UPDATE: My father lost his battle with cancer this morning – August 24, 2013. Thankfully, he went without pain and with nothing left undone. At the end of the day, we can ask for nothing less, can we?
I wasn’t going to go back there.
Not now, anyway. Or not ever, if I could help it.
I’d left Michigan 23 years ago. Left to move towards something, of course. But also away from plenty of bad memories & toxic behaviors.
And while there were also good memories mixed in with the bad, or relationships that were decidedly non-toxic – there was nothing really compelling to lure me back home.
Or so I thought. And so I kept telling myself.
But this time? The undertow – in the form of metatasized cancer throughout his body – was finally sucking my dad out to sea. I really didn’t need to see that for myself, did I?
Yes, it’s true that I left for valid reasons. But here’s the deeper truth: I was afraid to go back.
I’d fought to stay clear of the toxic, to harden my heart, to pretend it was a part of my past best left alone. I didn’t want to revisit the scene of so many crimes, buried mostly-dead, left to fester.
Except that you can only heal the past, quiet the fears by facing them head-on.
I’m writing this from a cramped middle seat on a crappy flight from Detroit to Phoenix, with long-overdue tears running down my face. I was lucky enough to spend the last two days with my family – the brother, his wife & family who’ve taken my father into their home, the sister who drove in with her brood from the ‘other’ Portland.
And my dad. For the first time in 13 years.
We didn’t have to exhume anything, drag out long-gone wrongs, or attempt to heal any wounds.
Instead, we watched football. Went through old photo albums. Ate too much food. Near the end of our visit yesterday, I went into his bedroom, where he sat in his easy chair facing the picture window. He told me quietly how glad he was that I came. How strong he knew I was, how proud he was of his grandkids. And he told me that he loved me.
And when I told him I loved him too, he said simply “I know”.
I know, too, Dad. Thank you for reminding me of what matters most.