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.