I think it’s only natural to criticize your parents’ judgment when it comes to our upbringings. Maybe it is an innate sense of entitlement or a certain amount of self-righteousness, and maybe it is due to the inability to recognize a majority of our flaws are essentially universal. I think it is safe to assume most of us place certain people in our lives on pedestals as if they are above making the same mistakes we do ourselves. Why is it so easy to blame and so difficult to relate sometimes?

The man I refer to as Dad is not actually my biological father. He was my stepfather. My biological father was nowhere to be found for almost the entirety of my childhood, and yet I romanticized him in my mind like some sort of superhero when he was honestly anything but. Meanwhile, I completely resented my stepfather throughout my teenage years. In my mind, he ceased to be the pal from my tweens and younger years and became the man determined to push my biological father into nonexistence.

This thought process carried on for longer than I’d care to admit, and it carried on long after my biological father proved time and time again he was more interested in starting new family after new family than tending to the first one he created. I guess everyone has a force they either give in to or fight against, and marrying different women and having as many children as possible was his. I suppose he’s probably trying his best, though, just like the rest of us.

It’s hard to find clarity when you’re in the middle of the fog your created.

When I say my stepfather died suddenly, I mean I received a phone call in the middle of the night to rush to the hospital only to find my father had been technically brain dead by the time I answered the phone in the first place.

I felt nothing. I saw my Dad in his hospital room, as the staff allowed us to say goodbye, and I attended the funeral. I can’t quite describe it, but I remember feeling guilty for the inability to force a single tear at the memorial service. Nothing. I felt nothing at all. When the service was over, and my dad was in his final resting place, I buried him in my mind also.

It is not as if my dad did not die. It was as if he never existed in the first place. The only real benefit was I no longer thought of my biological father either. I guess there is always a sunny side?

Three years went by like this in blissful thoughtlessness until September 30, 2011. I was at work with only a few minutes left until the end of my workday when I happened to glance at my desk phone to see the date. In that instant, I realized it was my dad’s birthday. The realization he had died followed immediately, and this time I actually heard the bad news as if it was the first time.

I guess you can say I have delayed reactions to sudden change.

I grieved daily for a long time. I buried him so deep the only memories that emerged at first were cause to regret, and I suffered this way for a couple of years. I could no longer remember my stepfather’s shortcomings. I could only remember he was the one actually there teaching me how to cook, how to ride a bike, and how to drive a car. He was the one demanding to know if I had been drinking after strolling in the door after midnight on prom night. My biological father was nowhere to be found. I don’t even know that guy. I regret failing to see my dad was there the entire time.

Time does heal all wounds, though. The grief never truly goes away, but you do learn how to carry it with you. I know my dad would be proud of me. I know he would have adored his granddaughter. I know exactly what joke he would make when the staff at his burial site attempted to sell me the plots surrounding his at half price when I finally drudged up the courage to make amends ten years after his funeral. He might not be physically present, but I do carry him with me everywhere I go.

Yesterday was the best day. The weather was perfect, and my workday was nothing short of blissful even though it was longer than usual. Everything was so light, and I’m proud to say all I can remember is everything my parents did right and how wrong I was about so many things. I know that not only my dad understood my resentment as a teenager but that he also forgave it. Everything makes so much sense now, and instead of regret, I’m filled with gratitude.

Every time I question my upbringing I’m going to remember my mother and father could have made my brothers and I into a music group and beat our asses into superstardom. My brothers and I would never have turned out as well rounded as the Jackson 5. I promise you. You think Neverland Ranch and the plastic surgery were bad? There would have been no limit to my circus act. My own child is probably going to need therapy, too. Le Sigh.

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