I dont often talk about my father in depth, mostly because its one of the more complicated conversations I can have. But as it gets nearer to the anniversary of his death, I occasionally think more about him.
My father was my best friend. I loved him more than anything. My love of computers comes from watching him work on the PC we had in our home from age 5 until he died when I was almost 10. We didnt get another one until I was 13. My father played ping pong with us in the garage. He spanked us with a belt and told us he would give us something to cry about. He let me shift gears on the old blue Toyota, when his old wrist injury was acting up. And he was smart. Never graduated from high school, but he did all the checking of our math homework counting, and other times swearing, in Spanish.
My father was also Mormon. He converted when he met my mother and held the first level of the priesthood in our church, but was never active during my memory. He never prevented my mother from taking us to church, played with the missionaries (19-year old boys who are always up for games) when they came over for food, and attended our youth talks in sacrament.
My father was also abusive. He drank without my family knowing it. He cheated. And he basically stopped working when I was 7. When he suffered a massive stroke, it was a blessing for my family that he died instead of lingering on severely handicapped, the financial and social responsibilities of which, would probably have limited what my family has managed to accomplish since then.
I still love my father. I love the man who took me on adventures with him when I was small. I love the man who I only remember teaching us Spanish at one dinner table session, pointing out leche. I love the man who was so charismatic and larger than life that everyone wanted to be around him. But I also hate him. I hate the man that made my mother sad and never want to remarry. I hate the man that hurt me. I hate the man who was so lost he could not find a way out for himself, and in my opinion, God took him so he could have a better chance in the Mormon version of purgatory, instead of continuing to make grievous mistakes here on Earth.
I think whats been hardest for me is how to answer questions about my family. We arent a typical family unit. I love my family and talk to them online or by phone multiple times a day. We exchange pictures of clothes and my sister’s cute dog and Ive helped my mom find the home she is now living in. But I dont live near my family, have no strong desire to (we are all extremely independent, controlling and prickly), so I am amazed whenever someone says it would be difficult to live far away from their’s, much less outside of the same state. I cant imagine needing to live anywhere closer than 45 mins to the nearest international airport to get to them. I spent 3 weeks with my mother last summer and was starkly reminded of why I will do all in my power to never live at home again (its because dusting is not important to me and likely never will be; This is a fundamental point of contention).
I dont really have an extended family – I mean Im related to a lot of people, but I have no relationship with them for a variety of reasons. Im still struck by all of the family pictures of cousins and second cousins twice removed on walls at my friends’ grandmother’s homes. I hate taking pictures and Im pretty sure we have no immediate family pictures that Im not age 6 in.
Im learning not to feel so alone anymore. Ive learned Im not the only one with crazy parents and strained family time. Ive learned lots of people dont have a billion cousins, like all the perfect Mormon families. Ive become comfortable with the family I am creating for myself. So, my family now consists of a few lovely dogs, some excellent friends, an alumni network, a broadway play or two, dear TV characters (Im looking at you, Felicity!), a worldwide LDS membership and some John Mayer songs, in addition to my nuclear peoples. Its full of things that provide comfort and the ability to keep trucking everyday. And at the end of it all, there is a God who promised himself as a perfect Father, in place of the one He took away. I love my Father in Heaven and because of Him I am capable of having more family than I ever dreamed possible. Everywhere I go on this Earth, I find someone who fits in to my little world. My best friend, Team Awesome, a new friend at work. It makes it far less scary when I do leave my Utah-imposed exile to know the world is just family waiting to be discovered. I can spend a summer in China and remember for the rest of my life the video store people who set aside DVDs they thought I would like (this mostly consisted of Fast and the Furious, which I love). Against all odds, I can keep in contact with a few friends from the summer I started college. And I can remember fondly the elementary school classmates at my father’s funeral.
Perhaps its not the normal way to make a family, but since Im not getting married anytime soon, who’s to say what we children can’t do? It beats the hell out of staying lonely, just because I dont share blood. So even though I cant replace my dad, or make my grandparents come back to life, I can connect with my half-brothers teenage children, or build better relationships with my mom and sisters. I dont have to stay lost forever.