Sunday, June 21, 2015

Father's Day Reflections

I have very few childhood pictures outside of my yearly school photos. I think this is the only picture I have of me with me Dad, provided to me by one of my Aunts last year.

I am 6 months old in this picture and my Dad is 32. I don't ever remember sitting in my Dad's lap though I am in this photo and I am sure it happened more than once. I was raised to give my Dad a kiss good night before bed and he was usually sitting at his desk in the living room, transcribing preachers messages on a typewriter, reading the newspaper or a book, paying bills or reconciling the checkbook. I would approach him and stand by his desk, waiting for him to acknowledge me. He would look up annoyed and I would fearfully say, I came to say good night. He sometimes would soften and lean his check out for me to kiss. It was never a throw your arms around his neck and snuggle close kind of moment. My Dad never cared what was going on in my heart and mind, how I was doing with school, or what interests I had and at age 14, my Dad in a heated discussion with me, he confirmed that he never wanted kids and that he only had them because my Mom wanted them. I was never left alone with my Dad nor was he allowed to even hug me. My Mom was deeply concerned he would be inappropriate with us and prevented us from ever being in that setting with him.
6 month old me with 32 year old Dad

Yet, today, as I see people write about their Father being The Best Dad, I have a different perspective. I am gonna share who my Dad was to me and can't pretend he was The Best Dad. Yet at the same time, I am keenly aware that there are others like me who didn't have The Best Dad and you feel like there is something wrong with you because you didn't. You may have a hard time with Father's Day. You may be envious of the relationships that others portray they have. It took years for me to work through these thoughts and feelings. However, the fact remains, he was my Dad and though we never had the chance to have the relationship I wanted, I am grateful for so many things, and I know the bulk of this wasn't something he could control and came from his inability to face his own fears. The pain he had with guilt. The stipulations he felt he had to follow from others, the love and forgiveness he never got from his wife, and ultimately the life he could not have because he let my Mom rule the house and he eventually died (literally) from her killing any desire in him to live.

For years I could not understand. For years I could not imagine living that unhappy. For years I never dreamed someone would accept their situation like he did and not make choices to change their life. This drove me to be different and create a different life. This drove me to find answers.

I am grateful for the skills my Dad gave me in accounting, in a desire to create a legible great penmanship, in the meaning of writing in the front cover of a book you give to someone, of his love for the bible and theology (tho yes, sometimes it was so over the top you dreaded bible studies), his admiration for a great book (he collected books), his passion to share Jesus with every person who knocked on our door to give us literature for their religion, his few favorite foods that he so appreciated when we cooked them for him, and a love for saving and being frugal after getting my hard earned pay. My Dad's level of commitment to his job, no matter how stressful or what hours it took to complete, never diminished. He believed in being responsible on all levels to your employer and he taught me to do the same. My Dad had some great character traits that he taught me without words and by his actions.

Dad had a nickname for me and it was Strombolini. I never understood it, don't know it's meaning or where it came from, but he was never angry with me when he used it and was usually in a great mood.

I do have a few fond memories with my Dad. I remember one New Years Eve me and my Sister got to go at midnight to the grocery store with my Dad to buy one bag of candy each. We were giddy!!! Skipping along. Happy and laughing and excited. Beyond words, first to be up so late, second to be out with Dad, third to get to buy and eat candy was unheard of.

The second fond memory I have is when my dad had to take me to Junior High School because the bus didn't come out as far as we lived and my Mom would not get up that early to take me, besides it was on my Dad's way to work. She figured nothing would happen because I had to be at school and Dad had to be at work so she would eventually know if there was a problem. Even though I sat in the shot gun seat scared to death that I would do something to make my Dad "lust after me" and held my seat belt away from my chest in order to not expose the shape of my breasts (as instructed by my Mom), I would work very hard to break the cold walls of silence in my Dad. And eventually we had a few great conversations. When I graduated from Junior High School to take the Independent Study course from home, he actually cried that we were not gonna have time together. I suggested we create other opportunities for this, but with the dynamics of my home life that did not happen. This interaction with my Dad prepared me for being Self Employed and dealing with Physician's and their cold walls they put up to keep people out.
Dad was always unique in his form of discipline. As the oldest of 3 kids, I tended to be bossy and a tattle tail, and so Dad decided one day that I needed to get one of his ties for work and he tied it around the belt on my dress and I had to wear it the rest of the day to remember to not be a tattle tail. I remember people coming to the house and I still had to wear the tie. I wanted to die. I felt so humiliated. But in all seriousness, I think it had more impact than spanking my butt ever would have!

Yet, to get a letter from my Dad 3 months before he passed away...asking for forgiveness, apologizing for not being the Dad to me he should have been for contributing to some dynamics I deal with today...I could never have asked for anything more. I didn't believe my Dad had the ability to do this and that he risked so much to do so, will always remain a dear treasure in my heart for his ability to be humble and reach out after no communication with me for 16 YEARS!!!

You never know what small things your children will remember. You never know what moments will make the greatest impact. Don't be so caught up in your life not to realize that truly, it's the small things that count. Even if you don't have The Best situation, you can choose to remember the moments that bring a smile, the things that contributed to make you who you are today, and have a new perspective for what someone else went through.

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