Soon I will post my completed manuscript on how writing heals, but I find the whole experience healing in actually writing the piece. There has been little stress associated with this story, and it has been one of those cathartic experiences that showed me just how “unhealed” I still am about several issues in my life, including my father’s death.
Dad died in 1989 from hepatitis that he contracted while in the fire department. He and his partner were on a medical run with an AIDS patient, they both got infected from the patient, and both my father and his partner died. The City Fire Department refused to recognize these as deaths “in the line of duty” despite several challenges from both families. The months and even years following his death were confusing, as they still are, and I now know that I have much research to do in recreating the events that took place on that medical call and subsequently thereafter, leading up to and after his death on April 22.
That’s one story that has to be written by me, about him.
The other story that is ready to surface and be shared with the world is more about me and my own relationship with my father. I was 24 when he died, and my desires and needs to please were so strong at that point in my life that I was not able to see clearly my father for the individual that he was, separate of me. I think it’s hard for children to see their parents as individuals with goals and dreams, many of them unrealized for various reasons. It’s hard to see our parents as human beings who might struggle with the same things we struggle with. Beyond money, beyond health, they struggle with similar issues of love and an identity of who they are in this world, to themselves, to others.
We see them as our mothers and fathers, and it takes a long time to let go of that thought that they are individuals who have had identities and lives long before we came along in this world.
Mom is 80 and battling Cancer and various age-related illnesses, but I am old enough now to see her for the true individual she is. I never got the chance to do that with Dad while he was still alive, and in all these years since his death, my understanding of him as an individual has been locked in through the eyes of a 24 year old. The way I felt, the way I acted, the person I was on the day he died seems to be the person I become every time I think of Dad. All of those selfish filters fall over the memories, and I could not get beyond seeing him as my father first and as an individual a distant second.
Until now. Writing about healing has provided me the chance to heal his passing and remove some of those filters. Like anything else, the process is not complete, and it will continue to take many hours with pen in hand to work beyond the exclusive He’s-My-Dad vision of who this man genuinely was. But in the last 72 hours, I’ve given my father the room he needs to be an individual first, and that is the greatest respect I can give him for all that he gave to us in his short 63 years of life.