Sunday, June 17, 2007

Like It Or Not, We've ALL Had One...

Today is FATHER'S DAY in the United States...and I have debated a great deal in my mind whether or not to simply let this day slide by or make mention of it here on BrainCheese. It appears I am "making mention". LOL

If you've followed my writing (does anything I post here REALLY qualify as that? Writing?!?) for a while now, you've probably noticed I will make several references to my mother, but rarely do I speak of my father. I DID have one...a father, that is. Just in case any of you were wondering!

My relationship with my father was best described as "strained" while growing up and throughout my adult life. Looking back through the lenses of adult eyes (and also via my understanding of the psyche through my work), I imagine my father most likely suffered from a disease called Paranoid Personality Disorder...and THAT is painting his persona with soft, pastel colors of remembrance.

I have struggled much of my life in coming to terms with my relationship with my father...there is only so much "paint" one can spray on something that is rotted before the wear and tear of the structure bleeds through the paint and ugly streaks of brown resurface. But, there ARE places in this relationship where the wood is neither worn nor rotted...and it is in THOSE fine-grained spots I choose to recall my father on Father's Day.

My father was a painter (hence the somewhat bizarre references to the trade...LOL) his entire life. By the age of 9, I was out painting every summer with him and/or his crew. He was a perfectionist in the harshest of ways and he taught me the skill and art of house painting with precision. As he aged and no longer was able to hold a steady brush in his hands, I was called upon to do the detailed work for his customers. After a while, these customers would REQUEST me to return every few years to cut in their windows, ceilings, baseboards, cabinets, etc., as they put a new coat of paint on their homes to "freshen" it up. I believe on some level, my father was proud of my abilities AND the fact he taught me so well.

My father had always wanted a boy...I assume this is some male genetic flaw ALL men have when it comes to procreation. LOL To create a being in the likeness of their own image. But after delivering two older GIRLS, he had to settle with the notion his third female child would just "have to do" and he proceeded to attempt to teach me many of the things a young son might find great interest basketball, fishing, building tree houses, etc. He used to introduce me to people as "the only son I ever had".

There are many things I remember somewhat fondly associated with my father. He bought me my first bicycle after I whined incessantly at the age of 6 about not having a bike of my own like my sisters did...mind you, I had YET to learn to ride a bike!

One day, he announced to me, if I could ride a bicycle by the time he returned home from work that day, he would buy me ANY bike I wanted. I have never been one to back down from a challenge (even at the age of 6...go figure!), so I borrowed my sister's bike and proceeded to fall off it repeatedly in the grass until I could sit upright and peddle without crashing around the driveway. In 7 hours, I was riding steadily around the driveway as my father pulled up from his day of work...the next week, I was the proud owner of a Huffy Sportsman Three Speed bicycle! He did not go back on his word, even though I still believe he thought he had made a sure bet.

My father took me out with my uncle and male cousin yearly to hunt frogs in the dark of the night (you catch them by shining a light in their eyes that blinds the frog...then you grab 'em. Ever done THAT before?!?). It was on one of these expeditions, I fell into a well in a pasture (thus my fear of snakes to this day!) in the dark of the night. Fortunately, my uncle saw me "disappear" from the horizon and they were able to make a human chain to pull me out!

It was with my father I learned to hunt Morel Mushrooms in the spring of each year...I learned to shoot free throws with high percentages...I learned to use and to respectfully fear power tools...I learned not to be afraid of heights...I learned to bat a softball or baseball and hit home runs...I learned the secrets behind "Snipe Hunting" (that horrible trick played upon the unsuspected in looking for a bird called a "snipe" that doesn't exist)...I learned how to build a tree house...I learned to change the oil on my own car...

It was also from my father I learned the painful lesson of letting someone go without closure or good-byes...about letting go of years of accumulated anger and angst...about accepting someone, in spite of their faults and failures...about making peace with a life I could never understand and to this day, acknowledge I probably never will.

HAPPY FATHER'S DAY TO ALL YOU DADDY-TYPES OUT THERE...and may your children hold the wisdom of the great poet/writer, Anne Sexton, when she said,
"It doesn't matter who my father was; it matters who I remember he was."


r said...

Hey, L. Your entry today brings up a lot of feelings. My own dad was a hard-ass, too. If you've ever seen the movie, "The Great Santini," that captures much of my dad's spirit: a Navy pilot in World War II, he was confident, demanding, smart, tough, implacable. He had a secret ambition to be a writer and never hesitated to buy books for me. However, I don't remember much that was tender about him. His approach to swimming instruction was to throw you off the dock. His discipline always had the implicit threat of violence behind it. I don't remember much of that myself but saw it in action against my younger brothers.

