“It’s Complicated”

That’s the kind of thing you say, when things are actually pretty simple but you don’t want to explain or perhaps you are trying your best not to understand how simple things really are, because that would be even worse. So here’s the thing–My father died early last month.  I just found out yesterday.

That’s kind of where the “it’s complicated” part comes in.

My parents divorced when I was four and my mother went back to live with my grandparents. I barely remember it. For the most part it was no big deal, or at least where I, the center of the universe, was concerned. I never really knew him, so I didn’t miss him. My mother had the kind of extended family support that single mothers so often don’t have. I had my grandfather, who was a great guy. My maternal uncle, who could every now and then be persuaded to let the kid tag along when he was out fishing or needed an extra pair of hands when he was building a new shed or the like. My mother and grandmother took very good care of me and my two sisters. Just to be clear, I did not have a bad childhood. At all. In a lot of ways it was better than that of many of my friends whose parents weren’t divorced.

Over the years there was sporadic contact. I learned that he’d worked at Redstone Arsenal (his field was electronics), and eventually became a teacher. I lived with my father and his wife for a couple of years–he was teaching electronic circuits  at a community college at the time and used his connections there to defray a considerable amount of the costs, which helped me a lot at the time. I don’t think he was trying to make amends so much as get to know me, and that’s what we did. It was fine. Then I finished there and went on to a state university and that was, more or less, that. It feels a little cold to lay it out like that, even now, but we sort of took a chance, decided we liked each other well enough, but the connection, other than genetic, was broken, and there was no mending it. I kept thinking there should have been a way, but…no. We went our separate ways again, and both were pretty much content to leave it at that.

The last time I saw him was at another uncle’s funeral, my dad’s brother, a man I’d actually seen more of than my father, in my early years. I told my father that I loved him. Maybe that was the funeral talking. Death tends to focus things that way. So I said it.  I’m still not sure if it was true. I’d like to think it was. True or not, it didn’t change anything, nor do I think either of us expected it to. That was a few years ago, and I didn’t see him again.

So why did it take over a month to find out that he had passed? That gets to the complicated part, which I’ll mostly leave out, except to say that there are strong feelings within my mother’s family on the matter of my father. I said above that the divorce was “no big deal” to me, and that’s true. I never really knew what having a father meant, so I didn’t miss it. It was, of course, a much larger deal to other people in the family. I guess it still is. His wife had tried to contact me, but she didn’t have a current address. Perhaps some people on my side of the divide didn’t pass on information that perhaps they should have, to the point that a niece I didn’t even know I had took it upon herself to track me down and let me know what had happened. That was all right, too. She’s a lovely young woman and it was nice to finally meer her.As for the others involved, well, I’m a little angry, but inclined to cut them some slack.

After all, it’s complicated.