I saw a macro today that read, "Just so we’re all clear, it is okay to miss people you no longer want in your life."
Useful advice, that.
The decision to cut ties with someone who is a close blood relative or someone who occupies an important emotional role in your life is never an easy one. Sometimes, removing someone important from your life seems about as appealing as cutting off your own arm or leg, but it has to be done to preserve your own mental or physical health.
But if your emotional attachment had any depth to it, out of life doesn't mean out of mind. You will miss the good things -- and there are usually going to be good things to remember, because humans are complex beings who are seldom complete monsters. Incomplete monsters can still make you a fabulous breakfast or take you to Paris. Sometimes, you will miss what you never had, but should have. You will think back and mourn opportunities lost. You will mourn the loss of love.
For instance, I had a good relationship with my mother and would have never wanted or needed to remove her from my life; her death caused me the most intense grief I've ever felt. Cancer took her away. I miss her every day.
I do not, however, have an especially good relationship with my father. I never have. That broken stair in my life has caused me just as much grief over time, and just as with my mother's death, there's nothing I can do to change reality. I miss him every day, too.
I do have a relationship with him, which is more than he could say of his own father, who abandoned him before he was even born. That's something. I know he genuinely cares about me, but I also know that if I share my life with him in any substantial way, eventually he will hurt me. Part of me swore that when my mother died, I'd cut him out of my life entirely, but after the funeral I realized that he was my only living blood relative who wanted anything to do with me, and after all he did love me, in his way, and I couldn't be that heartless.
But the last time I visited him, I listened to his conspiracy theories, and I looked around at his house with the Bakelite rotary phones, the console TV tuned to FOX News, and the dusty computer I bought my mom in 1998 that will never again to be connected to the Internet, and I realized that he will not change his ways. I can talk to him about the weather, and my accomplishments, but I can never talk to him about my fears, my passions, or my dreams, because they will be used against me later. I can safely share less with the man who gave me half his genes than I can share with the 2,000 virtual strangers who follow me on Facebook.
I have a father, but he is 1300 miles away and that distance is necessary.
I have a father, and I go months without talking to him. Fortunately, he seems okay with our relationship consisting of a few 5-minute phone calls each year and cards for Christmases and birthdays. I think about him every single day and I dread making those occasional calls, but at least he's decent enough to not play the guilt card and make me feel like a lousy daughter for not calling more often. Our shared narrative is that I'm really tremendously busy, and he's proud of me for being busy, and that's probably the best we can hope for.
I have a father. When he's no longer in the world, I will weep for the man who was, and for the man who could have been.