It is the day after Father’s Day 2021. All day yesterday I read beautiful tributes for, grief infused messages to, and lots of pictures of, Fathers, but I couldn’t write one yesterday. I was Quiet. Thoughtful. Remembering.
My father died in 2004. He fell and hit his head, and died alone in his apartment days later. His apartment manager found him. There was no funeral. There is a lot of backstory, and it is more complicated than this simple description, but at this point, that is the gist of it. A sad ending to a growingly sad man’s life. For years after his death he fueled my healing, and my healing practice. My healing became a book called “Accepting the Ashes- A Daughter’s Look at PTSD”. However, for the past few years, I have been thinking about that time less and less. This year, with Covid and all the volitility of life, my Dad has come back to my mind.
My father was a “good man”. He was an alcoholic, but a quiet one, not a rageful one. He genuinely cared about me and my three younger brothers. As I age, I have realized that this is a gift of his memory. The 2 youngest photos with little me are of my father not long after returning from his second tour of combat in Vietnam. 1968. He was in his mid 20s. The older photo is of my Dad on one of our many summer camping trips. But his face is strained. probably hung over. This was around 1980. By 1983 my parents began their process of divorce. I don’t have many pictures of him, or us, after that time.
So many memories feel far away. It can be helpful to put them away to be “ok”. It has been this Father’s Day that I feel the memories creeping back to be remembered by me now, not just in my past. So my thought is this~ to honor my Father in my 53rd year, I feel called to share some important things I learned from him, and so I will.
- Thank you Dad for always displaying the feeling that I was wanted.
- You co-created a safe home for me. Such a huge thank you for this thing I didn’t even notice at the time.
- You taught me that men cry and can say “I love you”, thank you.
- You showed me by your actions that girls can and should do anything. I am so grateful that my father gave me that message. Thank you.
- You taught me about camping, and even when it wasn’t fun…thank you.
- You participated in my young life, and at least pretended to enjoy it, thank you.
- You enrolled me in soccer clubs in my early elementary years, exposing me to the importance of teams and fitness. Thank you. What I learned later was that I was in the first generation of girls able to participate due to “Title 9” (1972). A BIG thank you!!
- You taught me about addiction and what it does to a person and their family. I do thank you for this, even though I do not like it.
- You taught me about how trauma, specifically war related trauma, works, and how it doesn’t just “go away” and one isn’t “weak” to experience it.
- You taught me that if a person isn’t able to be in well relationship with themselves, they are not capable of being in well relationship with others. I suppose I thank you for this teaching as well.
- You showed me how regret can eat away at a person. I cannot thank you for this, but learning it has been important.
- You showed pride in me in the years before you died and what I was beginning to create in the world. I thank you so much for this gift.
- You showed me how, sometimes, the pain is too much to do something helpful for self.
- You taught me that a good person can feel, and cause, much pain.
- From you and my mother I learned that I inherited aspects of your ancestral pains, both known and not remembered. This has become a foundation for my work. Thank you.
Even though some of the things I learned from you are painful or uncomfortable, I thank you because these pains propelled me to who I am now, the work I do. I hope that as I move closer to the age when you died (62), and well beyond that, I can create a Life that makes both of us happy. I am your first born, and only daughter (to you I will always be your little girl I imagine), and for that I am grateful. The photo of you with the fish is an image I love of you. You were getting ready to leave the south to go to college, well before I was born. I am sure you had many dreams. I hope they are coming true where you are.
I had a dream a few years after you died, where someone gave me a message (they said you had called them on the phone) that you were ok. You were doing well where you were. For that I am grateful. Thank you.
Happy Father’s Day, George Oliver Wilson. You are loved.
Happy Father’s Day to all Dads who are/were sad, numb, and/or in pain, whether here or in the Spirit World now.
This is the audio version of the book that I wrote: