The day Ivy has been waiting for has finally arrived. I have never seen a six-year-old be so focused on a vacation idea for the last two years. I haven’t really been looking forward to it per se. The story from the last I have not really spoken of, as it wasn’t the joyous time is could have been. Why?
I was still the old me. Overweight, tobacco using, angry, and still in adjustment to being a single father. So every set back, piece of bad news, or difficulty I handled like, well, like myself. This is to say, self-defeating, passive aggressive, and just aggressive. My girlfriend at the time came with Ivy and I even though she had just lost her grandmother, and looking back she tried so hard to be present and make a difference, which she did, for what I would allow.
She stood by me even though every-other hour I would have some selfish near breakdown. She walked on eggshells when my selfishness burned during the trip to Silver Dollar City since Ivy refused to do anything in six hours, still finding enough love to cuddle with me every night despite her own deep grief. And in the face of all that love and tenderness, I managed to be angry and freak-out basically the whole ride home after four days of torturing her. She gets her vengeance though.
Unfortunately for my new-found emotional state of balance and empathy, my daughter inherited her father’s ability to recall, and she remembers details from our last trip to the Compton Ridge Lodge that I had forgotten. All I heard about once we got on the Branson strip were references to the last trip and who came with us. She is all Ivy wanted to talk about for the forty minutes it takes to navigate that section of road. Every memory had the name “ ” attached to it. Now that I sit in our lodge room, while Ivy watches cartoons I haven’t been able to afford for the last 15 months, I admit to feeling the loneliness return. I am excited we are here, but once again my regret catches up to me. Surrounded by family members and marriages that have lasted for decades, I sit with a smile on my face and tears in my heart. I hope this fades over the next few days, this isn’t the time I would choose to process regret and sadness, but I have also learned with this new mind of mine, I will not always get to choose when healing will occur. And while there is something to be said about a stoic-self, seemingly in control, there is just as much to be said about acknowledging feelings and letting go of control by being in the moment.
This is the first time I have been back to Branson since that trip, and to be honest, I prepared myself for some of this emotional backdraft, but it always takes me by surprise when Ivy triggers it. I don’t know why it catches me so off guard when she does. It isn’t really that rare of an event. Maybe I am so prepared for the internal struggle that when it comes from an external sources, especially this close to me, I respond with such intensity that I have to spend several moments to keep from coming a part at the seams. I managed to keep it together and converse with my daughter until the painful brain state passed. I had to more directly deal with the emotions later on the long trip to a Wal-Mart. That’s when the loneliness had to be answered. As slow as downtown Branson traffic moves, I imagine many Bransonites and tourists got to see me smiling back at them with bleary eyes.
So much devotion and beauty have burned in the fires of my rage. Glad it is just sadness and loneliness I contend with anymore. Maybe it would be easier to deal with all this if I were pissed off. But, I’m not.
This is the new face of happiness within me, one tinted with the weight of my past, and all that I have participated in ruining.
Part of me is ready for this Branson trip to be over in under 24 hours, but it is probably a good idea for me to face this sadness to the end. I am not the man I was two years ago, and many of the issues that plagued me last time aren’t really issues any longer. And if those I hurt won’t allow me redemption in their eyes, maybe, just maybe, I can redeem myself to myself. My heart may still be lonely, but my conscience might be cleansed. That would likely do some good, if not for me, as my improved attitude to all those around me will make it worthwhile.