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Occupation: Girl

Please close the door and switch on the fun without fail.

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To start, we're okay. The tornadoes seem to have hit Mississippi the hardest. We had some scary-looking skies, strong winds, and hellacious rain, but that was it.

Second, the funeral for my great-aunt was on Thursday. (Wednesday was Pallas Cat Day on my Tumblr, because I needed a Pallas Cat Day, quite frankly.) It was held in a little churchyard cemetery up in north Alabama, not quite as far up as Decatur, but pretty close. It was the kind of place that had more cows than people and more churches than cows. I enjoyed the cows a lot. 

One of the things I love about Alabama is that there's undeveloped woodland everywhere, even in the cities, and it's all beautiful--so if you're out in the country, it's going to be really great.

The real problem with the drive (if you're my mother) or the ride (if you're me) was that it was two hours both ways. And that's if you don't get lost. Which we did, on the way back, and the Google Maps GPS did not seem to recognize our location as being anywhere near where it actually was, and then when we did find I-65, it was closed for a really ugly wreck right on the exit we needed to take.

It was also near the towns of Arab (AY-rab), Egypt, and Hog Jaw. Oh, Alabama.

Anyway. It was fairly informal, just a graveside service led by one of my aunts, and she and a couple of the other aunts spoke a bit, and then she opened the floor to anyone else who wanted to speak. And she'd asked me before they started if I wanted to, and at the time I'd said I wasn't sure if I could hold it together up there. And then I watched a couple of my cousins get up there and get very emotional about our great-aunt, and I thought, I lived with her for nearly twenty years. There was a point where she was somewhere between a grandmother and a third parent to me. If I didn't speak--and God only knew what I could think of to say on that kind of notice--I don't think I'd ever feel anything but regret afterwards. So when my aunt asked if anyone else wanted to say something, and there was a lull, I said "I will" (and then I had to change from my sunglasses to my regular glasses, which was super smooth, but okay), and went up to the little podium and started talking.

The thing is, I had been the only person who hadn't been crying at all through the entire event. Not a sniffle. And once the aunts started talking, for some reason--every time they said my great-aunt's name--her name wasn't Mary, but let's say, every time someone referred to her as "Aunt Mary" (and everyone, regardless of generation, did), it made me smile. And they told fun, sweet stories about her, and those made me smile even more, whereas everyone else was sobbing. The whole crowd must have thought I was insane. So I got up there and said, "I'm one of the children she helped to raise." And I only spoke for a minute or two, but the gist of it was, "I can't bring myself to cry, because all I have are happy memories of her." And of course, as soon as I said that, I got a bit teary. But only a bit.

It only occurred to me later that I probably should have been terrified of getting up there to speak. It just... honestly didn't occur to me. I was more concerned about saying something coherent on short notice than being nervous. Maybe I have the Made of Fail podcast to thank for this, I don't know.

I almost didn't want to mention this, wasn't sure I should, but--some of y'all have been reading here for so many years, and you'll understand the significance of what I'm about to tell you, that I kind of feel like I should. I don't want to go through it all over again, but the short version is, my father walked out when I was 19, and I hadn't seen or heard from him since. And I'm the only one who hadn't seen or heard from him, and I had very conflicted feelings about this--like, 55% relief that he's gone, and 45% fierce indignation that he's still gone. Like, I don't want to see him, but I'm insulted that he doesn't even want to make the effort. But I don't want him to make the effort! But I don't understand why he won't! My emotional baggage, let me show you it. And I knew that he would be at this funeral--it's his aunt, after all--and that I had to go, and he had to go, and because it's not about us, there would be no way around it. And I had been dreading this moment for twelve years--not because I thought he would do anything, but because (as previously mentioned) I have a severe Elinor Dashwood complex, and I was really afraid that whatever reaction I had been repressing but, finally, in this moment, expressed, I would not be able to control it. I might burst into tears, I might flee the scene, I might start screaming blue murder in the middle of the cemetery, I might trip over my own feet and fall over, I might punch him in the head. I really did not know which one it might be. And that's why I wore my sunglasses pretty much the whole time, so I could survey the scene without making actual eye contact. (Although it was, truly, so bright out that I got an actual sunburn--a little keyhole-neckline sunburn.) I saw him when I first walked into the cemetery, and--it was a strange feeling. I can't quite describe it. He looked more the way I remembered him than I had expected him to, but at the same time--the last time I'd seen him, I was 19. He looked very different to me there at my age of 31, the way that everything from your childhood looks smaller when you're grown-up. I didn't really feel anything else--not anything new, not anything uncontrollable.

A few minutes later, someone passed word to me that he wanted to talk to me. "Well, he's not gonna get to," I said pleasantly. And that was it. He circled the cemetery for the next hour, and almost every time I looked over to see where he was, he was looking at me. I don't know what he wanted to say to me, and I kind of don't care; I am no Pandora. I suspect it would have been some attempt at whitewashing the situation and ignoring everything that had happened, along the lines of, "So, how are you doing?" At which point, "I DON'T KNOW, DO YOU WANT ME TO START WITH 1998, OR A BIT LATER THAN THAT?" would have jumped out of my mouth, and it would have been bad. Whatever it was, it was not a conversation I wanted to have at a funeral.

