Saturday, February 4, 2017

How do you grieve? And for what?

I'll tell you, the thing I think I miss most about my Dad is his disdain for fools.
I'm having a discussion with a relative about how we're going to make "Mexico to pay for the wall," and my cousin pointed out that people would be more likely to buy American if Mexico has a 20% border tax on all its exports, and that's not the point. My father would have told me not to bother, and said something disparaging. I'm not listening.
Of course, I'm not listening because my father's been dead for almost 13 months, and he isn't talking to me anymore. I don't hear his voice from beyond the grave, I just *think* I know what he would have said based on years' of experience, and a fair amount of projection.
A few weeks ago I was reading the obituaries in the New York Times. Nicki Scarfo died in Federal Medical Center in Butner, N.C. He was part of the mob in Atlantic City in the 80s when he got sent away for (I think) basic racketeering involving hotels in Atlantic City. That's when Trump was busy buying real estate and turning Atlantic City into what it has become. (In the mid 1970s, it sounded kind of small townish, if Tiger Eyes, by Judy Blume is a reputable source.) And I mourned my father, because he might have remembered the case (he had an exceptional memory) and he would have had a smart comment, and we would have commiserated over how awful things are right now. We also would have taken a moment to suggest whether he knew Fat Hugo or Jimmy the Greek, two imaginary gangsters who could be relied on to beat up, injure and maim ANY bully who chanced to make me cry.
But he would have pointed out that I am not doing too badly. And while he would have agreed that I should care for people who are, he might have suggested that I not get carried away. He was always glad when Mom and I went to bond on political causes, but he hadn't joined us in that since....No, I'm not sure he ever joined us.
And what I grieve for is the special relationship I had with my father; he loved me, not someone he wished I would be, not someone he thought I really was. He was exceptionally proud of me, and his chest pushed out when I suggested that I was what happened when he and my mother were trusted with the upbringing of children. But I wondered if that was selfish -- I didn't miss Jack Robbins, I missed my Dad. I miss my Dad who would hold my hand as I walked along a ledge by Teachers' College on the eastern side of Broadway on my way to Nursery School, allowing me to see the world I was going to inherit. I missed a Dad who was always glad to hear from me when I called. I missed....
No, seriously, I worried that I was treating Dad as less than his own person because I mourned the person he was for me, not who he was as himself. I even got all philosophical about it, worrying that as saying, "I missed my Dad" meant that I missed the end relationship that I had with Jack Robbins and not Jack Robbins as himself (treat everyone as their own ends and never as a means, I think the that section of the categorical imperative went).
And then I laughed at myself, as I thought of him laughing and shaking his head at me. "You too hard on yourself, baby. Don't DO that!"
Of course I miss my Dad, and the special relationship I had with him. I was fortunate to have someone who loved me unreservedly, but was willing to discuss my flaws while warning me not to take myself (or my flaws) too seriously. There is no reason for me to have thought to have had a relationship with my father other than, well, father and daughter. That's who he was to me, and if we hadn't shared blood there would have been no reason for him to think so highly of me (unless he'd married my mother after I was born, or had been EXTREMELY creepy). He probably wouldn't have noticed me if I hadn't been his daughter.
So I will try to not be foolish when mourning him, a year after his death. Of course I miss MY DAD, who else should I miss?

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