The other story which is also true

photo-18As I launch my new blog, I’m going through all these old posts and deciding which ones to keep, this one keeps rising to the top of the pile.  I wrote it in July, 2014, a month before my father passed away.

I like it because it doesn’t pretend that my relationship with Dad was perfect. It was just a real father-daughter thing, sometimes bright and good, sometimes fraught with confusion and hurt.

I like it because I don’t ever want to lie to you – because when we pretend things are perfect, we do one another (and ourselves) a disservice. We separate from the messy, human side of life. We lose touch with one another – and with the truth that no one is perfect and yet, even so, we are all worthy of love.

This morning, I awoke with profound clarity and peace around something that’s been bothering me for a while. My dad’s in a nursing home and I’m the only family member who visits him. It’s complicated – and sometimes, it’s really hard.

Because often, rather than driving the hour each way that it takes to visit him, I’d prefer to stay home – to catch up on my (very) neglected housework, to focus on this book project I’ve promised to complete by summer’s end. To spend some quality time with my husband.

And sometimes, preferring that, I try to justify not going by telling myself the story of how my dad kind of emotionally abandoned me – and my sisters and our mom.

And that story feels like a ‘really good reason’ to stay home and take care of myself. Until I do it, and then, all I can think about is Dad, sitting alone in that nursing home. And I get in the car. And I drive.

Who my dad was was hard – sometimes. And sometimes, it was fine. Sometimes, it was amazing. Like in this photo. You can see how joyful he was. How much he loved being a dad.

So, though sometimes it was hard – it would be harder still if I was only the result of the things he did wrong. I am also the result of all that he got right – I am also the result of his devotion.

His devotion to family itself, which shows itself, even now – even when he can’t move a single muscle and can barely speak, as he attempts to take care of us all by dictating letters telling us how much he misses and loves us.

And telling that story, too, not only makes me feel better about myself and my life, it completes me in a way that, if I only complain, I don’t get to see or to have.

Telling the whole story lets him – and me – off the hook of perfection. It teaches me that mistakes aren’t the end of the world – his mistakes or mine – and they are certainly not grounds for abandonment.

By telling the story that my father was not there for me, I am abandoning the little girl who loves her dad – who remembers that he was there.

By remembering – and including the other story that is also true – that he took her for ice cream at Krieger’s and held her high on his shoulders at the Memorial Day parade, the relationship that my inner little girl has with her daddy is honored.

She can remember  – and love – the dad who held her hand at parks and ponds and waterfalls, the father who drove her to the airport and when she returned, drove her home.

She can remember that he was devoted to her and she to him. If I don’t tell this story – I am abandoning him – and her.

Yesterday, when I walked in, my dad turned his head and focused his rheumy, 87 year old eyes on me and said. “There you are!” A moment later, he said, “I turn my head and you’re not there. And then, I turn my head and you are!” He told me that he does this all day long. He turns his head hoping to see me. Sometimes, like today, I’m there.

It’s good to be so loved – to be anticipated this way. It reminds me why I get in the car. Why I drive. Because each day, my dad is gonna turn his head, and I want to be there.

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Showing 18 comments
  • Laura Doreson
    Reply

    Amy, this brought tears to my eyes. I miss him so much, as I know you do. This mirrors my thoughts, of my dad, his middle and older brother, for others reading this blog, your Uncle David. 🙂

    • Amy Oscar
      Reply

      It’s good to know they’re together again, isn’t it? I imagine them playing baseball together and tending to your dad’s collection of pigeons!

  • Linda
    Reply

    I recall reading this in 2014 but I don’t remember it resonating as deeply as it did today. I love all of your writing, Amy, however today’s experience reminds me that the reader is a participant and must be ready to receive the wisdoms offered. Thank you. I am grateful to have been ready today.

    • Amy Oscar
      Reply

      Thank you, Linda. I’m finding the same thing – as I review all of these ‘old’ posts and they spark new insights, new feeling. So glad you revisited the post with me!

  • Deb M
    Reply

    Compassion + Forgiveness = LOVE. Pure and honest and real. That is what I “see” when I read this beautiful tribute to you, Amy – to your dad – and to Love. The real test of how loving we are and can be is found, I think, in our most intimate of relationships. And that is where, of course, the “work” to be loving is hardest.

    • Amy
      Reply

      So true, Deb. Thank you for sharing your reflection with me.

  • brenelliott05
    Reply

    This touched me deeply. My parents have been dead a while now but I was reminded by your writing to honor the moments that were so precious.

    • Amy
      Reply

      Thank you so much for letting me know you were here! I’m finding that my parents’ long goodbye is having the same effect – that I am reaching for the memories that we shared with a full heart.

  • Adam Abramowitz
    Reply

    Such beautiful words of devotion. I get that we are not our stories. I get living into the truth. God bless Ray Ozarow and Amy too.

    • Amy
      Reply

      Thank you, Adam. You knew my dad – and I know that you loved him. I’m so grateful you stopped by to leave a note. Much love.

  • Leanne
    Reply

    Thank you for this. Your words shine a light on the path I wish to take.

    • Amy
      Reply

      Thank you for telling me that, Leanne. It means so much to me to know that you were here.

  • Garrett
    Reply

    Wow, this is moving to read, Amy. You capture the complexity of feeling, the both/and (or more than that,) devotion that could be mixed with resentment. It hits home with the gift of your presence, your presence with your dad and telling the story.

    • Amy
      Reply

      Thank you, Garrett. This is one of those stories where’it’s complicated’ is an understatement, isn’t it?

  • lori
    Reply

    i feel the love both of you have for each other. its amazing, when there are no stories and “stuff” there is glory in love! what you express is very familiar to me!

    • Amy
      Reply

      I imagine that it would be familiar – as you go through your own story in parallel to mine. Thank you for leaving a note. 🙂

  • Annie Sisk
    Reply

    Beautiful.

    • Amy
      Reply

      Thank you, Annie. So glad to know you were here.

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