It's been a little over a month since my stepfather died. I've been thinking about posting something about how weird it feels to drive his car and use his cellphone. It is strange to flip through cooking magazines and see the recipes he tagged, and realize he will never get to make them.
I've been avoiding the topic though, because I don't feel the way I'm supposed to feel. Even now part of me is cringing, warning me that this is too honest, making me too vulnerable. But when I think of the kind of writer I want to be, the kind of person I want to be, I decide I'd better swallow the fear of man and write what's real.
While Steve was ill I was brought to tears a couple of times when I heard how he was suffering, but I haven't been able to cry for him since he died. I don't exactly understand why. Or maybe I do.
In my head, I'm sad for his passing, but my heart is convoluted and confused. I'm angry that he made my mother's last year with him a living hell, that he complained and took all the anger he felt because of his condition out on her. Why couldn't he have left her with some nice memories? Why was he too proud to receive help, so he made my mother do EVERYTHING for him throughout his illness? Why didn't he thank her for all she did?
But you're not supposed to be angry at people who are dead! So, I feel guilty for being angry. But then I don't feel so guilty because I think he never loved me anyway. He didn't even like me. When I read the program for his funeral I wondered how I could have known this man for more than half my life and yet known so little about him.
I knew he thought I was irresponsible. He thought I was a heretic for calling myself a Christian when I don't belong to the Catholic Church. He thought I was part of a cult (I'm not, in case you're wondering). I don't want to think badly of him. There are so many good things too, but he never thought enough of me to let me see them.
He smoked for thirty years, but he quit seven years ago. I was proud of him for that.
He was an officer in the navy, but he never told me anything about it. He had an important job, but he never told me about that either.
I feel like I have my mother, my real mother back again, and I also feel guilty for how good that feels.
I'm sad that he lived his life for money and died not two years after retirement. There's a lesson in it, but I don't want to be that person who finds lessons in other people's tragedies.
I've been thinking a lot about my health, and thinking a lot about my legacy. I've been more diligent with my writing, because how much time do I have really? Fifty years? Twenty? One? I want to leave behind something lasting, something that matters. I want my family to know me, for them to be certain of my love for each of them.
I don't want to be angry. Life is too short for bitterness. And what's the point of holding a grudge, especially against the dead. I need to let go, focus on the good, realize that the things that make me angry say a lot more about me than they do about him. I wonder sometimes why I have so little compassion, but then I realize grief is different for everyone. I'm grieved by the shallowness of my relationship with Steve, and that his passing means it will never be rectified. That's my fault as much as his.
I think I am crazy for writing this down, especially crazy for hitting publish. But I am going to push publish....right...now.
We are letters from Christ, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.