A friend from work brought me a copy of Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home to borrow, and I read it over the weekend. Curiously, my partner and I also started watching Six Feet Under, so I spent the weekend in fictional funeral homes with suddenly dead fathers. Any proximity to reality is entirely coincidental.
Fun Home was a lovely little book without being hagiography. Bechdel doesn’t idealize her father, but she loves him. Even as she discovers the dark parts of him and recognizes ways that he was abusive, she also recognizes the ways that he has formed her–both as a conscious queer person and as an intellectual. When I returned the book to my coworker today, we had a brief exchange about the complexity of the author’s feelings for her father. My coworker, whose father died when she was a younger woman, reflected on this as honest and resonant for her. Although I might have shared more of my thoughts with this coworker over coffee or beer, today I just nodded and thanked her for the loan.
I am thankful for the time I have to spend with my dad, however long that turns out to be. I love my dad a lot, and (not but) I have a complicated, painful history with him. I don’t know how much of that we will talk about before he dies. I don’t know how much I even need to. In the past year or so, he has really embraced his twelve-step program and begun to identify as an addict. I don’t know where he is with his steps or if he’s still actively working on them. I was dreading the amends part, fearful of the conversation that may ensue when he makes a list of people he has harmed and becomes willing to make amends.
I think that I have forgiven him, that I’m ready to be present to that conversation if he needs to do that. But it is also scary to consider cracking open old hurt, because maybe I have just sealed it up tightly enough that it isn’t so bothersome anymore. Maybe openness to my father’s amends is openness to re-living trauma even in the midst of the pain of losing him.
Two things that I keep coming back to, though: 1) I trust my own resilience, and 2) I love my father. I can be ready, if I need to be.