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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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Good for you, darlin'. I remember the first time I said "no" to my abusive father, and it was hard as hell, but I've never felt so much my own person since then. Maybe I need therapy for that, but whatevs - what I'm trying to say is you have every right to feel lighter, to feel better about yourself, and to be at peace with the situation.

Also, I'm glad for you that you were able to put your fears aside and speak in front of those people. Your Aunt "Mary" would have been proud, too.

I'm glad you some closure.

I do hope you feel better.

Backstory to make what I'm about to say make more sense: my mother, after having me, became involved with an abusive man named Tim. When she became pregnant, he left, and his brother, Chris, stepped in to marry my mother and raise my sister and myself. So, he step/adoptive father is her biological uncle.

Our grandmother (her's biologically, mine by marriage, Tim and Chris's mother) died this December. Ali (my sister) has another half sister through her father who she has a tentative Facebook/MySpace relationship with. She had never even seen her father, despite his mother's attempts to include him in our family again after he became clean of drug and alcohol abuse.

Tim and his daughter came to the funeral, and sat in the front row of the family section, Ali and I sat behind. After we walked up and paid our respects, we hugged our father, our aunt, and our sister. Time reached out for Ali and she continued walking straight past him into the arms of our grandfather. She didn't even make eye contact.

When I asked her about it later she simply said that he never tried to see her until then, and she was already too upset over Granny to deal with him trying to be her dad now. She said, "My dad was there, and he held me while I cried. I didn't need another stranger forcing his loss on me."

All in all, she's agreed it was good to see him and let him know where he stood.

I guess the point of this (JFC SOOO LONG) story is to tell you that I'm glad you got to let him know where he stood, and I'm glad it helped you as much as it helped Ali.

Rock on, my dear. It's great that you got to do that in a calm, classy way (I've had similar experiences, but not to the same 12-year extent) and did not handle it nearly as well as you did, so you are officially badass.

Also, I didn't get a chance to comment a few days ago, so **cyberhug**. I'm glad you're feeling better now and have motivation to do things. That motivation is always the hardest thing to get running again.

Love you (not in a creepy way, though. In a "this chick is righteous and totally what I want to be when I grow up" kind of way)!

Good for you. I admire you for holding it together. Sometimes I get that Elinor Dashwood thing too, and the result is a horrible explosion. It's understandable; that's a complicated situation you have there, but you handled yourself admirably, and I think that's part of the reason you feel at peace. Good luck.

I just--felt like a different, lighter person when I woke up the next day. I don't know.

I'm so happy for you. That must be a wonderful feeling.

You know, I'm starting to feel like Alabama is the actual center of the universe. I now know two people in real life who are from Alabama. While that may not seem like an impressive number, in this corner of the country it's a lot. Between you and them, I'm beginning to feel like I actually know quite a bit about Alabama. For example, qumquats are grown there and they ripen around Christmas. Do you like qumquats?

I--huh. I... did not know we had those here.

Sounds like you handled everything extremely well. Both the funeral bit and the father bit.

I met my father in law for the first time at my grandfather in law's funeral. He'd walked out on my husband and his mom when my husband was two, and they had had minimal contact since. It was odd to meet him in that setting, and odd to meet him at all; I mostly just kind of looked at him and said "Oh, so that's where Morgan's jawline comes from." And then he told me "Thank you for coming," and I almost punched him. I'd had my own relationship with my grandfather in law for almost 10 years at that point, and this dipshit was acting like I wasn't part of the family? Yeah.

And my own mom's memorial service is in three weeks. I still can't decide if I'm going to be able to speak at it. I'm impressed as hell that you did. I want to try, because I'm her only child and I should, dammit, but I'm mostly afraid I'm going to get out a sentence or two and then cry all over everyone.

Sorry to have made this all about me. But I really, really identified with what you're talking about here.

I'm so sorry--I don't know that I would be able to speak in that situation. It can be really tough.

I'm glad your strength of self and your good memories are helping you get through this. And I'm glad you got through the situation with your father with no problems or regrets on your part. *hugs*

Oh, Cleo. You handled a lot of tough things here with such strength and grace. You are amazing.

A painful situation, gracefully handled. Good for you.

Wow. You handled that so well. I'm sorry about your aunt, but I'm glad to hear that you feel at peace about having spoken about her, and not having spoken to your father.

*hugs you*

Also, "Elinor Dashwood complex" is a brilliant way to put it. I totally have that.

I know I haven't really been reading you all that long in the grand scheme of things. But I do feel like I know you and I'm really glad you've found some sort of closure. I hope you feel better.

Pfffft don't ever feel that you don't deserve to feel at peace.

Yay. I mean, I'm sorry that your great aunt is no longer with us, but it sounds like the experience, once you add the positive and negative aspects, came out heavier on the positive side. I'm happy for you, although I feel as annoyed at your dad as I can without actually being involved in the situation, for treating you like crap.