As I was taking my walk yesterday, I had the occasion to think about fathers, and the wide variety of relationships that I know of with people and their fathers.
There are some that I know that have had great relationships with their fathers. Two high school classmates posted on Facebook about missing their dads who had passed away a while ago. They (one male, one female) each talked about the strong bonds of love and of admiration they had for their fathers, the role model that he was, the influence on their life. Yet another talked about planning to spend time at his father’s grave talking to him. Others view their fathers as strong influences, as heros, as role models or faith models for them. I rather envy them, that they had that sort of relationship with their fathers.
I know at least one friend on the other side of the spectrum. I don’t know the family history, the details and events that formed the situation, but apparently something happened that resulted in a schism. It might have been a single event, but more than likely it was a series of events. The break is such a severe one that my friend no longer feels welcome or wanted in the house of the family of origin. It’s sad to watch only because I know the pain that is experienced in that place. And between these two are the vast majority of folks, I suspect, who had relationships of varying depth and intensity.
As for me…..hmmm. I’ve had a father, and I am one. My father has been dead for a decade plus now. Un fortunately, he and I never did get along really. It wasn’t that there was fighting or something obvious or dramatic, no massive fighting or yelling or anything like that. We just didn’t communicate. Verbally or nonverbally. Dad was, apparently, singularly uninterested in talking with people. I have, fortunately, come to realize that Dad was the product of his times and his difficult upbringing. He grew up the son of a sharecropper in the South, and had a fairly hard life in his early years. He pulled himself up to the ranks of middle class (I once told him I would never be able to rise as far above my birth status as he did) but the doing so left him angry and silent. I wasn’t ever sure that he even wanted a child (and I’m an only). I have realized that much of what drove me in school and academics and in my opinions of what is expected of me (and still drives me) in life is the need to find acceptance and value from him that, ultimately, I didn’t get from him. All the certificates and degrees were designed to make me feel successful, even if the one opinion I most valued I could never get.
Acceptance helps in this. One of the more cathartic moments for me was a couple of years ago when I wrote a letter to him. I first tried to do this four years ago, but it was way too raw and difficult. This past year I finally had moved to the point where I could sit down and write to him. I was able to put down on paper, and thereby exculpate, what I felt growing up, what I had wanted from him, how our relationship had hurt and bothered me. And, ultimately, I wrote to say….. I had forgiven him, because he had done the best with what he knew and what he could do.
I wonder what my own legacy as a father will be. I have one progeny from the marriage, However, my daughter stopped seeing me three years ago, five years into the divorce. The reason was never clear; I think it was her way of exerting her own control over the divorce and the split of her world between her mother and me. I think of it as her divorcing me as a way of expressing her own pain. I had tried to be a good dad, in marriage and after the divorce.
I wonder, twenty years from now when I’m gone, what her Father’s Day blog will say about me.