You may thing this is a gushy post about my Father in honor of Father's day. It's not.
We buried my Dad this past Saturday. He died at 93 of old age. We knew it was coming a couple weeks prior to the actual event.
My relationship to my father growing up was one of mixed messages. When I was a toddler he was always holding, playing, and generally paying attention to me. At some point not long after the toddler stage that attention, that close physical bond we had simply vanished and I was left with this huge void in my life.
My mother was overworked and overstressed, and did not handle us children too well. There was a lot of emotional and physical abuse from her, and Dad was one of her weapon's of choice to be used against us.
"You wait till your Father gets home!"
So we'd wait in fear for his arrival and the inevitable belting.
Dad did not do many of the fathering things that today's society seems to expect of it's fathers. He didn't teach me how to drive. That was done by a boss when I was 20 years old and I remember being so embarrassed asking him to do that, but I looked up to him as a father and he was happy to help me out.
He didn't play ball with me or wrestle or teach me about girls, sex (hell, I knew most of that but it would have been good to have some real information not just the perverted stuff I'd been told and had come to expect). He put food on the table. Sometimes he'd take us kids for a drive or a walk in the country, or take us to the beach to play in the surf. There were other things he did that we just soaked up because it was attention from him, but it was not nearly enough of the kind or amount of personal attention a growing boy needs from his Dad.
Sometime in my early teen years both of my parents had an epiphany of sorts and became more gentle, loving individuals. Dad bought me a guitar when I was 17 years old that I still have today and cherish. He bought it for me because he told me if I learned to play and sing he'd get me a "good one" and he was true to his word.
In his retirement years Dad went around the community cutting and hauling firewood for folk who needed it without asking for anything in return. He volunteered at the local aid society doing anything from sorting donated clothing to repairing stuff around the facility. He was loved by many and to be honest I was truly shocked at the volume of people who turned out to his funeral. I had no idea he was that loved, perhaps because I was (and still am) attempting to make my way through all the emotional baggage left to me by a man who when I was small was still attempting to work through his own.
I did a lot of journaling over the last 3 weeks or so and the following is an excerpt that speaks to that last point
Dad, I know you used what you had available to you. I know life must have been a trial for you too. I don’t know what trauma you suffered as a kid if any, but surely something must have made you afraid of relationship. What was it Dad? I’d like to understand. Were you a hurting little boy also? You must have been to have dealt to your children the kind of hand you did.
I grieve the relationship I will never have with you. I grieve the fact that you were dying and yet I felt no need to be at your bedside. I’ve tried for years to break through to you, Dad. You were too afraid. Why? What happened? Now it’s too late and it can never be.
Through all of this, I've come to a greater appreciation of my Father, who he was, and of the love that he did have for me. I know it was there. I saw it many times in his eyes, and in his actions in later years. I am much more at peace with it all, tho I know I have more growth to do.
Thanks, guys and gals for allowing me this time to share with you.
Lots of love,