The shadow of my father follows me everywhere. I often find that I’m afraid my older siblings will associate me with any past relationship they had with our father. My relationship with him is the only one he has with any of his children today. Do they avoid me because of my connection to him? Will I ever bridge the gap between our ages, the marriages we came out of, and family drama? These were all questions I had as Luke and I packed up the chickens into our Honda Pilot and drove from Connecticut to Virginia.
We did it! I am proud to say we made it to my brother Ed’s place for a long weekend. This was the first road trip we’d taken with the children. It was also the first time I was going to see my brother in 15 years. I was nervous and apprehensive to say the least. When he stepped out onto the porch to greet us I was taken aback by how much he resembled our father. His youngest son was a toddler in my arms the last time we met. Now he is easily 6 feet tall and preparing to leave for boot camp to be a marine.
My brother Ed and his wife have a lovely home on a lake. We spent our time out on the boat, eating at the marina, tubing, jet-skiing etc. I couldn’t participate in all of the activities because of my recent back surgery, but it didn’t matter. We were all having fun and enjoying each other’s company. My kids were getting to know their family. Mary convinced Ed to swim around in the water playing, “Sharks and Robbers” with her. It was idyllic to say the least.
And then we had the talk. We talked about our dad. I had resolved not to bring him up. I wanted to remain respectful of the other sibling’s feelings about him. I wasn’t there as any kind of ambassador and I didn’t want to give that impression. I can respect their choices not to have contact. I suppose the topic was bound to come up but I cringed when the conversation started.
My brother and I discussed the fact that our father is now 90-years-old. He won’t be around forever. When Ed asked if I had thought about what would happen when he died I was truthful. Yes, Luke and I had talked about this. I would fly out to California to make arrangements. We would look into his military benefits to help cover costs. Dad wanted his ashes scattered at sea, as he was an avid sailor. My mother had offered to go with me when the time came so that I wouldn’t be alone. I wasn’t sure what else to say.
I was beyond surprised when Ed said that he had also given this some thought and that he would want to attend whatever service was held after our father passed. He said he planned to go and if he was turned away, it would be alright. At least he would know that he tried. I often feel this way with our father. I can try my best but whatever choices he makes are his alone. They are not a reflection on me.
Ed was also able to voice that he wanted a relationship with me separate from that with our father. He and his wife shared that they though of me just as me and not as a connection back to Dad. They expressed happiness that we adopted our children. They told me I wouldn’t be alone when the time came to make decisions about our father.
It was like a great weight had been lifted from my shoulders. I wasn’t alone. My family wanted to be in my life. Luke and I are not an island. Mary and Carl have extended family. I felt like this trip was a gift for my children. I was able to give them an aunt and an uncle. They met one of their cousins (the other two are grown and living far away.)
I left feeling as if I had support. I had connections. My relationship with my brother isn’t gone. It is only just beginning. The drive home was peaceful. The kids were behaving, we were breaking it into 2 days. And then I got the call about my dad.
**Names have been changed to protect the privacy of those involved.