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01/11/2006 Entry: "Fathers"

Last year I held back a post about the passing of my father-in-law, Robert Horsky and my dad who died only a few weeks later. I've finally gathered the courage to post some conclusions about these events and how they have affected me personally.

First, let me be honest, my father wasn't half the father that Bob Horsky was to his daughters - hell, he wasn't even in the same universe. "RC" (as his family used to call him) was a borderline alcoholic and an abuser. He tormented his family with his inexcusable ranting and raving; in short, he took the "castle" thing way too literally and made our lives a living hell. My last conversation with him ended 10 years ago with me hanging up the phone while he was in the middle of one of his obscenity-laden diatribes. A lifetime of bullshit ended with me finally pulling the plug on a useless co-dependent relationship that brought me more pain than I can describe here (I'm actually trying to write a book about it).

In a sharp contrast, Bob loved his daughters. He raised them in a civil household draped with the culture of classical music and art. Nurturing them in his own way and believing in the strong role that a father must play in the family spectrum, he did his best in participating in nearly every aspect of their lives. He had his shortcomings - what person doesn't - but he never raised a hand at his daughters and never demanded that they respect him. Moreover, I believe that he held great respect for them.

The complicated legacy from the passing of these two men is found in the residual anger that I hold for my father's role in my life. My relationship with Bob was no picnic either, but for entirely different reasons. If anything he was hyperprotective; he wanted his daughter to have the very best and I guess he thought that I didn't measure up somehow. Nevertheless, we managed to have a few good moments together - a day in San Diego, a few conversations here and there, a couple of shared jokes. The 12 years I knew Bob brought more pleasurable 'father-son' interaction than I got from my own father in almost 50 years.

I explained to a friend that I need my anger to help me focus on my duty to my daughter and son. I am determined to prevent my father’s legacy from ever being a part of my family. So far, my anger has helped me redefine fatherhood into something more like how Bob was to his daughters. But isn't it written somewhere that all fathers are immortalized by the actions of their sons and daughters? Well, when it comes to parenting, I'm my own person - I'm no Bob Horsky and I'm a damn far sight from RC. In that weird ironic way of nature and life, my father managed to give me a quality that allows me to make this distinction and make it real for my kids.

So, therapists out there... how’s that for some complicated grief? -HP

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