Snapshot of my father

Today is the first father’s day that I won’t be able to call my dad on the phone. Not that he ever was much for talking on the phone. Usually if he answered, he’d say hello, followed quickly by “Here’s your mother.”

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Dr. Robert Sieling during a patient consultation in the early 1990s.

It’s been 10 months since he died. I’ve wanted to call him many times to tell him about trips that I’ve taken or stories that I’ve read, and then I remember that I can’t.

In this time I’ve spent many hours trying to sort out my feelings about him. The sadness and emptiness after a death is easy to recognize. But there is something that digs deeper inside of me that pulls out those deep grieving sobs that sometimes emerge without warning. This grieving has been complicated by the added layer of pain left by the ending of a nine year relationship, creating a molasses-like coating of sorrow that makes it hard to extricate one feeling from another.

A couple months ago I was finally able to separate the two. I saw that I not only was grieving over the death of my father, but the fact that I never felt that I ever connected with him personally. My father held many things inside and usually my siblings and I wrote it off to the fact that it was just the way he was. He only gave us little snapshots of his life. He infrequently volunteered stories about big parts of his life like his work as a surgeon or his time during the war in Vietnam, but he always liked to chat about the latest front page story in the newspaper.

I spent much of my life trying to connect with him, hoping to tell stories that would amuse him or impress him with my work. I would feel triumphant if I could make him laugh or smile. He may have been proud of me, but he rarely said so, so I will never really know what he thought about me. It’s something that I hope that I can let go of some day.

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