Now a widower, my dad transformed. He seemed entirely motivated by sex. Despite being 70 years old and a self-proclaimed "cripple" with a limp (all due to an accident in his youth that stunted the growth of his right leg), my father was physically fit for his age. He had softly defined muscles in his chest and arms from his daily push-ups routine. If he hadn't of lost a few teeth, one might mistake him for much younger. He still had a full head of thick grey hair which he had to have trimmed regularly. And he continued to wear the same either black or white wife beaters and green army pants which he purchased exclusively from an army surplus outlet store. He wore his clothes far past their prime but he never looked dirty or unkempt. And his deep, thunderous voice still projected throughout the entire house, as if refusing to be absorbed by the surrounding furniture, whenever he spoke.He didn't get a makeover after my stepmother died or join a gym or even fix his teeth, but something had changed: his sex drive begun to overshadow his emotional responsibility as a parent to his own six children. This was made most evident by his unmasked determination to sleep with my now-grown childhood friends.
My stepmother's death brought out an uninhibited, hyper-sexual version of my dad that completely destroyed the closeness we shared.
In my eyes, my father hadn't merely crossed the line—it lay hundreds of miles behind him. He'd often struggle to pay our mortgage or hydro bill because he'd done something like pay off Samantha's $600 cell phone charge that month instead. He'd ask my siblings and me for money, but I was the only one who refused to give him anything.Two years ago, on his 72nd birthday, my father decided he was going to propose to Samantha. He hadn't personally informed me; instead, I was told by my older sister, who had caught wind of his plan one way or another. To make matters worse, my dad's proposal took place just two days after the anniversary of my stepmother's death. I ended up trying to explain to my 17-year-old sister, whose mother it was that had died, why her only living parent was proposing to a 24-year-old woman at this extremely sensitive time. For obvious reasons, my younger sister hated Samantha the most, but she also had the most love for my father. I comforted her in our room while she sobbed, dolefully asking me why he'd do this. I didn't know what to tell her. My father was downstairs in his best suit, anxiously awaiting Samantha's arrival with a cheap ring in his pocket. Thankfully, Samantha was not interested in marrying my dad, and, after she made that clear, the entire plan was dropped as quickly as it seemed to arise.I'm now left asking myself just how much disappointment one father-daughter relationship can withstand. I often teeter between a sense of guilt for emotionally distancing myself from him and a feeling of downright warranted detachment. He senses my disappointment and tries, in strange, pitiful ways, to keep me close to him. He'll always make sure that my favorite foods are in the house, like bananas, and almost proudly say, "Hey, did you see? I got your bananas for you." He does this every week, with various things that he knows I like to eat. I know he's desperately reaching, even in the smallest way, to connect with me. I thank him. I appreciate that he thinks about me. I just wish it was in more ways than a grocery list.I suppose I do understand what's going on in my father's head. He believes he has reached an age where he no longer feels obligated to worry about anyone's needs besides his own, that his time here is nearly finished, and he's determined to live out his final days doing as he pleases. (This isn't just a theory. My dad is famous for expressions like, "If I'm here tomorrow…" and "When you reach this age you'll understand.") Ultimately, his way of coping with the death—the death of his wife and his own impending demise—to give up and quit trying to behave.His elderly revolt is against life itself and all the expectations that come with it. While I understand this, I still miss my dad and I still look for him from time to time among the birch trees.
My father would drive Samantha anywhere she needed to go, often pinching her ass as she left the car. He would give her a twenty-dollar bill for weed or cigarettes, but sometimes make her bend over in front of him to retrieve it.
*All names have been changed.