Sometimes the hardest part is showing up.
Almost from the moment, I started this blog I’ve been avoiding it. Sitting down to write something that didn’t feel good was painful. I’ve read plenty of pieces about attacking procrastination, writer’s block, and any other mental malady that gets in the way of productivity. They all stress the importance of just being present. They say things like “do it for fifteen minutes” to test the waters, but that’s easier said than done. It really comes down to what you want to write to be more powerful than the urge to run from it, and that’s where I am now.
When I came up with the idea for the Slow Watch I felt reinvigorated. It was something I was interested in and wanted to write about. I loved film analysis in college, and I wanted to dive head first into this idea. Then the first movie came and I watched it, but it took me an eternity to do light research on the subject, and then even longer to sit down to write. But I tried something different because this idea was important to me. I kept trying and it was painful. What I was writing wasn’t good, but I kept it.
I decided not to put myself on a timeline, but to keep bringing myself to my Macbook to try again. To give different approaches. To try to find something that works, and I think I finally got it. What I learned was the process of showing up to write was the sledgehammer that wore down my writer’s block. Then it was when I was away from the MacBook that the breakthrough happened. I wouldn’t have known where to go, but here I am with a direction and that makes me happy.
I don’t miss people, and I don’t spend much time questioning whether it is a feature or a flaw.
It’s one of the driving reasons that I find it hard to stay connected with friends and family. I enjoy the company of the people I love, but when they’re absent from my life I don’t feel as if I’m missing anything. I can go days, weeks, months, and sometimes years without communicating and I won’t think twice about it. In the past I’ve made excuses for it: I was married, I have multiple jobs, I have a child, but there are people who have the same issues who manage to stay in contact.
I believe overtime many people in my life have come to understand the way I am. I notice it in how they wait for me to reach out. I don’t think they hold it against me, but I’m honestly not sure. When I see them everything seems fine. So why overthink and mess up what works? I don’t know. It’s a thing I think.
I do feel regret.
One of my biggest regrets folds into what I wrote above. It was years before I appreciated and understood who he was and the sacrifices he made for his family. Much of that was because of how he communicated. There was a lot of yelling in the house. It wasn’t abusive, but it bordered on annoying because it was about any and everything. It was when I watched his failing health that I realized that he was a product of his childhood.
He was the son of an abusive womanizer, who had extramarital affairs, and an alcoholic mother. He didn’t have an education past middle school. He dropped out and went to work. For a brief period of time he worked for the city of Coatesville, but then he landed a job at Lukens Steel where he worked for decades. It was this job that provided the life that allowed my Mom to raise seven children (two of which were from her first marriage). He would work doubles, and sometimes triples, and he would walk home from work often to work more in the house. He micromanaged household task and often kept busy. I would say he didn’t complain, but he did, and it is his complaints that I can recite to this day (such gems like “if I didn’t wash clothes everyday, I’d have to wash clothes everyday).
When I was a child I gravitated to my Mother. Much of the reasoning was because she was home and we saw her more. But as an adult I can see my Dad as someone who grew up in a completely different and harder time. He wasn’t the best at communicating his feelings, or having a deep conversation, and many times he would leave a conflict by running down the steps and mumbling only to rant later. I often look at my siblings and see both his good and traits show up. It’s not that we are trying. It’s just that they are so discreetly written in our DNAs that they show up even if in the slightest ways.
My Dad was a hard worker. He couldn’t stop. Some people look to retire and relax, but instead he became the backbone of my Mom’s in-home daycare. He’d cook meals, wash clothes, put kids to sleep. He was their Uncle Genie and the kids loved them, and he loved them as well even if he fussed endlessly. That’s how he showed his love. Well that’s how he showed it until we found out his hip was rotted and he needed hip surgery. The surgery was risky for someone at his age, but in an evaluation they also discovered prostate cancer. The Doctors said that it didn’t necessarily have to be treated. It was so early that he might be able to live the rest of his life and never have to deal with it. He opted for treatment.
What happened over months ended was a line of demarcation between what was and what became. My Dad was never the same. When he was getting treatments there were moments when he lashed out in anger, and as a result he was put in an old folks home. He stayed there months after the treatments were over. When I write this I can feel the sadness that emitted from him as he sat in that barren room. He was the same man I knew my entire life, but yet somehow he was different. He was showing a side of himself that he never showed me. He showed a vulnerability that I didn’t know and it was in this time that I became closer with him than I imagined. It was then that I heard him say that he loved me for the first time.
I wish there was a clear line of recovery from that point but there were starts and stops. We found out he had dementia as well, and he fought to try to convince us that his memory was great and he didn’t forget anything. He would prove this by recalling things that we never knew in the first place and this took over any other conversation.
My brother Matt, my sister Polly, and I all had children in the span of two months. I remember my Dad saying that he wanted to see all his grandchildren. And there was a day when he sat in his living room with his three new grandchildren and he said he was happy because he got to see them all. It was a beautiful moment, and I think somewhere he knew he wouldn’t be seeing them grow up. It was at that moment that he said he wasn’t afraid to die. I get choked up at the thought of that because I don’t know what it would take to get to that point.
I just regret that I didn’t give him the chance to have more moments like that. I lived about an hour away, but when things got really rough I wasn’t there. My (now ex-)wife wasn’t comfortable around my family so I didn’t go despite having my own car. I stayed under her in a situation where I wasn’t happy. I didn’t take my son with me to see him more often. I took his life for granted, and I can’t go back and change that and that hurts. I feel this wound daily, but before now I keep it covered. When I was still married I told me ex-wife this and she took it as I was blaming her… but I was blaming myself.
My Dad knew I loved him. I told him as much, and I’m glad I had moments with him that I wouldn’t have otherwise. I just feel like I failed him in so many ways when he was here. I failed even more when I wanted to write something to say at his funeral but I ran from it out of fear. The only way I can pay him back is to stand on his shoulders and learn the lessons from him and be the best father I can be with what I was given. To not hold back my love for Cameron, and hope that if there is a heaven (and I believe there might be) that he’s looking down and sees that I’m thankful for everything he gave me.
I just wish I had another chance to do things differently.