A Satisfied Mind

Some of us — I daresay most of us — waited for Clarence Wilson to die.

Some of us — I daresay most of us — waited for Clarence Wilson to die.

Whether it was so one among us could finally be free of the lies he had been telling himself about Clarence, or whether she merely wanted it over already or whether they were sick of the anxiety they heard each time the phone rang after a certain hour at night, we all wanted my father dead.

Part of me — the humane part; my soulful part — did not want him in agonizing physical pain or mental turmoil anymore.

I did not want him living confused, angry, helpless and undignified. 

I did not want him vulnerable, susceptible to whims or at the mercy of caretakers.

I did not want him reliant.

I did not want him to feel like a foreigner among his own things.

So I did not want him alive.

This other, darker, honest part of me is relieved. When the death rattle (yes, it is real) came and his heart stopped at last on Saturday, October 8, at 5:54 p.m., I was joyful.

Finally.

Free.

Him. And me.

I was overwhelmed by the sudden memory of our mother laid out in a white body bag in her room in the Intensive Care Unit of Mercy Hospital 11 springs ago. It hit me like a medicine ball to my chest: Both my parents are dead.

I wailed before I could even fully process it: The people who knew me best, longest and made me so fitfully were both now dead forever and ever, amen.

Just like I snapped that mental picture of my mother shrouded in white, her body still warm, I studied Clarence’s every line, every frozen furrow, every hair, mole and wrinkle.

He looked weirdly triumphant; not at all beaten. His natural color returned.

On Friday, October 7, I told him in his ear to go. “Stop fighting and let go. I do not know, Dad, what your relationship with Jesus Christ is like, and I hope you have made your soul right with Him. I cannot judge that. I hope you have some peace.”

The hospice nurse had already told me he could hear, open his eyes and understand but that he could not speak.

For once, I could have my say and he would be mute.

While I spoke softly to him, he moaned, moved his mouth and rolled his eyeballs beneath his lids.

He tried to reply.

He fought to form words.

He couldn’t.

He coughed viciously and the nurse pulled phlegm from his mouth and gave him Morphine. I stepped back from his bedside, happy I could see him and say what had hung on my heart for decades.

He died the next evening barely 15 minutes after I’d come to his house and I knew he took with him every word I’d whispered.

For decades I was leery of him while I figured out why his sexual deviances ruled him. 

I spent decades untangling and wrestling with his seemingly insatiable, whorish ways. I went to therapy to reconcile them with the bloated awkwardness of our own relationship.

I couldn’t tell if he was capable of loving me healthily and normally since he kept mistreating women and girls the way he did.

It was downright nasty. 

He was lascivious, predatory.

I was once a girl.

I am now a woman.

I was spared and protected from the incestuous lechery of his touch by the prayers, advice and honesty of my mother who lived apart from me beginning when I was 12 years old.

She told me who he was, what he was capable of and some of his past bad behaviors; yet, she always followed all that darkness with this: You must love him.

He is your father.

So I wiled away decades on a lopsided teeter-totter always aloft without the grounding of a “normal” relationship with him, because if I was supposed to hate him for his deeds, how, then, could I love him for simply being my father?

I spent all those nights of my adolescence in a shallow sleep steps from my father’s bedroom wondering, worrying what I would do if he ever tried to rape me. And when my mother died, she took with her my last line of earthly defense against what I always thought was the inevitability of some kind of clash — physical, verbal, emotional — with my father.

I was 40 years old when my mother died, yet I spent six straight days wired wide awake walking incessantly through my apartment checking windows and door locks safeguarding against Clarence trying to “get” me.

I was afraid of him. Even if he’d tried to comfort my grief over my dead mother, I was wary of the sincerity. Would a fatherly hug be his excuse to squeeze, to be chest-to-chest?

This is what secrets, lies and revisionist narratives do to the soul of a woman raised among the terror of male sexuality run amok.

During my formative years, no one was really checking for a lone girl in that landscape of brothers, half-brothers and stepbrothers.

It was like living in a shit storm of penises.

And I should not have to say how much and how deeply I love all these men — stepbrothers, biological brothers, half-brothers, my own father, especially — because they are partially responsible for every good thing I am. I affirm and defend the complexity of that love because they were in their own storms back then, too.

We were a vastly blended family who did not know one another and were forced together at what looked like the last-minute rush of two lonely, needy, lost adults.

We were people who wouldn’t have known one another had our parents not married one another.

So I sit here on a sun-drenched Sunday fresh from the freedoms of death, hunched over a sparkling new laptop that heretofore was only good for watching Netflix. 

I do not have any cares or worries.

I am not sorrow-filled or worried about one thing I cannot directly change.

The familiarity of my partner’s voice carries from the kitchen two rooms away where she’s on the phone ironing out some degree of her son’s teenaged melodrama.

White people cheer some football game in the brewery across the street and loud car mufflers grow soft as they disappear in the distance on the street below.

And I am fine; alone in the world and not at all. I am wobbly without the training wheels of my two parents; certain, just the same.

Thank God I have a satisfied mind. 

I survived the evil my father wreaked without bitterness, malice, insanity or isolation. 

And I’m satisfied knowing he survived, too, longer than he probably should have. 

All these emotional calisthenics have made me tired, so now I’m going to sleep.

Soundly.

And when I wake I will still love my dad.


CONTACT KATHY Y. WILSON: [email protected]

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