Tuesday, July 22, 2008

1939 - 2008

My relationship with my father was, and is, incredibly complicated. Growing up there wasn't a man I respected and adored more than my dad. He sincerely cared for me and my brothers and I have years of fond memories of him and our family.

He was the epitome of what a father should be:
  • Stature: He was taller than me.
  • Strong: He could lift things right over his head.
  • Smart: He knew the answers to a lot of Jeopardy questions.
  • Sophisticated: He drank wine, and only sometimes was it in a box.
  • Skillful: When anything broke, he could fix it. Car, fridge, bike, anything.
In all, a bunch of S's.

My fondest memories of him were probably picking him up at the airport. My dad would work in other parts of the country, and sometimes other parts of the world, and my mom would count down the days to when he would be getting home. The day he arrived was an event. My brother and I would bring our newest toys to show off, we would sit excitedly on the ride to the SLC airport to pick him up, we would even go past the amazing diorama displaying the layout of the airport complete with miniature planes. We knew exactly where to go and where to wait for him. We had that airport memorized. And all the people would walk off that plane and somewhere never quite in the beginning, and never quite at the end, he would pop his head out of the pack. His handlebar mustache and cowboy hat were always a dead giveaway. He would kiss us all with his prickly chin and scruffy stache, hug us while smelling of some other city on some jacket I'd never seen, and then I would carry one of his bags for him (which wasn't always a chore when it had wheels, that was bonus fun.)

Throughout the years my childhood admiration faded, I grew to know him for who he was and the adult choices he made. He broke the hearts of every member of my family one by one, and sometimes all at once. He abandoned his responsibilities and abandoned his blood relations, on numerous occasions. I can never really describe
what he did wrong, it was always more of a matter of how he did wrong. If you look back on all the things he did to make the family upset, it would seem that we are all petty for complaining about such small things, but it was every single instance of every single small thing that ever took place which compiled into the very thing we grew to despise about him over the years; complacency and neglect, not your average father qualities. When I would talk to him on the phone (while he was in another country) he would never try to stop and see where I was coming from, trying to be the diplomat for the stranded family in the states. He would only ever defend himself incessently and never hear a single word I said. I stopped talking to my dad in 2002, fed up with his lies and excuses.

On June 16th I was told my father was diagnosed with Myeloblastic Acute Leukemia. My co-worker looked it up on wikipedia, he said I probably shouldn't read the details. Apparently it can be contracted by coming into contact with high levels of some substance, which I assume (and hope) was a result of years in the tunnel engineering and boring business. I wrote him a (long) letter before he went in for the chemo. Even after all my anger and frustration, I couldn't let him leave without saying something. I didn't want to give him the satisfaction of leaving thinking I was ungrateful or misunderstood him. He understood.

He remained in Bolivia, his home since 1999, and spent the last few weeks of his life going through chemotherapy and laying in a bed in a hospital. I spoke to him on the phone, but he couldn't talk back. I could only hear the breathing machines and faint grunts and sobs while I said my goodbyes.

Antony Ivansmith passed away on July 21, in the evening.

So here we are,
complicated. I've spent the past seven years or so determined that I would hate him and I would never care if he died, and yet things are complicated. I'm still mad at him for what he did, and I don't imagine I will ever not be mad any time soon, but that doesn't mean I never loved him, I never had fond memories, or that I'll never cry when I think back on missing the father I actually had, the father I wish I had, and the father I wish I still had.

7 comments:

MRGN said...

I'm incredibly sorry to hear of your loss man. I can't imagine how difficult it must be losing a family member who is so far away in such a complex scenario. Needless to say if I can help in any way, just say the word. -morgan

Jane Agatha said...

Dear Ivandashsmith, I haven't worked out what your first name is, however we're cousins. Antony was my third cousin. We had been in email contact over the last year or so after I discovered him via his MacDonalds of Vally website. He emailed me some photos. We share descent from Augustus John Oakes Senior, son of Harriet MacDonald. Thank you for your post and my condolences on your father's death. Jan Forbes, Tasmania, Australia

Jane Agatha said...

Further to my earlier post, Antony had sent me a photo of himself in June this year. He had been working in Poland and Lesotto. He does not look well. If you give me an email address I could send you the photo.

Jane Agatha said...

I've been thinking about your father's death. I got the sense that he's a man of few words. It can be hard to show people that you care about them. Father's tend to do that by being a good provider. Antony has also shown love for you in the lasting legacy of the family history research he has done; so that his children will know something of where they come from, should they be interested.

Allan said...

Dear Ivandashsmith. I just learnt via another cousin (Edit Van Driel) about the passing of your father. I am very sorry to hear this news and also sad to read your posting. I can understand your loss and your frustration. I had a similiar but different relationship with my father but went through the same phases you have done, and when he died I wanted to hate him, but in the end told him I loved him. He had a massive stroke and could only nod that he understood. Anyway it is important to break the cycle and to make sure you learn from this experience and love your own children, treat them right and make sure they get the best education they can. I don't know Jan but she must be another distant cousin of ours, so if you need or want to write or correspond let us know. All the best to you for the future. Allan MacDonald (of Vallay), Auckland, New Zealand.

Jane Agatha said...

Hi Alan, If you are who I think, Antony had copied me into some emails he had exchanged with you. There were some photos of MacDonald clan members from Scotland. I'll check it out (on my laptop) and send you a message. :-)

ppugliesi said...

Austin - I found this today for the first time and oddly enough, it made me smile. I went through a lot of different emotions for our Dad. In the end, I didn't hate him. There was a time I did but now I've accepted our relationship and what little he gave. I grieved when he died but only for a short time and I knew truly I was at peace with him. I hope you get there or maybe you are already there. I know it has to much harder for you because he was the only Dad you knew. Love you.