Sign of the Times

There’s been a huge online kerfuffle over the changing of the zodiac, but I couldn’t be happier about it.

Until yesterday, I was a Taurus — stubborn, lazy, possessive, materialistic, self-indulging. But also, dependable, persistent, loyal, patient and generous.

In many cases, far too loyal, patient and generous.

But now I am an Aries — independent, optimistic, enthusiastic and courageous. Still generous. It’s not all up-with-people — my new sign also means I’m moody, short tempered, self-involved, impulsive and impatient.

I’ll take it.

Because the truth is, I’m a different person than I was just six months ago. This new sign feels like part of the package.

My father died last summer. My biological father. My abusive, estranged biological father, whom I hadn’t spoken to in almost a decade. The father who had shamed me, hurt me, abandoned me, all while telling me he loved me. The father who dated women so young, he told me their GPA. (Well, that only happened once, and for the record, my GPA was higher.) The father who had shirked his child support, who had cheated on my mother, and stolen from her.

He left me everything. Part of it in trust. And more than making me his sole beneficiary, he made me his executor, which gave me complete access to him — his money and property, yes, but also his papers, his photo albums, his diaries. The dishes in his cabinets, the shoes in his closet.

For these past months, I’ve been sorting through all of this, and the feelings I have for him. My mother and stepfather have been incredible, amazing, so kind and loving and helpful, I hardly know how to begin to thank them. Since July 0f 2010, with their help, I’ve buried my father, and dedicated his tombstone. I’ve cleaned out his New York apartment, and claimed the one in Florida. I’ve transfered his bank accounts, signed papers, dealt with lawyers and accountants. And I have begun to deal with him — with his broken dreams and loneliness, with his ambition and delusion, with his cruelty and vulnerability. It’s all there, in the songs he wrote and never sold. The love letters, all filled with lies, he never sent. The carefully kept scrapbooks. The photos he saved of my mother, so young and beautiful at 24 it takes your breath away, and of me, round and smiling at 6, awkward at 11, lovely but broken at 14.

He was a Leo. He’s still a Leo.

But I’m something new.

They say when a parent dies, something in you dies too. In my case, what’s died is my fear. My fear of him finding me, of him blowing up my life again with a cutting remark or a look that freezes me. And with it, my shame, my need to hide.

The day he died, I went home early from work, and that night, when I tucked my daughter into bed, I sang her the Beatles “Blackbird” for the first time. It’s since become one of her favorite lullabies, and we sing it together most nights now:

Blackbird singing in the dead of night
Take these broken wings and learn to fly
All your life
You were only waiting for this moment to arise

Blackbird singing in the dead of night
Take these sunken eyes and learn to see
all your life
you were only waiting for this moment to be free

So why not? If I can be a sky-soaring blackbird, I can also choose to embrace myself as an optimistic, courageous, mountain-scaling ram.

Farewell, Taurus. I’m an Aries now.