I am nearly sixty years old and much, much closer to the end of my life than to when my father, the adoptive one (now referred to as JRK), was a factor in my day to day life, yet he haunts me still. From the grave now as he passed away this week.
His funeral will be a small one as he had few, if any, friends and was not part of any social circles. I won't be there due to my ever increasing disability. If my mother remembered her husband I might feel the need to try and make the trip but it would be brutal ... especially given the time of year and the weather in the US right now. Luckily for my Mom (and I) her dementia seems to have wiped the memory of JRK from her mind. I think this is saying something...and that he was the first long term memory to go, and to go pretty much completely, says it all.
Sadly my only regret in his passing has been that it was not soon enough that my mother to have enjoyed the last years of her life. She was held back in many ways by the "guy who sat at the end of the table" as she now refers to him when a glimmer of memory surfaces. Held back from doing things, held back from traveling, held back from having a loving relationship. It is water under the bridge at this point and it was her decision to stay with him through all the years of abuse and rancor. I never understood this and now never will as her mind is now in the day to day...and at least this week that is not a bad thing.
My mother in law called to talk to me about his passing. It was a little awkward as she knows the kind of relationship that I had with him. Particularly awkward given the recent passing of her husband who was a truly good father and good man in general. His funeral service suffered from the opposite of scarce friends as it was standing room only. I cried at his passing and I still think of him often. Yet when Sally asked me about JRK, that surely he had some good points, I struggled to come up with them off the top of my head.
Ironically, when I got the funeral announcement that my brother and sister-in-law put together it did make me sad. He was human and was a huge part of my life whether good or bad. He was also the father to my brother and sister and a companion to my mother for fifty years. He could be charming, even entertaining, and he was always there with a story though as he got older the stories seemed to get repeated more and more often. I think my best memory of him might be the story about the sandwich with the onions on it. This will only make sense to my family and any one that knows my brother and how much he likes onions. He was passionate about woodworking, he loved his dog(s), and he was as staunch a republican as the party of the elephants could hope to have. He was equally passionate about FOX News and of course he could never have too many sports channels.
I still struggle, however, to remember him in the context of good memories from the ten years between when he adopted me and I emancipated myself from him. I know there must have been some but they are just not coming to me. The bottom line is that this does not matter. His influence on me was large for better or for worse and it may well have been for the better in the long run. It was my desire to emancipate myself from him that helped motivate me to get my first job with computers. I guess you might be able to say that I owe my career and its success to him?
In closing I will acknowledge that it might seem a bit immature of me to so adamantly refuse to address him as "Dad". He was my adoptive father and I addressed him as a father for many years. Somewhere in the more recent past I decided that he had not earned this right from me simply by virtue of signing some papers. I think that he did this just to make my mom happy as I also think that she married him for me...because the mores of the time insisted that a boy growing up needed a father. Maybe I should feel guilty about this.
In any case, my refusal to call him Dad does seem a bit immature but what the hell. I earned it. It does not change the fact that I have a brother and a sister from the relationship or diminish their brother-ness or sister-ness. The are close enough to me that the stress of their relationship is my stress. The last legacy of JRK that I will mention is the impact that he had on his natural born children. He scarred them and it has manifested itself in behaviors from the two of them that prevent them from being able to get along as brother and sister. The reasons go deep and the scar tissue goes back decades but I hope that they can get past it. I think they both could use talking to someone that can help them repair the legacy that JRK has left them. It would be a shame if they could not.