It has been almost two years since my father died and I think I’m still coming to terms with the fact that he’s gone. As he lay in the hospital, weak, but conscious and lucid, I hugged him and I said what seemed to be the only words I could articulate at the time: “I’m sorry I wasn’t a better son.”
I don’t know why I spoke those particular words when there were so many other thoughts sprinting through my mind. I had so much I wanted to say, but it was like my roiling emotions choked off anything more articulate and that was all I could get out.
What I wanted to say, or, at least, what I wanted to convey, was that I was sorry I was, in my opinion, a disappointment. I was 36 when my father died and he would have been 72 had he lived long enough to reach his birthday. I was basically half his age and I couldn’t help--can’t help--comparing my life to his when he was my age.
When my father was 36 he was married, had three kids, a good job. In contrast, at 36 I was (and still am) living in the home in which I grew up, in the same room, with a job I hate and nothing even resembling a social life. And now, almost two years later, at age 38, nothing in my life has changed.
And I think that’s what I was apologizing to my father for. I wasn’t exactly apologizing for any inadequacies I felt as a son, but as a person. I was apologizing for still living at home, and for not having a job, for not trying harder to find a job I actually wanted. I was apologizing for my complacency, my laziness. I was (and still am) sorry that should I ever find myself with children of my own, they will never know their grandfather.
I look at my brother and my sister, both of whom are married with kids of their own. And while their lives aren’t perfect (whose is?), I can’t help feeling a twinge of jealousy. Both of their spouses knew our father for the better part of 15 years. Their kids, my nieces and nephews, got to know their grandfather, not just as small children, but into their teenage years.
Should I ever get married, unless I’ve already met the woman, she will not have had a chance to know my father, and that bothers me, maybe more than it should. My father was the biggest influence in my life. There is so much of him in me (or so little, if you compared our hairlines) and yet I have been unable to attain what he had. I don’t know if I ever will, but I have to try. I owe it to him to keep trying.
My father’s reply, by the way, after I apologized to him, was, “No, no. You’ve been great. You’re great.”