As part of National Blog Posting Month (NaBloPoMo), I am taking part in a daily blog post challenge through the BlogHer website. Today’s prompt:
Which fall shows should totally be canceled already?
I looked at the prompt for today’s post and immediately dismissed it as boring and uninteresting. Who cares about what other people think about TV shows? There couldn’t be a more useless topic about which to discuss, let alone write.
So in the midst of my, “what the *bleep* do I write about now?” mental moment, I picked up a book I keep on my desk, opened it to a random page, and let the gods of the blogosphere direct me on my writing journey this evening.
The book is called 642 Things to Write About, a collection of writing prompts I picked up from the sale table at Barnes & Noble a couple of years ago. The topic to which I was serendipitously led is “A conversation you regret never having.”
One of the weirdest moments in my life was when I came to view my father as my peer. I think I was about twenty-two years old, and we were on the phone just talking about stuff, the way you would with a good friend. The formality I carried in my eyes as a child was gone. I no longer looked at my dad with the “I have to respect him or else” perspective that rightfully dominated my youth. Instead, it was a pleasure speaking to him about soccer and power tools and just life in general. It was also a coming of age moment for me, and I remember that moment as a pivotal one which marked my development as a man in the eyes of my father.
To provide some better context, my father was forty years-old when I was born. I had no appreciation for how old he was relative to the dads of other kids my age until I got to college. Whereas the fathers of my peers were established in their careers and still spry and lively, my father was approaching retirement age by the time I graduated from college.
It came to me all of the sudden, in a flash, the understanding of all my father – and mother – did for my brother and me to provide us with housing, food, and an education. We were, by textbook standards, poor growing up. My parents’ household income in the 80’s was below $20k per year. Still, my brother and I attended Catholic school from Kindergarten through 12th grade, and my parents managed to provide for us while my brother was off at Purdue and I was at Tulane. Don’t ask me how they did it, but they did.
So there I was, on the phone with the man that used to be my dad, but was now my peer and best friend. There wasn’t anything I couldn’t discuss with my dad. There wasn’t a topic that was off limits or out of bounds. Obviously, he knew everything about me since the day I was born, and I quickly grew to understand and appreciate why it was everyone who knew my dad seemed to like him so much. My father was funny, witty, and clever. More importantly, he would give you the shirt off his back if you needed it. He was the first to offer up help, and despite his many, many flaws, he was the man towards which everyone seemed to gravitate.
My dad told me many things in my lifetime. He was a constant fountain of wisdom, direction, and encouragement. I can say with absolute certainty there was one phrase my father never uttered to me; “Son, I am disappointed in you.” I was a straight-A student growing up. I was a scholar athlete. Not only did I excel in the classroom, I excelled on the field as well. He was at every little league football game and at every track meet. Even my physical traits came from his side of the family. I’m not saying I was his favorite, but I was his favorite.
There’s a clear and obvious reason I never heard my father say, “Son, I am disappointed in you.” It’s because I lied to him on his deathbed.
In 2002, my father was diagnosed with Mesothelioma, a type of Cancer brought on by exposure to Asbestos. At that time, I didn’t know he’d only have two more years to live. At that time, he didn’t know I was several months into having an affair.
My dad was rather humble, but there was one thing he touted and in which he took pride more than anything else; he loved my mom with all he had. My dad would tell me stories about when he first met my mom, and how being married to her changed his life. And he would always wrap up his stories with the phrase, “and I never cheated on your mother.” Apparently, in his younger days, my dad bore a resemblance to Elvis Presley and had several women come on to him after he was married. He took pride in turning them down and preserving the solemn oath he took when he pledged his love to my mom.
‘A conversation you regret never having’. I think it’s obvious where you see this blog post going.
As I saw chemotherapy reduce my father to – quite literally – half the man he used to be, I buried my burden deep inside my heart. As I stayed with him during his final days and saw him drift in and out of lucidity, the morphine shielding him from the pain but also robbing me of the precious time left with my father, I made the conscious decision to not bear my soul to my dad, to not be honest with my best friend.
I hid in my own shame because I couldn’t bear the thought of my father being disappointed in me. I was thirty-one years old, my father was near death, and all I could think about was protecting my feigned innocence.
Do I regret never having that conversation with my father? I do. Every fucking day I do.
In 2011, I finally had that conversation with my father. It was in the form of a submission for a the Florida Writer’s Association collection of stories told exclusively in dialogue format. My submission was selected for the book, appropriately titled “Let’s Talk.” More importantly, it helped put at ease the weight of never having told my dad about my infidelity. Although I wish I could go back and have that conversation with him, I know he’s in Heaven looking down at me, knowing and understanding what it is I went through, as well as the growth I’ve experienced since then. And in my heart, despite all my many, many flaws, I know he’s still proud of me.