On the anniversary of my mother’s death, first thing in the morning, my brother and I text each other a tribute to our mom and a message to her that we miss her. This year was especially poignant because it was the twentieth anniversary of her death.
On the anniversary of my father’s death, at least this year, because I can’t recall last year and the years prior, I forgot and so did my brother. It passed like any other day, either April 13th or 14th (I’m not sure), the eighth anniversary of his death. I have no feelings about Father’s Day. I don’t miss him and I feel relieved he and his demands are no longer in my life.
We had a conflicted relationship. He basically disappeared, retreating into his depression, when I needed him most, when I was at my sickest. He made his needs known — mainly grocery shopping and keeping him stocked with cigarettes — when I was commuting from Westchester, NY down to Queens, only ten minutes from where I grew up and my father still lived. One of my burning questions that never got answered in therapy is how did I wind up coming home to work?
After work, I did his shopping. I was greeted with “Why did you get me this sh*t cake?” or “I wanted strawberry ice cream, not chocolate.” I held my pee until I got home because his apartment was so filthy. Eventually, we moved him up to Connecticut, closer to my brother, which he eventually deemed a mistake. “He’s like having another toddler,” he observed.
The Author’s Father (1950)
Source: © Cherry Lawn School
When he died of sepsis at a palliative care facility, I thought I would feel relief. First the migraines started, then the depression which was relentless. Unconsciously, I was tortured by the fact I would never hear “you are good enough,” escape his lips. My chase to please him proved fruitless. Eleven months after my father passed away, I attempted suicide. I’m fortunate the attempt was not fatal, though I was briefly admitted to a medical hospital to stabilize my vital signs. Following that admission, I was transferred to a psychiatric hospital for a longer admission.
In therapy, following the suicide attempt, I came to realize that my father did the best he could with what he had, which admittedly was not much. We realized he might have suffered from undiagnosed schizoid personality disorder. His parents, my grandparents having emigrated from Romania were not especially warm, loving people and they sent my father to a boarding school for his high school years.
He attended a school in Connecticut and graduated in 1950. Perhaps I get my writing ability from him, for he had several contributions to the yearbook. Here is one:
Aimless patterns, traced by the wind
in the swirling sands.
of blue cigarette smoke, dying
and being reborn
By each waxing and waning of a breath
Patterns. . . drawn by a mind strayed into limbo
Patterns. . . of a child’s first
Patterns. . .of a violent death and
the master pattern, it too, aimless
meaningless to those who follow their
on a grain of sand among a million others.
— Walter Rosenhaft ‘50
Source: © Andrea Rosenhaft