“I feel like I didn’t know my father”
is what I say about my dad more often than not these days.
This begs the question “what does it mean to know someone.”
&/or so often knowledge is a kind of stupidity, an assumption, taxidermy, a deadening. I can’t know you, only how I experience you & what you tell me of how you experience yourself. Or really, just how I interpret what you tell me. What judgments I make about it. How I feel.
Of course I’ve written about this before, of course.
Ritalin makes me weepy, or quicker to react to my emotions.
I cried at work last night, & almost again this morning while reading father’s day posts on Facebook. So many fathers have Facebook. Tagged pictures & digital monuments to action. I appreciate the sincerity of these displays, especially on holidays that have been appropriated by capitalism. Intellectually I understand that the family can be an oppressive force, & these illustrations of fatherliness reinforce a narrative that eliminates the complexity & violence that are often elements of having or being a father.
I don’t have actions besides the settling of ashes somewhere in Pennsylvania. But I have pictures, too.
I’ve already written a book about the other stuff.
On the way to Whole Foods this morning P reminded me that he isn’t ready to be a father & of course he isn’t & I can’t even own a phone without cracking it but this didn’t prevent me from having a mixed reaction–
The urge to reproduce is overwhelming & inconvenient. I know I’m not ready, but I want to lay the groundwork. I know when I say “maybe you’ll show our spawn where the rail spur was” I am remembering my father. I am fantasizing about something certain, fantasizing that a plan will bring knowledge.
It is problematic, but it doesn’t mean I shouldn’t do it– what’s the alternative? I always thought “create something better” but now I’m snagged on the fact that the form of our relationships communicate meaning. They effect how people know us, & how people– loved ones, strangers– can’t know us. & this not knowing is full of radical potential, & silence, & problems.
I had lunch with D last week, & he couldn’t remember if it’s called transference or countertransference when we work out our issues with our parents in our first relationship. I know he & I did this. I am less optimistic than he is, I suppose- I don’t think this issue is limited to our first major romantic relationship. I don’t know if I think it’s an issue, though. I like the new age idea that relationships are containers for growth. & what are we growing out of besides our previous container, our oppressive & nurturing families?
When I miss a father, it is often D’s.
This, I suspect, is because I don’t know P’s parents as well yet. So far, they’ve exhibited kindness & generosity that I could only hope my father would have extended to us if he were alive. They’ve offered us a place to live with discounted rent so we can “start out right” & “save” & “make a plan” for the imaginary & uncertain future.
None of my plans have ever worked out. I want them to this time, even if there’s no natural light & it’s in a strange neighborhood.
Planning for the future always seems so glamorous & cozy until I get the opportunity to actually do it. I know the blow will be greater if I call what we’re doing “goals” & not “dreams” or “silly things middle class white people do that I want to call something more subversive.”
I haven’t said yes to the rent deal yet. I want to plan to buy a house with P. I want to stop cracking phone screens. I want a job with benefits. P is like my father in his practical nature, his sense of humor, his desire for privacy, how he interacts with the dogs. I want to make it work & do better than our parents. We won’t– it will just be different, likely– but if I make this plan, if it’s mutual, it’s something different than I’ve done before. Maybe I’m a different person. Maybe I’ve learned something. Maybe I’ve forgotten the promise of being radical–
see above for my skepticism regarding knowledge–
This Friday it will be six years since my father died. Legend has it that next year, cell for cell, I will be a different Megan. I wonder what parts are intact, what hasn’t changed since he was alive? I can’t know. I can’t even know if he’d recognize me. I can only know him from knowing the locations of substations or from accumulated slides, train magazines, check carbon copies. Meticulous disorganized records.
“A container for growth.” I don’t think about my father as much as I used to. It’s even become difficult to care what he would think about my participation in the world. I think he taught me to be a skeptic. I know I can’t guarantee that anything will occur as I plan it, but this is not a reason to not plan. I know I can’t know my entire inheritance. I can’t know my dad entirely. I can’t know P, or even myself according to him, or you, hypothetical reader. I don’t know when I’ll be ready to reproduce or how typical that will look. I’m ready to accept it as it comes.
I’m ready to accept that sometimes I can’t control what I can control. & even if everything is going to make me cry about my father today, I’m exited.