He died in a weird drowning accident when I was 17 and my youngest brother was only a year old. I was angry at him then but, over the years and especially after becoming a father myself, I've reached an understanding with him, and his spirit. I appreciate the stability of our lives, and his consistency, even though he worked long hours and was exhausted when he came home. I realize that he cared about us even though showing it wasn't his strong suit. I know that many of my fears originated in my interactions with him, but they're balanced by the strengths I learned as well.

I've tried in many ways to be a different kind of father myself. I never want our boys to doubt that I love them absolutely and unconditionally. And yet there are times when I have to say, "no," and have to set limits, that I know I get the strength for doing so from my dad.

I would have been delighted to have had girls, and know from my two brothers who have two girls apiece that they were never sorry they didn't have boys. So from my experience, I don't believe that having boys is a universal preference for men.

You deserved, just as all kids do, to have a father who loved you completely, and without reservations. I appreciate your ability to see what you did get from that flawed man who was recruited for the role of your dad.

Adina said...

Father’s day is the day when I feel the most guilty for all the stupid things I have done in my youth and my father ended up paying for, one way or another ….My years of rebellion , looking back now , should have left my father dry and bitter towards me but instead he smiles content and I guess avenged , at my struggles with my own son (who’s 18 !!!) . Circle of life , I guess ….LOL!!!

Peej said...

I tried to let this one slide by without comment but hours after I read it, the words were still bouncing around in my head. Thankyou for being strong enough to discuss your Dad. Having had my own interesting adventures with both parents I know how difficult it can be to try and explain them to others... especially when you're not sure you truly understood them yourself!

This is the first year without my own Dad. My husband and I were talking about him just yesterday and I've decided that I miss the father he could have been rather than who he actually was...

Your Dad and mine were different. Yours wanted a son while mine didn't want ANY kids and made us painfully (for many years I mean that quite literally) aware of this fact every day of our lives. You would think that after 3 kids he would decide to make the best of a bad situation but you'd be wrong.

I don't understand why I miss him... I must be insane. :)

Steve said...

My 10 year old daughter crafted a hand made trophy for me proclaiming me the "best dad ever - 2007". I thought that was very clever. By giving me the trophy, she gave me a warm fuzzy and told me how much she likes me. By adding the year 2007, she made it clear that the trophy was competitive... next year, I might not win. :) Incentive to keep working.

mdmhvonpa said...

This weekend, my father, myself and the kids spent a bunch of time together ... it was fantastic. Happy times are more memorable for us these days.

harkoo said...

I have given it day to think about your posting and have decided the Father issue is too loaded for me to comment on. My dad is a sadistic malignant narcissist (i never can figure out how to spell that) and people think i should write a book about my relationship with him He is still alive so i will wait to see how it ends! I am glad you have reached some sort of peace with your dad Linda. I am still trying to process the damage. I can at least lay down boundaries now and distance myself.



It seems escaping any childhood without "stories" is quite the rare occasion these days...but, regardless of YOUR stories, I must say you've grown into a fine man and father. And I HAVE seen you with your boys, so there! LOL




Should I go camp out now in front of the local bookstore and await the arrival of your published memoirs!?!? Because I DO think there are some stories in you I would find most entertaining and fascinating...

You crack me up...LOL




You "miss him" because no matter what our parents did or didn't do, there is a genetic and energetic encoding in our very beings that says, "I am of that person". That doesn't mean we have to be "of that person's behaviors" as we grow up, however...but cellulary (is that even a word?!?) speaking, they are a part of our history.




That is the SWEETEST gift and story!!! Sounds as if you had a most excellent father's day as well as having a wonderful kiddo...but DO keep us all posted next year whether that trophy is awarded again. LOL




Three generations of "MDMHVONPA'S"?!?! Gathered together?!? Now I AM afraid...LOL

(Glad you had a great time and wonderful memory to store in your bank)




Unfortunately (or fortunately), it seems much easier to make peace with the dead...there is no one around to dispute your memory or your feelings!

I know you have had quite the year of dealing with your father...I hope it has gotten easier for both you and your sisters. And if not easier, maybe more tolerable.


Merelyme said...

I really like that quote. I really dislike Father's Day as I lost my father when I was very young...only four years old. Sounds like you have really come to terms with the relationship you had with your dad. It must feel good to feel at peace.



I'm so sorry to hear about the loss of your father and at such a young age...I can understand your "dislike" of father's day knowing this.

I, too, don't have a great "liking" for the day...but I also know many WONDERFUL fathers who deserve a day of celebration, so I usually just think of them on this particular day.


Have myelin? said...

My father was one of those "old school fathers". Seldom heard from, but seen. Now he's dying and I'm saddened by the knowledge I don't really know him.

I'm delighted to see men such as mdmhvonpa step up and be real daddies. Makes me wonder what my father would have been like had he the courage to be different.



Yep, there are some good daddies out favorite are those candied kind called, "Sugar Daddy's". LOL