I always wondered if when he died, I would be filled with regret for not trying harder to repair my relationship with him. But I wasn’t. Of course I was sad; he was my dad, and I have happy memories of him from my childhood. But mostly I felt sorry that he wasn’t able to enjoy his life.
And in the end, I don’t know that I could have done anything for him. I don’t think I could have changed him; or convinced him to stop drinking; or really, truly brought him any joy.
These are things that ultimately we must do for ourselves, right? That’s what pushed me to stop communicating with him in the first place. I wanted my life to be filled with joy, and love, and happiness; and I felt that even though I was his daughter, I wasn’t obligated to maintain a relationship with him if it was unhealthy for me. I made a difficult choice, but I stand by it.
So why visit my dad’s grave today? There is part of me that wants to apologize if I made him feel abandoned, and to explain the choice I made. I’d like to tell him how sorry I am that he couldn’t find any joy in his life. There is part of me that wants to have all those conversations we could never have when he was alive. But if I’m really honest with myself, I visit for me. I visit to be reminded that I must do things that he could never do because he was too buried under his sadness. No matter how hard things get, I have to work on eliminating negative inner dialogue. No matter what obstacles I encounter, I have to remain positive and keep moving forward. I need to laugh every day and find something beautiful and wonderful about life each day.
Despite the darkness and overwhelming sorrow of his last years, the legacy he has left me is this: Seek happiness.
The flowers I brought to leave at my dad’s grave were from the community garden, planted from seed. I loved leaving them there for him, and for me. They are resilient and beautiful, bright and cheerful.