[NOTE: I originally left this post in ‘private’ mode. I was afraid of offending certain members of my family. They choose to ignore the facts, but Dad told me the truth just a week before he passed away, and screw them if they choose not to accept it.]
… and as I look back over the years that preceded that death, I realize that I pissed away a lot of opportunities.
My parents got divorced before my third birthday, my Mother had just given birth to my younger brother a few months before, and my Father’s soon to be second wife had just given birth to my sister shortly after that… what a mess. I was not even 3 yet, I didn’t understand it all, if I was even aware of most of it.
My father came around to visit now and then, but he had to sneak to do it. I do remember that, specifically I recall once, he was hiding under our back porch because my grandmother, Mom’s mom, had shown up unexpectedly while he was there, and she would have been furious if she had known. So he hid under the porch with the lawnmower. I have a vivid image of him in my head, as I stood there asking why he was under the porch and him with his finger to his lips telling me to ‘Shhhh”… it brings a smile to my face even now…
As I grew older, he came around less, or so it seemed. I recall occasional trips with him, he’d show up, pack up my brother and me and off we’d go for a day or two on a weekend. These are the few times I recall seeing his father, my grandfather. I barely knew Lige, he died when I was 10, and by that time, when I was actually old enough to remember him, Dad wasn’t coming around much at all. It was during that time though, that for awhile, he didn’t live too far away and I was able to go visit him on my own, I, the child, had to take the initiative.
That was also about the time I found out he had started telling everyone that my brother was not his son. That was something that made me angry and confused, how could my brother not be my brother? My Aunt Joyce, Dad’s sister, had taken one look at my brother when he was little, and said Dad was lying, the boy was a Williamson, and that was enough for me when I heard it, Aunt J wouldn’t get it wrong.
A couple of years later, the Christmas after I turned 12, Dad showed up on Christmas day. I hadn’t seen him in over a year, even though he had been doing a siding job just a few blocks away the summer before, he hadn’t bothered to stop around to see me.. something I had grown used to. So when he turned up this time, handing out money, as if that solved the problems and made up for his lack of being around, I got mad, really mad. He had money for John and me both, even though he had been, by this time, telling everyone for several years John wasn’t his son, he still brought him gifts, and still called him son when he was around us. Making me see he knew the truth, even if he wouldn’t admit it to wife #2 or the kids from the second marriage.
But I digress, that Christmas Day, that was the BIG change in our relationship, as I took one look at the envelope, and the money inside, and thought to myself, ‘He’s trying to buy his way out of his job as my father’. I gave it back, shouted a lot of not so nice things at him and told him to get the hell out of my life, that if this was all he could offer I didn’t need, or want, him around at all. The random visits, with months and now years in between them, no phone calls, no cards in the mail, just vast emptiness. I poured it all out, and he took it, with a pained look on his face, something I can see now looking back, but didn’t understand then. Hey, I was only 12.
My step-father pulled me aside and gave me an ass chewing for treating my father that way, and told me that no matter what, that man was my father, and deserved some respect. The look on his face when I told him that just being my father was not cause for respect, that respect was earned, was priceless, I am sure he thought that was a concept over my head at my age… but he let it go, and my Father left after spending some time talking to my mother and step-father.
I wasn’t to see my father again for almost 10 years. Those are the years I regret now, years I should have spent getting to know him better, if he came around, years learning what life was about.
He showed up at my door one day. I was no longer that 12 year old boy, but a grown man, married, with kids of my own, and already been in and out of the US Navy. I don’t know what he expected to find, but when I opened that door and saw his face I almost slammed it again. What business did he have turning up on my doorstep after all these years?
Dad’s sister was in the hospital and she had asked him to find me and bring me there. It was the turning point, Aunt Jeannie asked me to try to make amends, told me I didn’t want to go the rest of my life without my father. I thought she was wrong, but promised to make the attempt. I figured he’d disappear again soon, and it wouldn’t be my fault, right?
He and I both made the effort, slowly, but steadily, we began to speak more and more. Visits now and then, mostly just talks on the phone, or, when he finally became enlightened enough to use a computer, IM chats. He was a different person, and becoming increasingly so. I still think wife #4, Corky, had a lot to do with that. She was a positive influence on him, and I’m glad.
20 years later Dad and I were still speaking, a lot. We still had our differences, but we had learned, and grown, and finally began making our apologies to one another. Trying to right those wrongs we had done. It was too late to change the past, but the future looked promising. Until he got sick, and then got worse, and then the real decline began.
We spent those last few months talking when he could, and it wasn’t until that last week that he finally gave us both the peace of mind he had held back all these years. Six days before he passed away my Father told me the story of my brother. For 40 years he had denied my brother being his son, when I offered DNA evidence, he brushed it off, but now he was opening up.
He told me that he had promised his second wife that John was not his son, and later he didn’t want to admit he had lied, so he perpetuated that lie all those years, until he almost believed it himself. The truth though, was quite the opposite… the night of his grandmothers funeral, which had had taken my mother and me to, when he took us home, he came in… he didn’t give me details, and I sure didn’t need the visual imagery, but he stayed, and 9 months later my brother was born.
Hoping Dad would bounce back again, and be with us for a long while yet, I agreed not to say anything to the rest of the family. He still wasn’t ready to admit to anyone that he had stuck to a lie for so many years simply out of stubbornness.
It’s been a year now. I miss him still, and I truly regret all the years we lost, all the time we could have spent together.
I love you Dad, I loved you then, I love you still, and I miss you.