And the next day, Friday, I woke up feeling really good. I just felt--really at peace with the whole day before, even if it had been tense and physically draining at the time. I don't know if I deserved to feel at peace, given that I hadn't seen my aunt very often since she had moved away, but I did. And this huge weight had also been lifted from me--twelve years of squirrelly anxiety that I might run into him, that someone might try to throw us together, what would I say, what would I do, what would he think, and--I don't have to worry about that anymore. It's over, and I got out of there with my dignity intact and no warrants out for my arrest, and while I still don't particularly want to see him, I don't feel that towering indignation anymore. It's like--I got some weird kind of closure, just by getting the opportunity to say no. Which I don't think I'd ever said to him before, in essence. I just--felt like a different, lighter person when I woke up the next day. I don't know.

Meanwhile, I have a ton of work to do, and I actually feel like doing it.  

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♥ you, babe. I'm glad for that power to say no, and that you feel lighter. I know this has been a Thing for you. I hope it gets easier from here.

Grace. You have it. Bravo.

Aw, that's awesome. Go you!

That is exactly how I feel about my own father. Exactly. I don't want to be in contact with him, but I want him to want to be in contact, to be involved. I don't care, but I want him to care. I found out that my paternal grandmother died via the newspaper obituary (I didn't even know that she'd lived in my hometown her whole life), and was like the last straw. I figured if anything would bring him back into our lives, it would be Grandma Billie's death. And then it didn't.

I'm glad you've achieved some catharsis. I'm glad that you're doing okay.

Argh. The trying to talk for the first time at a funeral, of all things, strikes me as so cowardly and manipulative; any way it turned out, you would have been ~making a scene~. So glad you are feeling good, now, after that.

I think you handled it well; at the very least that's probably not the right time. Sounds like you gave a lovely memorial.

I love Pallas Cats. I actually was showing pictures of them to a coworker last week because she'd never heard of them. Neither had I, tbh, until I went to a zoo that had 'em. (The Duluth Zoo.)

I'm glad you finally had that moment.

Sorry for the loss of such a wonderful person, but yay that you were able to say what you needed to say.

As for the Dad thing - I can attest that it is very empowering to say "no". Because it's no longer a "what might happen" - it happened, you took control of the situation, and if it happens again you know you can do the same.

Did the same thing with my dad as well. (I found out he was dumping my mom the day we went shopping for my Sr. Prom dress and she finally broke down)

When asked, I say that my parents went though a really long ugly divorce and from the things I learned about him in the process I decided that he wasn't the kind of person I wanted in my life. Got a bit tired of explaining that at my brother's wedding - people kind of noticed that the "groom's side" consisted of me, my mom and her BF and my aunt and uncle - but that's the way things are.

Too many words, none of them useful, all of them supportive in that clumsy gawky don't-fit-your-skin way.

So... I hope your aunt continues to bring a smile to you for many years to come. She sounds like she brightened the world a lot.

This was really well-said, I completely agree :)

I'm sorry about the loss of your great-aunt - she clearly meant a great deal to you, and it's hard to lose people like that even if you haven't been seeing them a lot recently. And well-done on how you handled your father - it sounds like having the not-seeing of him be *your* decision for a change, really made a difference. 'No' can be a very powerful word, and you said it, and you meant it, and that's fantastic. I think a lot of people get caught up in the drama, or the "well, but he's family, you have to try and work it out" - and I always disagree with that. There are exceptions, but in my world, if someone treats you badly, you have no obligation to "work it out", unless *you* want to do that. You had made your decision, and you handled it in a way you should be proud of, and at a very difficult time, actually, which is even more impressive. Good for you. We should all be so together about such things...:)

^^^ Agree with all of this. Cleo, your post moved me very deeply. I'm in a similar situation--haven't seen my father in almost 20 years but I know I will when my aunt dies (soon, because she's very ill) and I hope I can handle it with as much grace and strength as you did.

Maybe I have the Made of Fail podcast to thank for this, I don't know.

That made me LOL IRL, for serious.

And I'm happy that you're at peace about how things played out, been reading your LJ for years so I know how Things Are. *hugs*

I'm glad SOMEthing good came of all that. You were fretting so much, it looked worrying even from over here in Internet. Also, I wish to credit the Pallas cats for their calming influence and many hilarious expressions.

Yeah, I kind of wish I could have set a rabid cat army on him. Pallas cats are MEAN when they feel threatened. The "they will cut you" link has some the funniest ANGRY CAT FACES I have ever seen, but I wouldn't want one of them coming at me.

My dad left me with my grandparents when I was a year old, and I didn't see him again until I was 15. I met him, thinking I would be the bigger person in the situation, but him and his new wife just got pissed that I wouldn't call him "Dad."

Anyway, I empathize with your situation. I'm glad you met him, and are over the fear of seeing him again. Take care of yourself, for that's all that matters. Don't let him continue to hurt you.

Butting in here to say they sound like jerks. The title of "Dad" is earned, not forced.

Good for you about your father. You responded perfectly to that situation, and that may well be because you went into it knowing your own strength/weakness, and being prepared for either scenario.

It's probably kind of a weird thing to say, but...Congratulations.

And my condolences on your great-aunt.