I have watched three former President’s funerals. Well, two and I listened to one today here and there while in a dentist’s chair. My first was President Reagan’s. I watched from a hotel room while the kids and I were on our way back from Texas and stopped midway which means probably somewhere in bumfuk Kansas. I’m not gonna lie, I cried. See, I had lost my Grandmother to Alzheimer’s and could relate to Nancy Reagan’s pain as if she were my Grandpa and their love story was playing over the CNN to relive all over again.
It was tough to watch. It was also so beautiful in how much love was shown and I’m glad I got to see it. After all, a former President being honored is a special thing. Loved them or hated them, they served our country in the largest way possible and have earned the ceremony that will ensue.
Just two years later, I watched the coverage of President Ford being laid to rest. Now this one hit a little closer to home. See, I’m a big fan of his son, Steve. I dunno, I always thought it was cool that a President’s son wanted to be an actor. The movies I saw him in always had him playing a part of authority and he seemed like the strong, stoic guy who we all look to in times of trouble.
Which made it all the more remarkable when the cameras would pan over to he and his brothers during their father’s funeral and Mr. Stoic was a blubbering mess. He wore his emotions out there for all to see. His dad died. And he was sad.
Fast forward to today and President Bush’s (1) funeral. As I said, I was sitting in a dentist chair and got some spotty reception on my XM Radio so listened to some of the service but pretty much missed it. I’ve watch snippets here on the internet and it looks like it was very special. Trump’s sitting next to Obama’s. Kudos to the Bush clan for setting the very strict boundary that there will be no Trump bashing at this funeral and also for sitting the Obama’s next to the Trump’s. In my opinion, it was a good reminder to both to be cordial, if only for a couple of hours.
Of course, the remarks by President Bush (2) that he got to tell his father that he loved him and that he was a wonderful father got a response of “I love you too” from his father whose words were the last spoken on earth made me cry. (In general I hate crying, not because I don’t believe it’s a very valid release of emotions but because too many people use it in battle. Nope. If I’m crying it’s because one of my dog’s died or something was sad enough or beautiful enough to cry over.) President Bush crying over the loss of his father was worthy of a cry.
Oh if it were so simple. See, I don’t have that relationship with my father. In fact, I haven’t talked to him in over ten years. Nor have I talked to my mother or my sister. I stayed in contact with my brother up until he and his wife showed their true colors in loud enough fashion for me to pay attention when I had the chance to have a healthy reunion with my birth daughter and their determination to insert themselves right into the middle of it fucked it all up. Anyways.
See, I didn’t get that wonderful Disney father/daughter relationship. That wasn’t in the cards. I had a nice one for a while but then I was 13 and forced he and my mother to face the fact that I had been raped and molested for years by my brother and everything changed. I did that. I ruined the pretty little facade we had to the outside world and brought a dirty secret out in the open that had to be dealt with. The day the abuse came out was the last day my father hugged me, like, really hugged me. After that it was a tolerant side hug. Never more. Never again.
I was sad about that for a long time. That sadness probably came out as anger ’cause, ya know, anger worked for me. It took a very long time to understand that when parents put their jobs and life positions in front of your being raped and molested for years in their home, well, they’re kinda shitty people. It took too long to understand that a fourth grader wasn’t supposed to be responsible for fucking up family unity, that’s on them. And they didn’t.
No Disney ending for me.
But something happened when I realized that I needed to stop seeing myself through their eyes. I broke free. I flourished. I lived. I had success, in fact, I had a lot of success. Did I still mess up? Yuppers. Lots. I slowly learned; however; that the little self destruction that I allowed to creep into my life because of my past started to fuck up my future and at some point that became unacceptable. Now sure, I wish I’d picked up THAT little realization when I was about 20 years younger but better late then never!
Another wonderful thing started to happen. The more honest I really am brought out real friendships. Friendships based on reality because you see, very few of us get those Disney endings. So few that I don’t have one current friendship where the other half of us lives a Disney life. We’ve all walked through some shit that’s caused pain that we’ve had to deal with. Some more than others. Many far, far worse than mine.
I’ve had goodbye drinks with friend’s who’ve lost a parent and that was the end of their Disney dream. No happy endings for them. Just the sad past of a lost parent whose time on earth came to an end long after the relationship died. At some point (assuming I’ll outlive them), I’ll have the same. The end of that past dream that my dad’s face would light up when I walked into a room and give me a big hug. (Years ago my cousin in Seattle was very pregnant with her son, their first. We were hanging out at Auntie’s house and my Uncle came in from outside. He hadn’t realized that Denise had arrived and when he walked in the side door, his face LIT up and he gave her a big squeeze and asked how baby was feeling that day. It was truly one of the most beautiful interactions between father and daughter I’d ever seen and even writing this now makes me tear up. But not out of sadness, out of sheer joy that my cousin gets to experience that kind of love.)
See, somewhere in time when I stopped trying to fix the unfixable, I also got a chance to see with open eyes so much love around me. And I have SO MUCH LOVE! Literally everywhere I look, I have love. Even today, as I was driving to the dentist, nervous as shit (I have an unhealthy fear of the dentist which is why my teeth are so massively fucked up and now I need fillings and extractions and implants and hopefully by summer I’ll have an amazing smile again. Before then, I have pain and probably some time with huge holes in my munchers. Sad me) I drove by a local Starbucks that had a dog laying on a bench outside with it’s face plastered to the window watching for their human. I mean, COME ON!! I smiled and appreciated the respite from fear. I mean, it came back once I walked into the office but at least I saw a cool as shit dog showing love to their person.
I’ve also realized that, while I won’t have that Disney ending, I can try to be the parent I wished I’d had. Do I fail, yup! Lots. But I DO try to fail in ways that aren’t relationship ending. Where the stubborness we all possess (where’d THAT come from?) allow us to coexist even in tough times. I’ve gone periods of time where I didn’t have my daughter or her twin in my everyday life and it was horrible. It was scary. So very scary. But we got through it and I’m so very thankful we did.
I also have come to understand that the more love you share, the more you receive. Now, of course, that doesn’t mean you live your life in some fucking bubble where you aren’t realistic about the dangers and threats around you. But that love that you didn’t get from the person you needed it most? You can do that for someone else. Yup, it’s not the same. But it’s honest and pure and in some cases, I have been so very fortunate to receive back so much more than the little I give. I am amazed at the absolutely awesome people who are in my life. 10 years ago I never would have believed that ALL the people I/We allow in are so incredible in their own truths that Disney never could have come up with this!
That’s the lesson. Some people get their Disney endings, some don’t. If you don’t, look elsewhere, it’s there. Looking in from the outside, it amazes me how many grown adults are still holding out for that elusive Disney happiness only to continue to make themselves miserable in the process. I ache for them. I just want to scream, ‘BE HAPPY!’ Gawds, choose happiness. Be happy for others when they DO get their Disney ending. That’s a good thing. People you love getting good things in life is a good thing.
While there is a part of me that can be sad for the younger President Bush who is just starting his grieving, I can be so very happy that he and dad had that relationship where his father’s last words were, “I love you too.”
Children are our second chance to have a great parent-child relationship.