Throughout the years, there have been times in my life when I have felt like nothing. Like next to nothing. Could it be because I had no relationship with my father until I was in my late 20's? Could it be a boyfriend who made me feel that way? Could it be betrayal by a trusted friend? I always wonder, what did I do wrong? What did I do that made you not want to be around me? What did I do that made you break up with me? What did I do that drove you to stab me in the heart? When you feel like that, it doesn't really matter what other people say to reassure you. You feel how you feel and only the person who makes you feel that way can really change it. Most of the time, they don't even know they are doing it so you're kind of fucked.
When I was a kid, I probably didn't realize that dad's talked to their kids, played ball, helped with homework, whatever. It wasn't until I got a little older that it really clicked that something was wrong here. And by the time I realized it, I was used to it and I knew it was the booze. And yet, there is still that piece of insecurity that totally fucks with your head. It wasn't until two years ago that my worth to my father slapped me in the face.
He was ill. Isn't that the biggest piece of cliche bullshit? An illness pulls a family together. But that's what happened. He was ill, while on vacation in Florida visiting my sister. When it became apparent this was not minor, my brother and I hopped a plane to FL. I ended up staying a total of eight weeks (going home once for a couple days to get more clothes and take care of my life), while my father endured four surgeries ultimately resulting in the amputation of his right leg at mid-thigh, due to complications of diabetes. And while recovering, he suffered a stroke. The stroke was minor, thankfully and really only affected his ability to speak. He can speak, but very often he's garbled. He can't articulate what he wants to say very easily anymore.
As time went on, he did start to improve and I had to get back to my life. One day we were alone in his hospital room, my mom had gone out to make a phone call. So we were talking and I said to him, "you know, you're starting to get better, you know what that means?" He shrugged. I said, "It means I'm going to be going home." Immediately my father burst into tears the likes of which I had never seen in my life. I have never ever seen my father cry, let alone the sobbing cries he was doing now. He didn't cry when his own father and mother passed away. He didn't cry when the doctors told him his leg was coming off. He didn't cry after he had a stroke. He cried because I was going home and leaving him. In a panic, I called my mother back in and she soothed him as I went out in the hall to freak out.
Then the more I thought about it, the more I thought it had nothing to do with me at all. It was a culmination of everything he was feeling about his situation and somehow, someway it came out at that time. This is where the self doubt, the thinking I'm shit, the idea that I've always been nothing, comes back to haunt me. It couldn't be about me. Why would it be? So I was cool with it, it's business as usual.
And then, several days later when I am actually going home I asked for my mom and my sister to give me a few minutes alone with him to say goodbye. It's not like we were never going to see each other again. I was going home to make my home livable for him. He and my mother were moving into my house while he continued to recover. They would be coming home in a few weeks. So I went into his room to say good bye and he knew. He knew why I asked everyone to leave, and he laid their on his bed, shaking his head "no." Did he not want to hear it? Did he not want to say goodbye? Did he not want me to go? I told him I had to go, I had to get things ready and I would be at the airport waiting for him when he got home. And it happened again. That violent burst of tears as he grabbed my hand. This time, I couldn't talk myself out of what I mean to him. I felt it wash over me. The gratitude he felt for my being there for him and my mother and taking control of the situation and the doctors. The love, yes love, that I finally truly felt. It only took 42 years, but it'll last me a lifetime.