When I was out in San Diego visiting my sister Leslie in July, we sat around and talked. A lot. Other than go to doctors’ appointments and dealing with visits and phone calls from nurses and hospital folks, there wasn’t that much else to do.
One of the topics was our dad’s death, back on August 10, 2000. The facts, of course, haven’t changed, but my understanding has.
I was the first child, the first grandchild on both sides of the family, after my mother had miscarried almost two years earlier. At some point, I always felt that I was a disappointment to him. Les Green was VERY artistic, in many ways, and I just wasn’t, and aren’t to this day.
Whereas Leslie was largely everything he was. Dad arranged flowers for debutante balls, family and church weddings, and the like. I had no eye for this but Leslie did. I was useful in that I could schlep stuff, but get Leslie, not me, to tie ribbons that looked aesthetically pleasing.
Dad tried, and failed, to teach me how to play guitar. Leslie got her own guitar on her 12th birthday and was competent on it in a month. When we’d sing together, the only instrument I ever played was the comb, which I WAS sorta OK at.
When adults came to visit my parents at our home, I would drag myself away from reading the World Almanac an encyclopedia, or the backs of my baseball cards to say hello, stay as briefly as possible and then retreat to my room. Leslie, on the other hand, would engage them in conversation, even gregariously entertain them. This made no sense to me, as I figured these folks didn’t come to see her, or me, or our baby sister Marcia.
So Leslie was dad’s favorite. I say this without malice or jealousy. I knew it, she knew it, Marcia knew it. Our mother knew it, and tried, in little, awkward ways, to try to balance the scales.
All of this is not in dispute. What I didn’t really recognize until the trip to San Diego was the weight of being Dad’s favorite, of being the little hostess, to be more his artistic collaborator, to be NAMED AFTER HIM.
What also helped me was the fact that I wrote him a letter when I was about 23, complaining about the fact that I was spanked unnecessarily as a child. I may have used the word “sadistic,” but I’m not sure. We didn’t talk, except through my mother, for six months.
I couldn’t stand it, and I wrote ANOTHER letter, expressing the joy I had singing with him; playing cards with him; getting lost with him in Speculator, NY on the way to Lake George; going to Triplets baseball games; him painting the solar system on my bedroom ceiling; et al. He started talking to me again.
I had the BEST time with him, one-on-one, when I was at an ASBDC conference in Savannah, GA in 1998, and he drove down from Charlotte to hang out with me, and, naturally, flirt with my female friends.
I almost certainly had an easier time accepting our dad’s death in 2000 than Leslie did. This is why she wanted the showy funeral, though nothing my father had said suggested he desired such trappings. This is why Marcia, my mother and I waited her out for hours at the funeral home until she agreed to let dad be cremated.
I really wasn’t picking up on the BURDEN of being Les Green’s favorite child until this summer.