Having a child has a way of boomeranging all the issues you had with your parents. Resentments, hurts, fears, traditions, connections, comforts and everything else that makes a family messy are brought to the light when a baby comes. When you are the child of an alcoholic, when your dad walked away because he was mentally unable to provide for you, when said dad is in prison for stealing millions of dollars, forgiveness can seem like an unending road. Just when I feel that I have reached a new level of comfort in the realities of estrangement, something happens that highlights the fact that he is missing. My siblings and I are experts at dealing with this. We all know how to manage the landmine that is a big life event minus a dad. In a lot of ways those are easier than the big life events that are plus a dad. There is less chance of a fight or an awkward encounter.
There was a moment at my wedding, the moment when I should have had the father daughter dance, the moment when my Dad should have been there and he wasn't and than it passed. I am expert in moving passed it, but now that I have my own son it is harder. I have bigger questions. How could you ever walk away from your baby? How could you hold your child in your hands and than leave her behind? How could you not be there for your wife? At two in the morning, when I was screaming and couldn't be settled, when my sisters were cranky and annoyed and my Mom had to go work the work in a few hours, why wasn't he there? Did he not feel that connection? When he held my brother, sister and I did he not have that instant euphoria? How could a bottle be more important than us?
To be honest, these aren't new questions. They are the same questions I have had my whole life, and the truth is there is no answer that will make it better. My Dad doesn't even know the answers. He doesn't understand why he did what he did and he can't change the choices he made. He wasn't equipped to be there for us, and in many ways it was blessing that he left and didn't stay.
Someday I have to find the words to explain this to my son. I will need to find a way to articulate why his Grandpa isn't here. I will be honest with him, but I also will need to find a way to explain to him that his Grandfather is not an evil or horrid person, he is a man who made some bad choices and hurt people, but he also loved us in his own broken way.
The churning mess of family relationships is always rooted in the past. Family trees cast large shadows and we cannot escape them. There isn't a way out of your family. You can be angry, or try to run, you can ignore them and forge ahead, but sooner or later we all have to go back and we all have to take back in the ones who walked away. This is what I have to explain to my son.
No matter what your family does, no matter how broken it feels, no matter how far you fall from grace, or how much somebody hurts you, you will always love them because they are your family. Somehow everyone has to find to work it out and keep moving on, and sometimes someone will choose to walk away and you have to let them go. When you love someone, you want to protect them, you want them to do what you what them to do because that is what you think is best. Usually they won't do what you want, or say what you want, because they aren't you. Families can be painful and brutal, because no one can love you or hurt you more than your family, but they can also be wonderful and marvelous for the same reasons.
I don't know why my Dad the choices he did, and I never will. I will never stop wishing he made different ones and I will certainly encounter other life events that make me ask those questions all over again. However, I have been blessed with not just an amazing immediate family, but I married into a strong, large family that makes up for all my two person eating at a diner slightly sad holidays. My son is overwhelmed with Aunts, Uncles and Cousins. He has a Nana and a Grandma who love him fiercely and most importantly he has a Grandpa who will love him enough for two Grandpas. He will never know that he is missing another Grandpa. He won't have to ask questions, because his Grandpa Lindemann raised a man who will never leave his son. He raised a man who will be there always.
Harrison's Dad loves him enough to be there at two in the morning, and he won't miss big life moments. Everyday he makes choices that are for his son. As we blend our family, as we tie together the branches of our family trees and add our own limbs I will always hold a spot for my own father. I will always dream of the day he magically appears and is the suddenly the perfect Dad, but I will also hold tight to Harrison's dad and everyday I will be thankful for him.