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 in...like 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."