But my kids (all of our kids, really) need to know
Before I say anything else, you should know that I always did what I thought was best. I was overwhelmed, unsure of how to proceed, and lost without your mother. Adulting isn’t particularly hard. You all know this. You’ve all had to learn how to do it. On short notice and without a lot of understanding or support. You should know that I never really had to do it. Alone, anyway. Not until your mother died. When that happened I felt like I had to do it for five people. I felt like I carried the weight of the world on my shoulders.
Maybe I should have asked for help. Or maybe I should have asked you what you needed. Instead of just making decisions for everyone. I can see now how it probably looked like your dad was a control freak. Or maybe you felt like I was just abdicating all responsibility and leaving you on your own? Sometimes that’s how I see it too. But I do know, I didn’t ask you what you thought was best. I just decided. And often that looked like leaving you to handle it yourselves.
Now, here I am, sitting all alone in my apartment. I have rather weak connections to all of you. I don’t know how you see me. Maybe, as I’ve been told by more than one woman, I’m a narcissist or just a self-absorbed asshole. “It’s not all about you!” they say to me. I have never thought it was all about me. In point of fact I’ve always thought it was about you, or your mother, or the woman I was currently involved with or even my job. In my mind, it was always someone else that was more important. I can see though, how that could make it look like you specifically weren’t important to me. Somehow, I managed to make it look like I didn’t think anyone else mattered. That has never been the case.
Or, maybe you don’t think of me at all. Unless, and until, I call or text you. Honestly, that’s okay. If your mother were here, I’m sure there would be much more communication. She was always more involved in your lives (at least after you were little). I’ve said this before, I knew how to be a parent to little kids. I was, and am, lost in the world of adult children. Being a caregiver to your mother while trying to make sure we didn’t all wind up on the street didn’t leave a lot of room left for the subtleties of being a great dad. It’s too late to be that kind of father now. And being a grandfather? Well, that doesn’t really seem possible to me. But I am one. Maybe in these next few years, I can figure out how that could have happened. And maybe I can learn how to be a better father and grandfather along the way.
Here’s the important thing though, I know your mother and I succeeded as parents. And it’s really not about me at all. In fact, it’s slightly embarrassing to me. The reason I know this has everything to do with you. Every single one of you. You don’t talk to me like you’re afraid of me. You don’t talk to me as if I’m some sort of authoritative figure in your lives. You speak to me as a peer. Just another soul on the path of corporeal existence. Sometimes even correcting me when I’m clearly in the wrong (that’s the embarrassing part). No, you’re not perfect. Especially you, my boys, you could stand to learn a little subtlety when speaking down to your father, even if you’re right. It’s a skill you would have to have gotten from me though, your mother never possessed it either.
You should know that I respect you. Each one of you. For decisions you’ve made for yourselves, with or without my counsel. For lives you’ve forged under less than ideal circumstances. And, for the people you have become. Undoubtedly, you’ve made mistakes. Just see above for a tiny fraction of the ones I know I made. And we all make many on this journey. It’s the recovery and the ability to grow from both failures and triumphs that make for a truly successful person. In that respect, you are all successful humans. I love you all and I am extremely proud to be your father.