OK, fair is fair. Happy Father’s Day, Dad (such as you were)

I’ve never been very much on either Mother’s Day or Father’s Day. That may stem from the fact I was never very much on my parents. Sometimes I liked them OK, and other times I loathed them. Mainly I grew up in a sort of neutral low-emotion zone in respect to their presence in my life.

However, as time has gone by I’ve noticed a kind of change in myself. While I have wrestled for years with the emotional desert left in me due to my lacking-in-affection parents (and I have been forced to seek my affection elsewhere as a consequence) and I am amazed and gratified at times that I am able to express love, and gratefully have had it expressed to me. But, this has been a learned behavior within me.

I don’t know if my parents loved me, and at this late date there’s no way to find out. But, there has been an interesting evolution in my feelings over the years, and I have chosen this Father’s Day to express my thoughts on that evolution. Somehow it seems apt.

Dad died in 1996. Mother preceded him in 1992. Anyway, my dad was 80 when he went, but he had lost most of his interest in life after his wife’s death, so he mainly just drifted away. Sad in its own way, and terribly wasteful.

Anyway, I wasn’t gobsmacked by his death. Indeed, I was unclear about my feelings. I certainly didn’t feel any conventional manifestations of grief – at least grief of the kind of sobbing bullshit you see in the movies. In honesty I have been much more moved by the deaths of a few friends over the years.

But, some busybody suggested that I ‘should’ experience my (seemingly nonexistent) grief. In the first place Dad did not want a service of any kind. So – and Pop, be careful about what you wish for – I didn’t lift a finger to give him one. This deeply hurt his sister, but I protested that had been his wish. In retrospect I have come to realize there is a cathartic value to such ceremonies, and if it were today he would have gotten a service of some king, like it or not.

OK, the suggestion was that I should write him a posthumous letter. I did so. It was to be a letter of love and respect for what he gave me in my life. Well, it started out to be just that. But, it quickly turned southward and became a mammoth vent in which I unleashed all my resentments and a whole lot of anger. It was indeed cathartic, but not necessarily in the manner intended.

Anyway, that was 15 years ago.

I must confess I have changed a bit since then. First, and it came about slowly; I have had inklings that I actually miss the cantankerous bugger. He did give me more than I appreciated at the time, and it has often happened that I’ve had inklings that I’d like to sit down and natter about things with him.

There were other things I found out. I realized that he genuinely loved his daughter-in-law, my first wife, and missed her horribly when she and I split. I also found that he had saved every column I ever wrote and was very proud of my journalistic attainments, such as they were. He never told me he’d done this with my columns, nor ever told my ex how much he loved her. Sad, that.

But, it wasn’t in him to do that.

But at least those little factoids are part of his legacy within me.

So, Dad, I can unabashedly wish you a Happy Father’s Day. I think you deserve that.

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6 responses to “OK, fair is fair. Happy Father’s Day, Dad (such as you were)

  1. Heart-breaking, and yet…

    Was it Joanie Mitchell who sany about not knowing what you’ve got ’til it’s gone? And that’s true. When you’re in the midst of stuff (good -and- bad), you miss the clarity that distance/time gives. Like being so in love with someone that you ignore that they treat you like less than dirt. Like being so busy hating someone you don’t realize that you can respect other aspects of their life.

    I’m glad you are able to see more facets of your dad now. It’s a gift.

  2. I’m afraid that for the most part, I haven’t progressed much beyond the ranting in my mind at the father who never seemed to love or even like me very much. I can relate to the emotional desert left by unloving, overcritical parents, and only hope that my own children fared better. I know I have loved them all madly since the minute they were born and despite having to devise my own parenting skills, I do believe they all turned out just swell.

  3. Good for you that you have come to terms, in a way, with your ambivalence toward your father. Feeling unloved is rough, but there are much worse childhoods. I imagine you had the basic necessities of life. And best of all, you turned out pretty well.

  4. it’s too bad he could never say he was proud of you while he was still around. So many people are bad at that sort of thing. It’s a shame, really.

  5. What choochoo said – why is it so hard for people to say they love you and are proud of you…

    Glad you’ve come to terms with him.

  6. Thank you all for all your well-considered thoughts.

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