Sunday, June 18, 2006

Patchwork Father's Day

My father died in December. He was a difficult man.

My earliest memories of him -- until I was about 6 or 7 are idyllic. In addition to events where the three of us - Mom, Dad and I - would all do something, Dad carved out daughter/father time in the earliest years. We used to go on long walks, trips to the playground, fishing, movies. We'd play badminton in the back yard, and he'd flood the same backyard to make a skating rink in the freezing New England winters for me.

Things fell off after that. I'll not insert the family history here. But lots of things happened.

One thing that happened is that I passed 4th grade. My father had to drop out of school in 4th grade during the Depression to support his widowed (and alcoholic) mother. He had an impossibly tough childhood. So, as these things can go, he made part of mine impossibly tough, too.

The other thing that happened is that it was amply clear that I was one of those "smart kids". So, an only child girl with a brain that felt like it could do nothing but hunger for learning had an angry, formerly abused father with no formal education and a kind of contempt for anyone who was more educated than he.

My father's most common companion was rage. It was also the place he went whenever he got frustrated or felt any criticism.

My father never said he was sorry. For anything. To anyone.

My mother became the bridge - loving me enough for two parents and fending my father's wrath off, deflecting it , as much as she could.

For many years I lived trying to find that old father of mine -- the one who used to not be scary - the one who was happy that I was around -- the one who took me fishing, the one on whose toes I would stand as he waltzed me around the kitchen as my mother clapped her hands in joy.

I looked. I tried. I damned near twisted myself into an inside-out pretzel.

But I never found him again. And it took a long time to realize I was not going to, and to learn to un-twist.

And when he died, I found that most all of my tears of grief for a father had been shed years ago.

So here is Father's Day. I read the paeans to Fathers on other people's blogs like reading a travelogue to China - a place I have never been but have dreamed about. I am glad all people did not have the same father that I did. And I am thankful that my early years were somehow magically carefree. There is much to be thankful for. After all, I have never had a problem with calling God "The Father" -- that image is a welcome title in my life - a Father with unconditional love? No problem. I will happily take that!

This is not a plea for sympathy, as I am largely content with my life and where it seems to have brought me. It is just a way to speak a truth that differs from many others' reality, and a truth that surely differs from Hallmark's take on this day.

Also, I figured if I am not tapdancing with glee about my Dad, there must be others like me. To you, those whose fathers have not been warm, or honest, or loving or dependable. To you, whose fathers have been cruel, or mean-spirited or abusive. To you, who have not spoken the truth of your fathers. To you I raise my glass -- as a sibling who understands, as a sister you may not have known you had.


Blogger samtzmom said...

((((((((((HUGS)))))))))) Mata... beautifully and honestly written.

6:53 AM  

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