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My Godfather died this morning

My father’s sister’s ex-husband died this morning. He was, I guess, my uncle, still. I know he was my Godfather. He’d been lingering in a miserable awful decline for about five years, slowly wasting away mentally and physically. He died in a state institution, alone.

In the past 25 years I’ve seen him maybe three times. Which would be about three times too many.

My Dad, normally a generous man who can find some good in everything, called this man “Zero.” Once to his face, I think.

This man will be buried at some point this week and exactly one person will feel any sadness at his passing — his eldest daughter, S. Not a whole lot of sadness, true, but some. His youngest daughter, O., may in fact feel a burden lifted from her spirit. I don’t know if he’s ever seen O’s two children. I doubt it.

I know that the minute I learned I was having a daughter I made a silent resolution that if family fortunes threw us together, I’d make double damned sure that he was never within arm’s reach of my child. Ahhh , Ican hear you think. That kind of uncle. The funny kind.

I have no proof. Nothing has ever been stated explicitly. We’re a bury-your-secrets-deep kinda family. I know he never touched me.

But my cousin, O., hates her father with a poison coldness. I know that her mother, a woman who never did anything outside of her proscribed view of ‘normal’, one weekend decide to move herself and her 7-year-old daughter in with her spinster sister. I know that even when I was a kid I didn’t want Uncle D. anywhere near me. And that my mother — who hates making a scene — never fussed at me for making that clear.

I feel like, as a person, I should summon up some … emotion. Some grief that this man has died, that his shining human potential turned out to be such a waste that one of his own daughters may not go to his funeral. Mostly, I feel awkward and pissed off because I know I should call my cousins and I don’t know what to say to them. Usually I’m good at the big events — they have predetermined dialog and I’m great at memorizing the expected bits. But this isn’t the usual death in the family. I’m not sure I can manage to mouth out, “I’m so sorry,” without choking on it. Maybe if I silently finish it out as, “I’m so sorry your dad was an asshole. I hope you’re happier now that he’s dead.”

Yeah, I guess that’s what I’ll do.

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Categories: family
  1. marsupial jones
    June 30, 2008 at 12:14 pm

    see, this is why i love your blog. you are so honest and good and thoughtful.that you want to offer your support and thoughts to your cousins is so kind, so humane, so empathetic.

    have you considered maybe calling and telling them just what you said above? that you heard he died and you felt compelled to call and offer your support and thoughts. i think you could even say, that you aren’t sure exactly what to say, that you weren’t sure if you should call or how to address it, but that you wanted to acknowledge the passing, to acknowledge the landmark…or something like that. knowing that someone took the risk to offer support and thoughts, without judgment, would mean a lot i think.

    i’m not trying to be advice-y. i hope you don’t mind this comment. i guess i just think it’s really important for people to offer condolences and support and thoughts when someone dies, especially in complicated cases like murder, suicide, and complicated relationships. those transitions are so hard for everyone surrounding the deceased. the repercussions are so long-lasting and can be horrifying. any form of empathy or reaching-out really makes a difference, even if the relatives of the deceased don’t say so. and i think societally, we don’t really have a rubric or a set of rules on how to deal with complicated death/grief, so it is often ignored and so relatives feel lonely and misunderstood and lost. kind of like a retraumatization.

    those are my thoughts anyway. you are a good good woman. you’ll do the right thing.

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