This post has already been read 6590 times!
As we drove down the cold winter streets of Cleveland in a charcoal grey two-door 2007 Pontiac Grand Am, all I could think was, “This is going to be awkward.” As the son of my father no one knew about, I knew this phase of my life was for me to go through, not only for myself, but for other men whom I could help in the same situation.
We parked the car and stepped into the cold. White smoke formed my sister’s words as she asked me, “Are you ok?” “Yes,” I responded. We walked from the car to the church doors, a seventeen-foot distance that felt to me a lifetime to travel. Close beside me every step of the way was my daughter and my wife…my “good thing.” Each held my hands as we entered the church. As we signed the guest book, people stopped and stared at me. Their probing eyes seemed to ask the question, “I know he looks familiar, but Eddie didn’t have any sons did he?” Eddie is my father. Eddie was my father.
My Sister, Daughter, Good Thing (my Wife) and I walked to the front of the church to see the simple remains of my father’s life. A few photographs are the only reminder of what he looked like in life. His body had been cremated and I couldn’t help but think that was probably not what he wanted. My father was flashy and even in death would have wanted to make a smart appearance in a suit and tie, not ashes. As I looked at pictures representing his life, pictures of him and his wife on boat cruises or at parties dancing together, I saw what had filled my absence in my dad’s life. I saw the father I had missed as a child and a teenager.
After viewing the pictures we made our way back to our seats. Upon finding our way there we crossed paths with my father’s wife, the woman in the photographs. She stood around five foot one, skin complexion dark, weighing around one hundred pounds with a careless look on her face. As soon as we looked each other in the eyes, she spoke in an upset tone, “I don’t want them sitting in the front. They must sit in the back!” I looked at her somewhat surprised, already feeling ashamed and unwelcome for the fact that no one knew who I was. My fragile emotions got the best of me and I replied, “You know what, I don’t have to deal with this stuff.” I grabbed my daughter’s hand and started to walk out of the church. I left my sister telling her that I would see her later. Good thing and my daughter slowly walked to the car. As we drove away, Good thing turned to me and urged me with a soft, sensitive voice, “Go back and support your sister. She needs you right now.”
Driving back to my mother’s house, I pretended to focus only on the road before me. But all I heard was the echo of my wife’s words. The ring of my cell phone shattered my thoughts and I answered to hear my sister’s voice at the other end. “You’re other sisters, nieces, and nephews want to see you,” she said simply. The weight of her words was heartbreaking. We had family– three sisters, nieces and nephews in Detroit– that we had never laughed with, never cried with, never even known. I turned the car around to go back to the funeral. The cold wind whistled across the windshield, but I felt a shiver of warmth as I thought of my sister’s words. My “family” wanted to see me.
As we once again pulled the car up to the church, my heart beat faster at the sight of the crowd that had gathered on the lawn, visiting in the frigid Cleveland air. I scanned their faces almost anticipating some recognition. And then I saw it. These people, mere strangers to me only moments before, really did resemble my sister and me. Several people in the crowd looked at me with smiles and somewhat puzzled looks on their faces. “Is this my little brother?” “Is this my uncle?” One by one, broken ties were brought together in tears and smiles, with plenty of hugs and kisses. We took numerous amounts of pictures (one must be of Cleveland blood to take so many pictures outside and smile in single degree weather!). I don’t know at what moment it happened, but in the process of meeting my family, I felt strength return to my bones and found myself able, with all of them by my side, to enter the church again and go back to my father’s funeral….
From the book It’s The Woman You Gave Me: Why We Play The Blame Game In Our Marriages, Relationships, Parents, & Past