I was sitting and thinking about the new year that is stretching before me, 365 days long. It seems an eternity. We all know it ends up a blink of an eye as time rapidly moves forward, stopping for none of us. As the clock ticked down and the crystal ensconced ball dropped I felt a strong sense of dread. There was no happiness and celebration. I only sensed this new year would be filled with more challenges and heartache. It may have been colored by the worry for our dog as I watched him struggle. Though I think it really has more to do with the concern and fear over my father’s deteriorating state. I want nothing more than to return to where we were a few years back. I know that isn’t a good spot. I struggled mightily beneath his shadow. It was not, in fact, a good place for me. I was pinned by his control and my growth as an adult remained stunted. I was unable to handle life as it threw each curve ball at me. I fell apart rather than stood firm. I allowed him to control me and my environment. It was an awful place. As he has grown weaker I have grown stronger. I no longer wither in response to challenge. I can face what comes to me and assess it. I am often overwhelmed, as we all are, but I rarely feel the old companion that tells me to quit. I look for ways to problem solve and climb out from behind the heavy push of anxiety and worry. It is difficult and untried. It is a work in progress and very much a skill I have to hone. I understand that. It won’t be perfect overnight. I have a lifetime to make up for. I have all those years of being sheltered in that bizarre way my father promoted. He tried his best. I know that. He was unsure and clumsy in his efforts. More often than not he left me dangling in the worst of situations and expected I work it out. It was indeed a trial by fire for my young self. I know he was doing his best. Unfortunately for me I did not have the ability or skill to cope with these trials. I fell apart. I collapsed beneath the sudden appearance and weight of the challenge. Each time it gave him the opportunity to play the hero. He would, in his desperate state, try and buy me happiness. He would do anything for me to try and make it better. When I was young the arrival of material things held back the tide of worry and fear. It dissipated the hate and fury. As I got older it was not as easy. He still tried. A farm. A truck. Money. But my mind could not be bought anymore. The onslaught of moods and darkness remained steadfast in his shadow. The more I struggled the more strained our relationship became. Silence replaced our once easy banter. No longer was I his “cupcake”. I had become a complicated suffering adult and he had no skill to communicate with me. I had no desire to communicate with him. I had become angry and rageful in his shadow. The control that had once been my security blanket had become a psychological straight jacket. I was restrained and it angered me. My mind wanted nothing more than to grow and flourish but could not beneath his thumb. As the years passed the anger shifted to a steady state of resentment. I did not understand my inability to talk to him. We were awkward and silent in each others presence. He was in Florida, and rarely came north. Looking back I wish I had been able to distance myself from that crippling feeling of anger. I did not realize how precious that time was. Each one of those visits were finite yet I was too blinded by my emotions to recognize that. I know now. I understand my anger. It is hard to remain so controlled and not react. As the years passed and our connection dissipated in the space and lack of contacted I began to understand this anger. I began to let it go. In its place I began to long for connection. There is no connection to be had. Strange how I want most what I cannot have. Yes, the grass is truly greener. I think often of our adventures and the life he gave me. Where anger once raged there is an emptiness. A hole clear through my middle. It brings tears to my eyes to think about that hollow. I realize how huge a role he played in my life. How much of him I have within me. Those moments when impatience flares white hot, or when a quick word of wit falls from my lips. Those are his gifts along with so many others. I long for the opportunity to thank him for them. To clamor through the silence and settle once again in that place when words were easy and life was my oyster. He held it there for me from the time I found my first steps. It was always possibility, never discouragement. How many of us have that? I realize now how blessed I was. That was his greatest gift. He was, if nothing else, an optimist. A dreamer. There was nothing he would not heartily try. There was nothing outside the realm of possibility. Sure one might say he tilted at many a windmill, but that is who he was. I did not get that part of him though I sure wish I had. He lived his life without the ability to back down, or quit. Wasn’t in him. I love that. To live life 100% on your terms. Sure he burned bridges, and caused so much pain, but he did it in pursuit of something greater. I do not know what drove him. I may never know. But it truly is stunning to stand back and look over it. I do not want him to suffer trapped in a mind losing its faculties. I cannot think of a worse place for such a purpose driven man. I guess we don’t know where exactly the mind goes as dementia or Alzheimer’s wraps its grip around it. I can only hope he does not really know. I can pray he is not there somewhere trapped as if beneath ice, unable to escape. It sickens me just to think about it. My greatest regret is missing that window when I had the opportunity to reconnect and I walked away. I allowed my anger to drive a wedge between us. Instead of reaching out I walked away. I do not know how I can forgive myself for that choice. I know I’ll have to find a way.
As 2014 dawns in its infancy I can only look forward and dread the coming year. I cannot welcome it with open arms for I know there will be trials and hardship. I have grown. I know I have come so very far. I also know this new self is young and unchallenged. The mortar unset. I do not know if my new self can weather this challenge. I guess I need to have a little faith in myself and allow a little bit of my father’s optimism to come though. I doubt I’ll ever seek out windmills, but I know somewhere in me there is that piece of him. Maybe 2014 is the year I uncover it. Maybe it is time to find the best pieces of him in me. Even if they are just castaway seeds left in the whirlwind of this life. It may be just one. We can carefully tend to that seed and grow a new part of me long left untended in this rough journey called life. That is my wish for this year. I do not want to lose him though I know I am powerless to stop this never ending progression toward death. There is no way to stop the steady march. Those lost pieces of him will be all that remain and I do have the ability, with help, to nurture them. He will not be entirely lost. I will not let him be.