl in me raising her head.

I have to tell her, she is loved. She is lovable,

She is worthy. She isn't worthless.

She is important. She has purpose.

She is gift. To those who will accept her as such.

She is alright. 

LadyTee went through some mental things during this time. "Your father," she'd wail. "He missed such a wonderful life. You are such a great person. He missed out on all that. You are such a great person."

Well I guess someone who has been by my side for over three decades would think that. She has been there through every triumph, tragedy, failure, and accomplishment. So she ponders all that.

I know my father wasn't capable of loving me. Only in his mind. He was barely capable of even taking care of himself. It is what it is.

And I am what I am. I will go on from here... with all the lessons I have learned. I know myself a little better. I know where I am weak. I know where I am strong. I know that I have grown. And that I am still in the process of growth.

And I know I am a better person because of it. 


  1. What you wrote about your feelings of neglect from your father helped me realize I am not alone in my feelings. We are loved. It's still a battle I go through in my mind. So much too process

    1. You said the key thing:

      "It's still a battle I go through in my mind."

      The mind is always the battlefield. Period.

    2. No amount of counseling can help me except God, forgiveness, and controlling my thoughts

  2. This is so well said and felt. Just know there are a lot of out here on the Internet who garner so much from your post and recognize how wonderful you are. Now, I must go back lurkdom, I wasn't supposed to cry today.

    1. Aww shucks maaaaaan....

  3. I almost shed a tear. To have an absent father and a mother you have to deal with who is distant I can relate. I am glad you got the lessons and shared them from the experience. You always have my mind churning. It's all good.

    1. The absent father is one thing... The "emotionally interesting" mother is O_o. I am thankful for sane times the very few times our paths cross. Very thankful.

      But we must learn lessons from it all. You always have my mind churning too, Oldgirl.

  4. While you thought our conversations were helping you, they were also helping me as well. As you know we have similar father issues. But the way you explained it to me regarding their minds and the Vietnam war really gave me an " aha" moment and helped something to sink in that never did before. Thank you.


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