Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Missing Daddy (contemplating how to deal with loss, both adoption and otherwise)

I miss my Daddy today... not my "father" but my daddy. See, my father is one being, but two separate people. He is the memory I have of a man who would die for his children. The man who would call me to see if I'd written anything lately, and then ask me to read it to him. The man who would cheer me on, and convince me that I could do anything. The man who made me cry (happy, sappy tears) on my wedding day, when I had kept a dry eye through the whole ceremony. The man who liked to play boardgames with his kids. That man is my daddy. The memories I have of him are so special to me, but they break my heart. I lost him.

My daddy is gone.

But he's not physically gone. He is now this other man. The man who deserted his family. The man who is filled with rage. The man who let alcohol and drugs destroy his life. The man who pesters my mother (his now ex-wife) with annoying text messages and phone calls. The man who ignores our wishes, and acts out in our presence. This man is my father, but he is not the Daddy I remember.

So, I've consciously chosen to avoid him for the most part. I see him rarely. He doesn't have my number. When I see him, I'm cordial. I talk to him; I give him rides home; I let him briefly have (supervised) visits with Meerkat. But, he's not the same... and our relationship is not the same. I've lost him... even though he's still around.

My mother and father were divorced shortly after alcoholism returned to my father's life, about three years ago. That was a very difficult time. It felt like a death to me. I had lost my daddy, and he wasn't coming back, no matter what he did. I could never restore our relationship to what it was before. Those days were over, and it killed part of me. But, just like with death, I eventually healed and had my memories, and moved on.

Then suddenly, without warning, today I started missing him. Inbetween my classes this morning, I couldn't stop thinking about my Daddy. I thought about being a little girl holding his thumbs, climbing his legs, and flipping over. I thought about hanging from his biceps in kindergarten, so proud to show off how strong my daddy was to all my friends. I remembered calling him when I got a poem published to hear his reaction. I thought about being so sick in my dorm-room in college that he had to come get me and carry me to the hospital. He drove thirty minutes, picked me up off my bunk bed, carried me to the car, and into the hospital. I thought about him driving that same trip to go to class with me after my hysterectomy to help me get around, and just incase I needed him. I recalled him loading a friend's truck every year for four years to move me from apartment to apartment. I remembered how he was at EVERY single performance of mine (and there were MANY) - theater, singing, church-plays - cheering me on, and how he was always the loudest clap and howl in the crowd. My heart feels so sad today. I hurt physically with the amount I miss him... And, while I could call him up and talk to him, it wouldn't be my Daddy on the other line... it would be this other man who pretends to be Daddy, but who just can't get it right... and that hurts most of all.

In the midst of my thoughts today, I began to associate my loss with my daughter's. And it really got me thinking about loss in adoption. Everyone involved is suffering some type of loss: the loss of a child; the loss of a first-family; the loss of a pregnancy. And yes, these losses hurt a lot when they first occur, and yes we eventually move into acceptance, but then a day like today happens, and the wound reopens a little.

My daughter was adopted as a newborn. Does this make her loss minimal? I don't think so. Sure, she did not experience a life with her first-family, so she doesn't have the memories to miss and regret losing. But, I never experienced a pregnancy, and yet I feel a tremendous amount of pain over the loss of being able to experience it. What gives me some hope is that I am able to see that despite that loss and my desire to have not encountered it, I am still thankful for it to some extent. I hope that my daughter will, despite her pain at losing an entire family, be able to rejoice in the family that she has now. And, I hope that by keeping in contact with A and her children, we will be able to minimize the pain of loss that she feels. However, I still worry today. I worry that one day my daughter's loss will become so real and painful to her that she will struggle to get past it. I worry that she will suffer, just as I worry about her suffering any heartbreak or pain.

I'm not worried that she won't love me and her daddy, because I know she will. And, I'm not worried that she will not want to be with us, because I know she will be thankful that she ended up with us as parents. I am, however, worried that she will question the "what-ifs" so much that they will consume her and break her heart. I'm worried that she won't understand why she had to experience the loss she did. I worry that she will be angry that she is feeling sad about her loss, and not realize that it's okay to grieve it. I worry that one day she will be crying in her car between classes... like I was today. And I wish I could help her avoid that pain, or be there to hold her while she cries. But, I know I will not always be around as she ages. She will become more and more independent. She will deal with things privately. I just hope that I am able to help her somehow, as she ages.

I worry too about A. I can't imagine the grief she feels, and the pain of her loss. I know she is happy with her decision, and I know she doesn't regret it. She is upbeat, and stays in contact with us. But, I worry that she is in pain too. And, I have developed a strong love for A. A love that surprised me. I worry about how she is dealing with her loss. I hope that she is at peace.

Most of all, I hope that when those sneaky moments rear up, like mine today, that A and Meerkat will not be afraid to experience their grief and share their feelings with someone. I hope that they will not keep their feelings deep inside. I hope that A will talk to her mom, or a friend, or a counselor. I hope that Meerkat will come to me, or her dad, or a friend. I hope that despite the difference of our losses, we will still all feel the connection to one another that binds our losses together. I hope that we will constantly be aware of each other's losses. I never want to forget about the losses Meerkat and A have experienced as a result of this process, and I hope they are both able to consider each other's losses (and mine) when they are grieving and communicating.

I began thinking about my father's loss. He's lost his wife, his children, his dignity. He's lost even more than I have, and yet I still can't see a way for our damaged relationship to be repaired. I think that remembering his loss helps me deal with mine a bit though. It puts it in perspective. It doesn't minimize my loss at all, but it does make me feel less alone, and a bit more "okay" with my grief. And it prevents my loss from turning into anger and hatred. I can avoid resenting him because I know that he is hurting too. I think this is an essential aspect to dealing with loss, regardless of the circumstances. Keep it from becoming "self-pity" or a solo grief.

Regardless of how we handle it, loss is everywhere. Loss makes us who we are. Loss develops character and destroys character. Loss is hard, whether it's adoption or otherwise.

I miss you, Daddy.


Kelly said...

((Hugs)) Thank you for sharing your heart!!

Shasta said...

New to your blog but so glad I just read your entry. I too have a MIA daddy but still have a father. I have finally learned to pity him and pray for his safety because at this point there isn't much else I can do. I believe at some point and it may be upon his deathbed, my daddy can resurface and be present. It is so difficult to explain to my chidrem who this person is and even harder who he was. My heart breaks because I know my daddy wouldn't have wanted to miss what he is missing.

I too have adopted children, adopted at birth. They are now getting older 13 and 11 and they grieve their unknown loss. I see it in my sons eyes, but he doesn't realize where the sudden sadness comes from. He shakes it off but it's there. How I wish we had contact with his birthfamily, his adoption is closed, how foolish I was to allow that. He has a right to know and come to his own conclusions. I am angry that his birthmother decided no contact was best because "knowing will make me sad". I am certain the not knowing causes more sadness. Did she really think he would never wonder, fantasize, or grieve his loss? Who counseled that this was "best"? My daughter has pictures, not much, but something. My baby has a completely open adoption with birthday visits, she is so blessed and doesn't even realize it yet. Adoption is a beautiful thing but filled with loss. Your baby girl will be okay, but yes, she will grieve. I believe though that after and only after grieving can one truly heal.

God bless you, your family, your baby and your father.

Stephanie said...

Shasta - Welcome to the blog! :) Thanks for your comment. I appreciate hearing from someone who's in the same boat as me.

Stephanie said...

Shasta - Welcome to the blog! :) Thanks for your comment. I appreciate hearing from someone who's in the same boat as me.