The plaque says he was her loved husband. No mention of a daughter, as though he never had one.
I ask who designed the plaque and its wording and I am not given the truth. But I uncover some of the truth and it is not what I had hoped.
If it had been solely her doing to leave me out it would’ve been easier to deal with – that would be nothing new. The truth is not that simple.
His siblings designed and paid for the plaque. I am still not able to fully ascertain how much involvement she had with the wording, different people tell me different things.
But somewhere, ultimately, there was a decision to not include me. His siblings were concerned I would not want my name added after such a long estrangement. No one asked me.
Maybe they were right, maybe I wouldn’t have wanted to be added, after all I did consider having my adoption annulled at one point – you can do that when you’ve been estranged for such a long time.
But instead the decision was made for me and then clouded in confusion once I discovered it.
I had begun to open my heart to his family, the one I had not been part of for so long, one I thought I could reclaim after his death because she didn’t seem to want it, even after 55 years of being married into it.
I want them. I need them. I have been alone for so long. Other family members are shocked and angry when they see my name is missing. There are offers to add my name now.
It’s not the issue though. The issue is not being included in decisions about my father. I am quick to blame her.
But the overriding fact is that I wasn’t included in my father’s life for over half my life. Why would I be included now? And was that all her doing?
In the end it is him who has created this situation through the choices he made, choices that affected the course of my life. He left no instructions for me, no acknowledgement, no momentoes, no provision.
In the end I see that it is not her or his siblings who are responsible for this exclusion. It is my father, in death as in life.
My cousin and I leave the little cemetery on this hot Christmas day to swim in the lake and cool off. This is the lake beside which my father grew up, that now holds his ashes.
He is gone. I am here. I was born into another family where there was no place for me. I have no intention of spending the rest of my life feeling this way.
I release the old need to believe she is responsible for his neglect and abandonment of me, to absolve him. This belief kept me tied in knots, not seeing that these were his choices, that this is who he was regardless of her influence.
His brother, who looks so much like him, looks at me with the kind of love and care I rarely saw in my father. I see it in my cousins, I feel it in the land where I once lived when I was very young. A feeling of belonging.
The best gift he ever gave me was his family. But it’s a gift I can only receive when I shed the old beliefs that shielded me from the painful truth they all know, the truth about the kind of man my father was. An outsider, craving a glory he didn’t earn, self-serving and empty.
This Christmas I felt myself come out of contraction. I felt my heart expand, enough to make space for all that is real, for the feelings, and for the family who have always been here.
My name might not be on my father’s memorial plaque, but I will write it large in the world I go on to and create from here. I will not disappear again.
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