“I told him he had to get out. It would have been selfish of me to let him stay there,” my friend Claire said about her youngest son, A.J.
Claire lost her husband almost a decade ago, after which her 26-year-old son moved home. A.J. promised his father he would take care of his mother, but Claire did not feel that included cohabitation. Her word choice stunned me. As the child of a widowed parent, I sometimes forget the hierarchical positioning of my own family patriarch.
I spent a considerable amount of time feeling guilty about being in Washington, D.C. for the first four years after my mother died. While I cognitively knew my father is responsible for making his future into what he wants, I felt the opposite.
I stayed with my father for a short time after moving back to Massachusetts. Living with him was nice, but I missed having my own space and longed to liberate my possessions from their confining basement plot. However, when I packed up to leave, pangs of guilt overwhelmed me.
Claire’s words reframed my view of supporting my father. It is silly for me to put my presence upon him, then act as if I am doing him the favor. Moving my life around for someone else isn’t a favor; it’s a burden. I am just as responsible for my future as he is for his. I need to make choices that are best for me to set the guilt free.
Releasing myself from guilt allows me to see my father just as I always did: a loving, humble, smart father and husband. I know he will always be there for me, just like he knows I will always be there for him.
This Father’s Day I will make sure to remind him, and to tell him how much I love and appreciate him.
Lauren Muscarella 2011