He floated freely through life, with the wind as his companion. Always free, never encumbered.” – Linda Lee Lyberg
Yesterday, I said good-bye to my father for the last time. And although he was never in my life much, there is a new emptiness I can’t decipher. Is it because I have a handful of memories, most of which include me feeling disappointed and him being, well, Bill Polley?
Or is it because I forgot a long time ago the sound of his voice as he called my name?
My father was never apologetic for his actions; he lived his life as he saw fit.
In 1972, he saw fit to change his entire name from William Clark Polley to Anthony Joseph Pollizzio. I am still unsure why.
He leaves 4 women behind: myself, as his oldest daughter, my own daughter, my half-sister, and her daughter. We each have our own memories of him. In all our cases, our memories of who he was reflect 4 completely different perspectives of one man. Who, exactly was this man who was my father?
My sister has her own share of memories. She proclaims herself as a bona-fide daddy’s girl. She has photos of them together, the two of them smiling into the camera, photos of her and her mother with him. And she has other, more pronounced sad memories of when he became immersed in the dirty world of drugs.
My niece knows things I never knew about my dad, but had heard some rumors. For instance, he spoke 8 languages, he was a boxer, he was an actor, he was one of the first members of Our Gang. I recall him speaking a few sentences of Spanish from time to time, but 8? And as far as the actor bit, I knew he was a part of my grandparents Vaudeville act, but that was it. I recall asking my mom about some things when she was still alive and according to her, “It’s a load of bullshit from that bullshitter Bill Polley.” My mom didn’t harbor any ill feelings towards dad, but she called it like she saw it.
My own memories are vague. He was always cracking a joke as if he was an on stage comedian. The single photo of him holding me as a baby. Dad leaving me alone in a car on a remote road when I was a not yet able to read young girl, seldom showing up to visit when he said he would. On the positive side, he never hit me or raised his voice. Rather, he treated me as an acquaintance, an amusement. He was a father in absentia.
In his later years, my daughter was fortunate to have nothing but happy memories. Dad had remarried yet again, but this one stuck. Her name was Dorothy and she was the love of his life until she died.
To my daughter, he was her Grandpa Tony, and he loved her to the moon and back. She spent a lot of time with him and Dorothy as well as Dorothy’s kids and grandkids. When I went back to Texas this week for his funeral, she shared some stories with me. During our conversations, she said, “You know mom, I think Grandpa was so good to me, because he wasn’t so good to you. It was his way of trying to right the wrongs he did you as a child.” I know I want to believe that.
Last night, my daughter and I were talking about how each of us have such different memories and impressions of who dad was.
“You know mom, if you think about it, you had your dad around when he was young. Then he left, and 5 years later, your sister is born to the woman he married. She had him for a different phase in his life, when he was somewhat wiser. And when she had her daughter, he was older still. After the two of you reconnected and I began visiting him and his wife, he was much older. So maybe, all these stories were real and true at the time they happened. But as Grandpa grew older, he also became much wiser and aware of how his actions deeply hurt those he loved. It was all part of him growing and becoming a better person. It’s the cycle of life mom.”
I was so intensely focused on what was truth or lies, I neglected to see the obvious.
Wise beyond her years- that’s my girl.
Linda Lee Lyberg