Today would have been my dad's 106th birthday. That's right, 106! It's hard to believe.
My dad had his last-child, me, at 50 years old. This is the same age I was when I had Miles, my last child. In the 1960s, when I was born, that was not very common. Even today, you don't hear about many women having babies at 50. I guess we were both pioneers.
My dad was not a warm and fuzzy person. He was not a particularly loving father if I am being honest. I know that he loved me, but he was not loving, in the way a daughter longs to be loved. Growing up with him as my father was not easy.
Even into my adult years, we had a strained relationship. I never doubted that deep down he loved me and I know that he knew I loved him too, but our relationship was challenging and often the cause of great pain for me.
He passed away in April of 2009, exactly two weeks before Garin's first birthday. We were estranged at the time of his death, which was especially painful for me. When someone passes away and you have not been able to make peace, the finality of their death is even more devastating. There is no chance for reparation once someone has died. It took me a long time to heal from the guilt and sadness I felt over not having said goodbye to him before he left this earth.
Garin was too young to understand, Although he met he "Grampy," he has no memory of him. My other kids, of course, never met him at all.
One of the most challenging things I have been left with is how to manage his legacy with my children. I have always prided myself on being open and honest with my kids. I don't paint a rosy picture when there isn't one to paint. That doesn't mean that I don't try to shield them from some of life's sadness, pain, and disappointment, but not all of it. I don't believe it is a healthy or authentic way to raise children.
When my kids started getting older they would ask about their Grampy which forced me to figure out his legacy in my mind, so that I could pass it along to them.
Before my dad passed away, he did some especially hurtful things to my mom and in doing so, indirectly hurt my sister and me very deeply as well. Forgiving him took me a very long time. But I did. I had to, for my own peace of mind, and more importantly for my children. The last thing I wanted was them to hear me speak about their Grampy, whom they never knew, negatively or bitterly.
I have solidified my father's memory in my own heart and mind and am therefore now able to speak about him very comfortably with my children or anyone who asks. I can acknowledge his shortcomings and the hurtful actions he took, especially at the end of his life, but I am also able to speak easily about his positive qualities, of which he had many.
I am so grateful to my children because, without them, I might not have done the difficult work of forgiving my father. I did it for them, but in the end, I am the one who has benefitted.