It occurred to me this week that I omitted something from my memoir that should have been included in it, and I make this feeble attempt here to set it right. I wrote about Daddy’s felt absence from my high school graduation, about my disappointment in him, and about Mother’s disappointment in him. Her disappointment was generalized beyond this event, while mine was specific.
We both felt he should have been there for that big event in my life. He was not ill as far as we knew. He just stayed home. He never explained to me why. I never asked, but I think I should have before he died.
Daddy’s reasons for not attending my graduation remain a significant mystery in my memories of him. He and I had a good relationship during all the years our lives overlapped. He wasn’t mad at me over anything at the time as far as I know. Furthermore, Daddy didn’t hold grudges. So why didn’t he come to my high school graduation?
I speculated late in my memoir that maybe Daddy, at that time, did not want to appear at a public event with Mother, that he may have feared she would criticize him in front of other people, as she sometimes did. But that was only speculation.
Neither Daddy nor I was timid around each other. I wasn’t afraid of him. But I knew he kept a lot of thoughts to himself. Late in Daddy’s life I could have easily straight-out asked him why he didn’t attend my high school graduation. He, without hesitation, would have told me. So why didn’t I ask? I keep asking myself that question.
Now to the omission from my memoir. I omitted thousands of things of necessity and deliberate choice. That’s a basic requirement of memoir writing. But here’s what I omitted that I would now have included if I could do it over.
Daddy and Mother did attend my college graduation four years later, 250 miles from home at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, along with my first wife Bettye’s parents, William and Daisy Dickson, and her brother Dwight and his wife Gloria, and their two children, Anita and Dwight Jr. This show of support from both sides of our family was a very big deal, especially since all four of our parents were not prone to travel far from home. And 250 miles was far to them.
I don’t know what or who rallied all of them to come to my graduation, but it meant a lot to me. Maybe it was because I was the first member of my family to go to college.
That Daddy traveled 250 miles for my college graduation, but would not drive seven miles from our farm to my high school graduation, made this memory even more remarkable and mysterious in my mind. Why didn’t I talk with him about all this sometime in my adulthood? Did I suspect he might take such a line of discussion as a criticism of him for letting me down when I graduated from high school? His later life had been difficult enough without having me ask him about some failing that could not be corrected after the fact. As I think about it, this is probably why I never brought it up for discussion.
Parents can’t undo past failures with their children. I know this with my own children. But we all have failures, parents and children alike. Failure is a part of normal life and we all deal with it the best we know how.
Daddy had his reasons for not attending my high school graduation. Whatever they were, I know they were not malicious. So I will leave it at that and live with the mystery. There’s no other choice. So simple.
. . .
Note: For those who are interested, more information about my memoir may be found here.