Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Left Behind: A Time Warp Tuesday Post

My blogger friend Kathy  at Bereaved and Blessed sponsors a monthly blog hop called Time Warp Tuesday in which she challenges bloggers to revisit and reflect on an old post relating to the month's theme, and offer some observations about change over time.  This month’s theme is Left Behind, and she asks us to find an old post that tells what it was like to live on after the death of a loved one, and then to write a new post explaining why I chose that post and what has happened in my life since.

I had a hard time choosing a post, because the person I wanted to write about is, I was surprised to discover, all over this blog, and yet there's only one post I found that talks about him and his life: My Dad and Chickpea Soup.  It's sort of a nostalgic post about missing my father and his unsolicited advice, but also missing his love of the earth and the garden, which is now in the midst of its summer abundance.

On the one hand, I'd say that not much has changed about my life since that post.  But on the other hand, everything has changed since that post.  At the time I wrote it, I was home on maternity leave with my daughter, but hadn't yet left my job.  Even though I'd been a parent for four years when my daughter was born, over the past year, I've had to adjust to the different demands of being home all the time, which requires a patience that I've had to work hard to cultivate; I had to learn how to be with my daughter without the benefit of inhabiting some different head space at work during the day.  And in some respects, that journey has also meant revisiting and reprocessing my relationship with my father.

Most of the posts about my father here have been about his garden and his food, and how memories of him are so closely intertwined with the way I cook and eat, even as I've talked vaguely about my conflicted feelings about my relationship with him.  I've posted about black bean soup, tortilla a la espanola, caldo gallego, and his kohlrabi plants and tomato garden. I've also posted about his willingness to take risks, my memories of the way he'd celebrate Fourth of July, his preparations for a trip to the beach, his presence at midnight mass at Christmas.  And then there's all kind of mentions of him, little sayings, things that I guess impressed me more than I realized.  (There are, I discovered, very few mentions of my mother, comparatively speaking, which both surprised and didn't surprise me.)

My father was not a very patient man, and he had high expectations of me.  He was verbally and sometimes physically abusive in a way that I suspect was culturally acceptable where he came from, even if it wasn't acceptable in the U.S.; he never actually hit us, in the way that we usually think of abuse, but he was strong, and I have vivid memories of him grabbing me, shaking me, yelling at me and demeaning me as I watched the thick purple vein pulse in his temple, feeling the terror that would well up in my heart.  It was strange to watch him die over the course of just three months, succumbing to cancer, becoming a shell of the larger than life presence he had been throughout my life.  I'm sure that he never intended to hurt us, but parenting didn't come easily to him, and he reacted to conflict or disappointment in a way that I determined I never wanted to react, when I became a parent myself.

Now, I am with my daughter all day; while in many ways she is a delight, she is also headstrong and--at the tender age of 18 months--defiant.  I feel my father's temper rise in my own heart more often because I am home, and I've had to train myself to react differently to her behavior, and to my own feelings.  On the one hand, I want to give my children things my father gave me: appreciation for the world and its many cultures, love of the earth and its fruits, appreciation for beautiful things, his sense of duty to help other people.  And those are the things I miss about him.  On the other hand, I want to make sure I don't pass on his parenting style.

I still love my father.  I still think he would have been a wonderful grandfather.  I'm grateful for the many gifts he gave me, and I still miss him.  But I'm also grateful for the gift of insight, the gift of clarity, that I've given myself.  And I will honor him in the way I parent my children, in the best way I can.
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  1. Wonderful revisit of a truly great post (I think it was one of your best: I loved the way you interspersed the details of your gardening with his life.)

    Oh, parenting. It's so hard to get right. And it is so hopelessly tangled with our perceptions of who our parents were and how they parented.

    In my case, I will never ever live up to my parents, who truly excelled at raising children. Which is a whole other set of worries...

    I'm sorry your dad is no longer with us. But I am glad he shared with you his love of gardening and cooking and food, and that you are sharing that with us today. The blogging world is richer, ultimately, because of him.

  2. "But I'm also grateful for the gift of insight, the gift of clarity, that I've given myself."

    May I just say how much you totally rock for acknowledging a gift you gave yourself?

    Thank you for sharing this view of your father with us.

  3. Wierd... I swear I commented here earlier here, after commenting on the post you are reflecting on. I am exhausted now and it's way past my bed time, but I promise to return and try to recreate what I wrote soon. Thanks so much for doing the Time Warp again!

  4. Thank you for sharing these two beautiful posts. I'm finding it interesting that as I get older I see my parents as people - with strengths and weaknesses like everyone else. As a child I could only see them in the moment and in how they related to me. I didn't appreciate all the many things that influenced the complicated people that they are, that we all are. I'm sorry that your father isn't there to share your adulthood and to be a grandfather to your children. You write beautifully about him and your relationship with him.

  5. Oh wow -- this is really gorgeous. I'm finding it difficult to put my thoughts into words, but it is the perfect thing to read if you are missing someone who wasn't a saint, and yet was someone you deeply loved.

  6. Thanks for sending me the email you got with what i wrote... Wonder why it didn't show up here? Maybe I accidentally deleted it after I wrote it. Either way, here's my original comment:

    "I'm grateful for the many gifts he gave me, and I still miss him. But I'm also grateful for the gift of insight, the gift of clarity, that I've given myself. And I will honor him in the way I parent my children, in the best way I can."

    Well said. I think your dad would be/is very proud of the mother you are and the woman you have become.

    I won't repeat everything I said in my comment on the post you chose to reflect on, but I appreciate how you are able to focus on the wonderful things that you learned from your father and also parent in ways that work for you and your children in contrast to some of the things that your father did as a parent that may not have been a good fit for you.

    I can only imagine life with out my father and I am sorry sorry that you are nine years out from the death of yours. Sending lots of peace, love, light, thoughts and prayers your way as you honor his life and memory via Time Warp this week/month. So glad you decided to reflect, write this and link up. Your entry adds so much to our discussion of what it feels like to be "left behind." Thank you.

  7. Wonderful post. I can identify with so much. My father died in 2010, and I don't talk about it or him a lot because my stepmother reads my blog (or used to. who knows? that's a train of thought for another day). But I also identify with contrasting your parenting to your parents' parenting. For me, it's my mother, and I am conscious of not trying to parent like she did. You're right; that clarity and insight are gifts, but they are bittersweet ones.

  8. Ah, I could say the same thing, but make it my mom instead....

    Parenting brings up an amazing amount of "stuff"

  9. He sounds more and more like my grandfather, a person larger than life, but still a person, with faults like any other.

    My husband and I have had conversations about how he learned the parenting 'do's' while I learned the 'don'ts.'


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