You’re Not Alone: Unanswered questions for those who have lost a parent
I saw my father six weeks before he died. My friend, whose father died a year prior, told me to ask my father questions when I went to see him. She insisted I ask him everything I wanted to know about anything. I didn’t really know what she meant then. I didn’t ask my father any questions. Now, I understand and I wish I had asked while I had the chance.
I wanted to know if my father was proud of me. He never told me directly throughout his life. I used to ponder over it. He never acknowledged my accomplishments. He never told me he was proud of me. It still bothers me but a family member suspects my father “wanted me to keep striving.” Striving for what, I don’t really know. I suspected that was due to our German background. My cousin used to joke that in German culture, “perfection is the standard.”
There was one time when I think my father was proud of me, indirectly of course. My father visited me on Christmas 1999. I won best columnist, first place, for newspapers of our size in Virginia. I remember it so well. We lived in a cute farmhouse in the country. It snowed that day just in time for Christmas. The house was warm and the delightful smell of Christmas food permeated throughout our little country farmhouse. I was reading the list of winners in an e-mail. My father was standing next to me. I told him I won first place. He said that was good for a small newspaper. I told him I was up against all columnists in Virginia. I looked at him and thought I saw it in his eyes – pride. With his thick German accent he said, “Oh! The whole state. Then that’s very good.” Not perfect and not “I’m proud of you.” I was just hoping and speculating that what I saw in his eyes was truly pride. Christmas 1999 was one of the best holidays for me.
A family member accepts that my father was not one to hand out compliments. He believes if my father had told me that he was proud of me then I wouldn’t have kept striving for that perfection. What is certain is I have reached our goals and I’m still striving. Some of those goals have been quite challenging, so it would have been nice to have my father acknowledge them.
I just don’t understand. I wanted to hear it directly from my father. I wanted to know from him that he was proud. I tell my children I am proud of them. So, why couldn’t my father tell me? Why and why didn’t I ask him when I had the chance?
My friend’s suggestion all made sense. I should have asked my father so many questions that I still have. I’ll never know. He can’t tell me anymore. I’m still sad, hurt, and angry. I will always have unanswered questions. Now, I have to learn to accept that I won’t get the answers.
My healing journey continues. Join me. We can talk and ask questions. Perfection is not the standard, but I do think it’s a good goal to pursue. If you disagree, then say so. I’ll listen and we’ll discuss it. I’ll tell you directly.
– Column by Linda R. Jones