I’ve been in ‘one of those moods”. I think it has to do with an upcoming trip to the DC area for my daughters high school graduation … and encompasses Fathers Day.
I’ve been a remote dad for 10 years now. I’ve not lived with my daughter longer than I lived with her. So, as these kinds of events crop up, I’m overcome with the combined emotions of pride, and guilt.
Jenni has been an outstanding student. Good grades, studied hard, drum major for the marching band, lots of theater, no problems with boys or drugs or alcohol … I can’t imagine being more blessed. And while I’ve tried to really stay in touch … lots of phone calls, mostly, though an occasional e-mail or text message … I’ve not been there. For any of it, really. I’ve spent three or four weeks a year with my daughter, tops, for the last 10 years. We’ve almost always had a good time when we’ve been together, but I know I’m damned lucky she doesn’t just hate me. Though in one of our late-night conversations, she admitted “sometimes I did”.
And deservedly so.
So, as other dads celebrate the time they’ve spend with their kids, I’m left thinking “why do I deserve this”?
So, the trip to DC this week is going to be an emotional roller coaster. Seeing people I used to know when I was married to Jenni’s mom, being at a party at the house we used to own together … this time as a guest. Hearing what a great kid Jenni is … and knowing I had precious little to do with it … all balanced against the pride I’ll feel when she gets her diploma.
It’s put me in “one of those moods”.
Andie wanted to go see “Kung Fu Panda”, which honestly, I’d probably rather wear a hair shirt for a couple of hours than spend an equal amount of time watching that movie. (I know, this is kind of a “hair shirt” post, but bear with me). David and Tom called and wanted us to go see it with them. It’s bad enough to not feel sociable, but to go to a movie I have absolutely no interest in and be forced to be sociable was more than I really wanted to try to cope with today, so I begged off. The grass was about to where it was going to need to be raked and baled if it wasn’t cut soon, and I could do that with my MP3 player and just not worry about it.
So I mowed, and trimmed. The grass looks pretty good, and when I was done, I was hot, sweaty, dirty from mowing over the places were there’s not a lot of grass … and still depressed.
So, I did something I don’t do nearly often enough. I put on my bathing suit, grabbed my stunt kite, got on my old bike and rode down to the beach.
I live a mile and a half from the ocean, and I don’t go to the beach nearly often enough at all.
When my sister was killed in a car crash a few years ago, I went to the beach. It’s calming, it’s huge, the bigness of it puts things in perspective, and today, I needed my laughing place.
Rather than sit in a dark theater for how ever long the movie lasts, I needed the sunshine. I’m sure I suffer from Seasonal Affected Disorder. I’m not real fond of winter, even down here, much less back up north. I needed the calming ozone of the breaking waves, a dunk in the ocean, and an hour flying my kite.
Not just a “hang it up in the air and watch it twist in the wind” kite. A kite you can actually fly. It spins, loops, races along the ground, soars and swoops. But it also lets me feel like a kid again. Just throw all the worries and depression and guilt and stress out into the ocean and go fly a kite. It might not be for everyone, but for me, it helps. A lot.
The junk is still there, unfortunately. I don’t know that it’ll ever go completely away. I know it’s not the healthiest thing for me to carry that around. In another of our private conversations, Jen said to me “you know dad … Shakespeare said (my 17 year old daughter was quoting Shakespeare to me)’What’s past, and past help, is past grief'”. And while that’s true, I don’t know that I can ever be so narcissistic as to throw away ALL the guilt. Some of it is probably a little healthy. Like most things, the challenge is finding the balance.
I’m still searching.