I was 24 when I buried my father; last weekend marked the 13th anniversary of his death. Nothing propels you into adulthood faster than planning a memorial service for a man you barely knew. But there I was, attempting to sift through the detritus of bittersweet memories to honor him. It’s hard to set aside the hurt, to swallow the anger and do the responsible thing, especially when you don’t want the task. In the end my father had disappointed so many people–his common-law wife and teen daughter among them–that no one wanted to be bothered. He died alone in a nursing home on Superbowl Sunday.
My relationship with my dad had always been contentious. All the missed birthdays and spelling bees and oratory contests and report card pickup days didn’t help matters. By the time he came clean about his drug addiction, I no longer cared; I was heading off to college, far away from him. Back then, I didn’t know how crippling addiction could be. I merely saw a man too lazy to kick heroin, and resented him for his weakness.
Some days I wish I had a TARDIS.
The clarity that comes once the hurt and anger subside usually arrives tardy for the party, too late to say what was necessary, what was needed. I’ve only recently made peace with everything that happened between my dad and I; I’d never told him how I felt. Never expressed anything but apathy and pity while he was alive. I didn’t realize being silent and stoic did me more harm than good.
Sometimes the people and things you love cannot love you back. In my case, it’s feminism.
Last week, when The Nation story ran, I was ready to rip out entrails and make party hats. I was quoting Liam Neeson and googling “best ways to throatchop people.” I wanted BLOOD, yo. I was hurt on behalf of my friends, who’d been painted as bitter and angry and obsessed. I saw a few people, ones I respected and admired greatly, praise it as a thought-provoking piece of journalism. (As a recovering journalist, THAT really made me angry.) I wanted to write an immediate response but something was holding me back. Perhaps I needed more time to calm down than I thought. It’s easy to get caught up in the outrage, especially when the transgressors have no problem with manipulating the truth. It’s also easy to say “fuck it” and walk away.
To be honest, I feel like that most of the time. Every time I’m hit with the latest episode of “Shit White Feminists Say” I’m ready to pack a hobo bag and do a sad David Banner walk along an empty highway. Then I think about the women in the writing workshop I teach, the son I’m raising, and the people from far-flung places who reach out to tell me how my words helped them, how Hood Feminism has created a space where they finally feel at home. I’m grateful. When you’re fighting to be included, fighting for your humanity to be recognized by people who claim to be allies, it’s important to remember those things.
So, I’m still here. Though it’s hard to set aside the hurt, to swallow the anger and do the responsible thing. Especially when you don’t want the task.
Anyway, go read this kick-ass post over at Prison Culture if you haven’t already.
Magnificent piece. Thank you.
(and addiction is a bitch, no matter what you say or do. my experience has been my family is goddamn glad the TARDIS isn’t around, because it would interfere with the denial and hagiography, but I digress….)
The Nation article pissed me off too, and I was late to the party. I’m a subscriber, and usually just wait for the print version. What a piece of absolute garbage. What adds insult to injury is that that is the public face of feminism by virtue of institutional power and access and not the grassroots work that you and so many others are doing—which always gets renamed as being something other than feminism. Gets written out of the feminist narrative.
Magnificent piece. Thank you.
(and addiction is a bitch, no matter what you say or do. my own experience is that my family is glad the TARDIS isn’t available, because it would interfere too much with denial and hagiography, but I digress….)
That Nation article pissed me off too, and I was late to the party. I’m a subscriber, and usually wait for the print version to read around the break table (I hate reading things by phone. Hate small screens.). What adds insult to injury is that that is the public face of feminism by virtue of racism, institutional power and access; meanwhile the grassroots work being done by millions of women like yourself is renamed as being something other than feminism. And I’m so sick and tired of the whining about being “unsupported”. (1) there’s reasons for that, and (2) the grassroots is managing to do more substantive shit on a wing and a prayer, you wanna talk “unsupported”. Fuck.
Anyway. Keep your head up and your mouth running. *smile*
Back then, I didn’t know how crippling addiction could be. I merely saw a man too lazy to kick heroin, and resented him for his weakness.
This is magnificent. My father had different addictions, but yes, my reaction was the same.
(shoot. didn’t mean to comment twice. I wrote the first one on my phone, then assumed I lost the comment because I wasn’t logged in—I couldn’t get back to that page to see whether I’d lost it or not. You can delete one of those! Note to self: log in first before typing..)