At first glance, my grandfather still looked strong and healthy. He was smiling and sitting on his porch enjoying the warm air. Then he started coughing. I noticed the way he wheezed and how his head pulled back with every intake of breath. A month later, he succumbed to the lung cancer.
My father was kind enough to tell me of my grandfather's death through a text message. To some, this might seem cold, but the fact that my father told me at all was a shock to me. That he didn't tell me the date of the funeral until it was too late for me to make travel arrangements is more typical of my father.
I am an unwanted child to most of my father's side of the family, including my father. To these people, with the exception of my now deceased grandfather, I am nothing more than a living, breathing consequence of the bad decision making skills of a couple of teenagers.
All of my life my father has been a wide wall of either indifference or outright hostility towards me. Where he shows affection and true love to my brothers, I am dismissed as being too like my mother or forgotten altogether.
But after my grandfather died, my father started doing something that confounded and surprised me more than anything he had done in the previous 30 years of my life. He started texting me once a week. These were nothing texts that had no interesting reason for their being. He texted me to ask about the weather or to tell me something interesting that happened to him. He asked me how I was doing in these texts.
In my adult life, I've tended to take a very no nonsense, no holding back stance in my personal relationships. I spent years pleading with my father to tell me why I was never good enough for him. I wrote him letters, I called him, I sat him down and tried really talking to him. From his familiar face came only lies and denials. The pain of his indifference was made only worse by the word getting back to me of the horrible things that he says about me to other family members when he deigns to think of me at all.
I am the thorn causing sharp and aching pains in my father's side. I don't mean to do it.
My first offense was in being a daughter instead of a son. My father is an old-fashioned country boy who holds some of the more horrible ideals of his stereotype close to his heart. Women are of no use unless it is for the sexual pleasures of their men, the raising of children, the cooking, or the tending of the home. Even as a small child, I dared to have opinions and venture an outspoken moment where I brazenly called my father out for his views. I dared to express my pain over how he treated me.
Now, once a week, I receive a text that always ends with the phrase, “I love and miss you.” One might assume that such words coming from my indifferent and unloving father might cause a leap of joy in my scarred heart, but it just isn't so. Old wounds are poked and prodded, my mind jerking me back to the truly painful memories that I simply can't bury.
Not long before my parents divorced, my father's attitude towards me began to be too much for me to handle idly. My father is an avid hunter and I begged him for days to please let me go trekking through the woods with him. So great was my desperation in being able to bond with my father that I ignored his obvious disgust over my mother forcing him to take me. I heeded, with fear, every threat to me he muttered under his breath as we walked through those woods that day. Every time he would whip his head around to glare at me because he thought I was walking too loudly, every time he muttered how much he hated having to take me out, I stayed quiet. When, in disgust, he announced that I was too loud to have out with him and he took me home, I walked to my bedroom in defeat and I cried. I was 9 years old.
After about a month of my father's texts, I called my brother and asked him why he thought my father might be suddenly wanting to have any contact with me.