My dad died two months ago. This blog post is one of the ways I’m trying to make sense of his death. Some might be surprised by my decision to publish a blog post on such a personal topic. One, I find putting my thoughts in writing and sharing them valuable for myself. Two, I hope that sharing about topics that some might find taboo (like going to therapy) encourages others to open up as well.
I feel pain and sadness about my dad’s death. Not as sharply as two months ago. Not as sharply as a month ago. The first week was quite arduous, alternating between numbness and pain. Sleep was erratic. I had to dig around in my mind a bit to understand what the pain was about.
The Last Ten Years
I didn’t have a close relationship with my dad during the last ten years. After my parents separated, neither of us knew or put in the effort to rebuild and maintain a relationship.
We would see each other occasionally but quite rarely. With time, those meetings became more and more transactional, for the lack of a better word. I started associating my dad’s calls with some kind of request instead of an invitation to spend time together.
At some point, I made an attempt, trying, for a decent period, to be open about what was going on in my life and show curiosity in his. For whatever reason, it didn’t pan out. I was awfully sad when I understood the relationship was not strengthening. I gave up.
The Last Two Years
Things started slowly changing during the last couple of years. The primary reason is that my younger brother returned with his wife to live in Lithuania. Meeting our father and trying to figure out what’s going on, doing it together, made a huge difference. He willed me back from having given up.
It became tremendously clear that our dad was not in a good place. And he has not been in a good place for a while, even though he wasn’t emotionally open about it. I won’t go into details in this blog post.
We started looking for ways to support and encourage him to turn his life around. I wasn’t at first, but I even became slightly optimistic that things could change. I started imagining my brother, my dad, and me going on a trip together. The trip never happened.
I think that’s where a big part of my pain stems from. It’s not that I miss the relationship we had during the last ten years. His death came suddenly and unexpectedly for me. I’m sad about what could’ve been.
After he died, hearing other people talk about my dad, a theme became apparent in their descriptions. Hardheaded, immovable, willful, inflexible, stubborn.
During his studies, there were moments when he clashed with professors. He was convinced he was right. Despite possibly negative consequences, he tried to change their minds. And he didn’t just do it haphazardly. He put in the effort.
This pattern repeated throughout his life in minor and more significant moments. He wanted things to be arranged in the grocery bag in a specific way. He fought for his truth in court.
There are disadvantages to being stubborn. Missing out on learning new things, rubbing people the wrong way, burning out.
There are advantages as well. Stubborn can also be described as persistent, determined, and resolute. It takes an effort to pick a direction, pick a way of doing things, and stick with that direction despite opposition. It doesn’t just require boldness to argue with a professor. It requires hours upon hours of work.
I remember how my dad taught me to play chess when I was little. He wouldn’t just let me win. Each time, he would try his best to beat me. And he would. I lost and lost again. I hated losing. I remember crying at least a couple of times after those losses. I didn’t give up. Those losses made me try harder. I stubbornly tried to become better and win. Eventually, I did. My dad didn’t just teach me chess. He taught me that with enough determination and persistence, I can grow and improve.
My dad experienced both the advantages and disadvantages of his persistence. I’ll remember the former more than the latter.