My Father (in the middle with the beret) circa 1950's in France around the time he met my Mother, - the man on the right, my father's army bunkmate would end up marrying my Mother's sister and become my Uncle.
My father has lived in New Mexico for 13 years, and this was the first time I visited him.
As anyone who has ever come from a fractured family, you know the relationships within the fractured family dynamic is tricky at times to navigate.
When my parents divorced, a custody battle ensued and my older brother and older sister chose to live with our father, and I chose my Mother - which I think makes sense, being, really, just a little girl. What little girl doesn't want to be with her Mother?
My father and I are bonded by blood and history, yet strangers at times. There are large chunks of my life that he knows nothing about - years would pass as I was growing up and I wouldn't see him.
Just as well, I didn't know much about him either. Born in New Zealand to American parents who were there for business, he grew up in Sarasota, Beverly Hills, and Chicago with what sounds to me like a bit of a sad childhood - a Mother who maybe wasn't there all the time. Dad had a lot of "Uncles" after his Father left his Mother. VERY Mommy Dearest, except without the beatings. I think. :)
My childhood was mainly about me and Mom. I always said I was Mom's mini me. Mom, who dragged me around the world on all of her escapades - Beirut, Paris, Rio, Acapulco. I don't think Dad knew we were gone half the time.
When I was 21 and my mother passed away, I still maintained my distance. Even though I was alone in NY. I still kept him at bay.
Dad always tried to be there for me, in the best way he could be without really knowing me, but I also didn't allow for him to enter my realm - to even give him a chance to get the tiniest bit close. I think it was my way way of punishing him for hurting my Mother.
Until about 5 years ago. I think there was a turning point - on my part. To get to know him better, to embrace who he is, and what he is, who he was and his life as he leads it today. And to allow him in to get to know me and my life.
As we get older we understand more and more of maybe what our parents were going through, we think MY God! they were how old when this was going on? As I pass each year, I think of what my Mother was doing at this age, and I am in shock. I think of My Father and his life experiences and his age at each of them. The pressure we put on our parents to be these perfect beings and protectors are enormous, we offer them no wiggle room for error. And then when we reach certain milestones we realize yes, they are human. Why are they supposed to know better in how to navigate life and raising children?
When I decided to do this drive a few weeks ago, I waited until I was absolutely sure that I was doing this, before I told him - as I knew there would be eight thousand questions - questions that maybe I didn't have answers to. Questions that a concerned Father would ask his youngest daughter. This is something I'm still getting used to.
As is visiting my Father.
But I also know that during my darkest times during those 16 months, Dad stepped up to the plate and for the first time, I let him knock it out of the park.