|Image credit: David Meriwether Knapp|
The discussion started with an apology. It wasn't the first one I gave her for helping create a situation whereby a custody schedule is required. As usual, I also went a little into my own feelings about it all. There will, undoubtedly, be more apologies. We both know it sucks, and after this long, we both acknowledge it was necessary. That's when she told me she could finally see me.
She meant since my divorce, since moving out and doing some single parenting. She meant it the way Neytiri does in Avatar. She also told me she has basically no memories of me pre-divorce, which is disturbing. It's reminiscent of my own teenage experience of having almost no memories of my own childhood until I moved out to attend school at age 16. I was out of my parents' hectic, dysfunctional household and away from their marriage. That was a huge milestone in my life. I'm now wondering how my own children will remember this... do remember this.
Knowing that my daughter is appreciating our relationship more, despite the unfortunate reason, is a tender reminder of my own experience learning to live with a terrible reality: finally 'meeting' my dad after his cancer diagnosis. Forced to quit drinking and cigarettes to accommodate his chemo- and radiation therapies, I'd sit with him and finally see this man who'd been my father 30+ years without the veil of addiction. He was still crude and inappropriate, but he was also funny and interesting. He smiled in a more genuine way than I remembered before. He emoted not just drunken anger and affection, but deep love.
I wonder now what my daughter sees in me. What veil separated us before? It's hard to describe to her, or anyone really, how I contorted myself into a person I thought my wife (and her family, my coworkers, my neighbors, etc.) would approve of. It's hard for me to understand how such an effort disfigured my interactions with my family and my children, but it's obvious it did. Now, the masks are off, and I wonder who else sees me differently.
Looking back on all this creates a lot of regrets, but I can't afford that. I did my best with what I had at the time. I adjusted to my reality the only way I knew how. It's all any of us do, every day. I know I'm living more honestly than I ever have, though I've discovered that living "unapologetically" requires a lot of lessons I haven't yet learned. Fortunately, there is time yet to learn them, and I have people who love me enough to wait.