Saturday, November 11, 2006

On Being Prickly

In 1985, DC Comics ran a 12-part series designed to help clean-up continuity problems that had crept into the various storylines of their characters over the years. The Crisis on Infinite Earths involved gathering superheroes from each of the dimensions of the DC Multiverse to battle villains that threatened to destroy all dimensions. In the end, all dimensions were collapsed into one and only one Earth.

During these battles, many characters (and troublesome story arcs) were eliminated, including Kara Zor El, aka Supergirl. When I first read the story, I was shocked that DC would kill off such a major character. I remember being angry and saddened by her death. I never forgot the cover of Issue 7 (shown above), which showed Superman holding the limp body of a cousin he couldn't save. (The cover was drawn by George PĂ©rez (bio) and I've borrowed today's image from the linked site.)

I had never seen Superman cry and I think the depth of his anguish is what struck me more than anything else. At the time, I imagined his grief came from losing one of his only remaining family members. Years later, though, I thought of that same image when grieving over the end of my first marriage and the loss of my child. Not loss as in death, but loss as not being able to be a physical presence in her daily life and the loss of being able to share in (and contribute to) significant portions of her childhood.

That image is one of reasons why I call my youngest "Kara" in these pages.

I mention all of this because I was a bit prickly this morning, prickly as in out of sorts and inexplicably grumpy.

"Dee Dee" (as in "Darling daughter") wanted me to play with her this morning and I did so grudgingly. This is out of character for me and wife JP picked up on it pretty quickly.

When the three of us started playing Yahtzee, I could tell that JP was trying to figure out why I was out of sorts.

At one point during the game, Dee Dee rolled three of the numbers needed for a small straight, a three, a four, and a six. I suggested she keep the three and the four and roll three dice for the other two numbers she needed. JP didn't see the logic of that and told Dee Dee to roll for the missing five with the remaining two dice. (For the record, Dee Dee followed JP's advice and got the die she needed.)

However, JP and I kind of conflicted over it. Oh, it wasn't a fight or anything, just a funny look, a lack of understanding, and some internal questioning about what was going on as the game continued.

After it was all over, JP wanted to understand what had happened. I really appreciate this about her; over the last several months, she's gotten into the habit of talking about things that trouble her and it's been a huge help to our relationship.

We managed to talk through our individual perspectives of what had happened and I, trying to be diplomatic, said that I was sorry if I'd been prickly. JP, bless her heart, commented that, yeah, I was being a bit prickly.

That was a little hard to take (in part because I thought she was the one being prickly), but I thought about it as I went to do some household chores. Kara's room needed some work and I closed the door to be alone for a few minutes.

As I worked, I felt a familiar pain begin to spread out from my heart. I began to cry, missing my daughter and grieving over her absence. I let the tears flow as I worked and tried to understand why today, of all days, was so hard for me. (I cried quietly, not wanting to let JP or Dee Dee know what I was going though.)

Then it hit me. Today is Kara's eighth birthday and she's spending it with her mother this year. I know it's fair to alternate birthdays, but I want so much to be a part of her childhood and to be a good influence for her.

I recently wrote about my ideas of evil. What I didn't say at that time is that I believe Kara's other home contains that second form of evil I mentioned...and there's nothing I can to do rescue her from it.

I think one of the reasons I'm feeling so much of my grief today is because I really miss being a part of that little girl's daily life, a daily life so very different than the one I envisioned for her when she first came into my life. And all I can do to try to make it better is to continue loving her and to continue trying to show her a better way of doing things during the few times I am a part of her daily life.

For every parent, there comes a time you have to let your child go and experience the world for themselves, without your guidance and without being ready to catch them when they stumble. There comes a time when you have to hope that your guidance has been enough. For most parents, this usually happens when the child is somewhere in their teen years.

In a way, I experience this every time I return her to her mother. And every time, it hurts.

It's been more than four years since that change. I should be used to it by now. I'm not, though. After dropping her off, I often drive home with misty eyes.

Most days, I handle it fine. Every once in a while, though, it overwhelms me and, while trying not to, I take it out on those around me.

I'm sorry for that. It's not fair.

I'm prickly. It's just one of those days.


Blogger Chulita said...

This is so insightful!! I applaud you for not only getting in touch with the true origins of your "prickliness", but also for having the courage to acknowledge the source and honoring the pain with that acknowledgement. Your daughter will read all this one day and reconfirm to herself the beautiful gift of having a father like you.

9:46 AM  
Blogger Jane Poe (aka Deborah) said...

Darling L, I knew that Saturday was hard for you and I appreciate your willingness to talk through the overwhelming feelings, to connect with me in your pain and to be the loving man you inherently are. We all have prickly days (Lord knows I have my fair share!) but as long as we talk and walk through those experiences knowing the other person is walking right beside us, we'll get through anything. Much love to you my dear, JP

6:32 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So good to see you and JP connecting so. Makes my heart smile.

10:16 AM  

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