by Joan Martin
I am 52 years old and do not think very often of my father any more. He died at 57 after a year-long battle with metatastic liver cancer way back in 1980 when I was a 19 year old college student. He worked long hours, usually 7 days a week, and had a frosty relationship with my mother. However, in those dark moments when I confront my true self, I often wonder how different my life and my sister's might have been if he had lived. I also wonder if he consciously worked all those hours just to separate himself from our narcissistic mother without much regard for what my sister and I were going through. I am sure that death is very traumatic for people in healthy families, but I cannot begin to explain how bizarre it can get in a a deeply dysfunctional family such as ours. My sister has not spoken to my mother in 18 years and she feels contempt for our dad because he "left us to hang out to dry." I guess being the oldest I felt the brunt of my mother's psychosis more directly and therefore identify with my dad and the pain he must have felt being married to such a disturbed person. So I have chosen to maintain my love for him and my belief that he was a good person stuck in an impossible situation doing the best he could. I don't believe he wanted my sister and I to be in the pain we were while he was alive or the pain we have been in since. He just could see no way to solve the horrible situation we lived in. Immediately after he died I thought (though I had seen his deterioration from cancer) he had concocted the whole thing simply to get away from us. My mother was unable to separate herself from her anger over his death (and his life) and I spent a summer in an almost dream/nightmare state in her house with no air conditioning and windows closed in 90 degree heat. She would lock me out (of no fewer than 9 doors) every time i left the house, no doubt hoping I would never come back. I definitely got the message and moved out within a few months time. When I think of how happy our life seemed when I was little and how somehow it became this horrible nightmare ending in an ugly and despairing death it destroys my soul. So I usually don't think about it. Why tonight I am I do not know.