December 18, 2010
A couple of days ago, my 92-year old stepdad died. He and my mother got together after my parents divorced (when I was about ten), and he was her companion until her death in 2009. He was never quite himself, after she passed.
When I look at relationships, I’m sometimes not quite sure how they “work.” Whereas I have a reasonably good sense of what my stepdad saw in my mom, I was never quite sure what she saw in him. Much of their relationship seemed to exist against a backdrop my of mother’s litany of complaints about all the things that were “wrong” with him, and that he “didn’t do.” And yet, there they were… together for 37 years, all in all.
I am not sure what it’s about, but sometimes when people die I end up feeling guilty that I am not “feeling more.” I’ve been offered up a smorgasbord of psychobabble as to why this is… from accusations of being “a cold bastard” to assertions that I “don’t experience grieving in the moment.” As I sit here, I don’t feel much sadness… just a sense of quietude, a peaceful gratitude that he has passed from this world he never really seemed to like very much.
There is no doubt in my mind that my stepdad was “a good man.” He stood by his word, and he stood by (and in his own way, adored) my mother… even though her flights of fancy drove him nuts. During his moments of frustration, I could almost hear Rex Harrison singing “Why can’t a woman… be more like a man,” inside his head.
On the whole, I don’t think he liked people very much… and many of his and my mom’s “battles” were (in some fashion) related to their polar opposite differences, when it came to the importance of people and socializing. My mother– the social butterfly– would clash with this isolationist hermit curmudgeon over issues as small as “going out to eat dinner.” Money was also a regular bone of contention between them… mostly surrounding the issue of his unwillingness to spend anything on a better quality of life in latter years… he could afford it, but chose to “do without” almost everything.
With his passing, I no longer have any relatives “of my parents’ age.”
And as I take these moments to ponder his life I’m considering what the significant lifelessons and takeaways might be, here. The one that most readily comes to mind is that you can completely be a “good and honorable” person without in any way being personable or likable. Some people may have really good hearts, but lack the temperament, interest, desire or even social skills to develop an outer expression of what’s inside them… this is a reminder that merits some long hard consideration, in my own life. Thankfully, I have inherited elements of my mother’s personality… and even though I always find being social to be “hard work” I do get out there and engage; and like my stepdad, I am married to a very social and outgoing person.
Well… I’m not really sure where I was going with this; just wanted to “mark a spot,” I suppose.