Father Apart

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My own father and I have a complicated history. He hung the moon for me as a little girl. He played in the floor, tickled, gave me little gifts. We went on “dates” together to get icecream or donuts and hot chocolate.

Then something happened about when I hit first grade. I did not understand it. I blamed myself at first. He became angry. Even violent. He scared me. He stopped showing affection or love or joy. Gone. He was gone. Unreachable. And he never came back. 

We lived in the same house but I barely knew that man. I could not bring myself to call him daddy. He was my father, nothing more. Distance as a means of self preservation, maybe for the both of us?

I wish I could say that I have risen above wanting to have his approval, no longer caring that I don’t have some sort of meaningful relationship with him. Probably, though, that will follow me around for the rest of my days as a sore spot, a gaping hole in my life. And maybe that is good on some level that I do still care, that I have not let anger and hate stamp all of that humanity out of me.

So after my post “Daddy” yesterday, I thought about what I would say to my father now that I am grown if dementia had not already taken a foothold. What did I need from him growing up? What do I wish I had from him now? What do I want other dads to know about their own daughters’ needs?

First: I needed for him to show respect to my mother. (I value her means I value you.)

Second: To show me affection, even when I did not want it. Even when I was not very lovable. Hugs that were not forced or awkward, strong big hugs that can wrap around a stony heart and break down its walls.

Third: I wish he had told me about himself. His past. His hopes and dreams. His insecurities. I think I could have learned a ton from him about love and life if he had just let me in.

Fourth: I wish he had wanted to talk to me about me. My own hopes and dreams, my insecurities. I wish he had known me then, that he knew the woman I am now.

We waited too long to bridge that chasm. Even standing near now, we are never touching, close but not close. Two towers, strong and straight, unbending. Like father, like daughter. Now the man that he was is lost in the fog, slipping away. 

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159 thoughts on “Father Apart

  1. This poignant post really hit home with me. My dad, who was diagnosed with Multiple Personality Disorder, was a real-life Jekyll and Hyde. From my earliest memories, he was more than one person. There was the “good daddy” personality, loving and caring, faithful and honorable. That personality was the minister of a small fundamentalist Christian church. Then there was the “evil” personality, raging, violent, terrifying beyond words. Finally, there was the happy-go-lucky, pot-smoking, bike riding, womanizing, hippie personality. The hippie personality was OK to be around, but he didn’t love me. He didn’t seem to really love anyone, other than maybe himself. I never felt comfortable around that personality..

    Until I was 12, my father’s “good daddy” personality was dominate. Then that personality seemed to go away forever, and the hippie personality became dominate. This was when he left the ministry of the church where he had been the pastor for over six years, and became a free-thinking hippie Buddhist. From then until his death twenty-three years later, my father alternated just between the hippie personality and the raging, terrifying personality.

    When my dad died (at the age of 53, of a heart attack related to his type one diabetes), my biggest regret was that I had never allowed myself to get very close to his “new” hippie personality. I had held back, waiting for my loving “good daddy” to return — but he never did.

    In the last part of his life, my dad told me some things that helped explain why he was the way he was. His father had been violent with his mother, leaving her when he was just a baby, after pushing her through a glass door. His father was absent from his life for the most part after that. Then, according to my dad, the unthinkable happened– his own mother was sexually abusive to him. From what I remember of his mother, my paternal grandmother, I strongly suspect that what my father told me was the truth.

    It was a crazy way to grow up!

    Liked by 2 people

      • I’m sure you’re right. It’s my mother I don’t understand. Which is why her craziness did far more damage to me than my dad ever did. Yes, I know she was traumatized by my dad’s violence. But I went through that, too, as a young wife, when I did the repetition compulsion thing and married someone even more violent and rejecting than my parents. I understand being driven out of your mind with PTSD– been there. I understand being so depressed you want to die– been there, too. But I will never understand how my mother could try to gas all of us kids to death.

        Liked by 2 people

      • Now I feel guilty for mentioning that here, because this is about you and your father, not me and my mother. I also know that my feeling guilty is stupid. Shaking my head at myself… πŸ™‚

        Liked by 2 people

  2. What a deep post. And the comments here seem to verify the need for fatherly love and parental guidance, acceptance, and protection. The truth is all of us have been failed in one way or another by the people who are supposed to love us the most. That’s because we are human and fallible.

    For all the times my (bipolar) father failed me, I am grateful to have an infallible Heavenly Father, who is always with me and fills that gaping hole.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Pingback: My Article Read (8-18-2015) | My Daily Musing

  4. I work and volunteer with a parenting organization and as I was reading this I remember something I learned in a workshop many years ago. The topic was about fathers needing to be affectionate with children, especially daughters. In a few cases, fathers present said that they were affectionate up until daughters began to develop more: they stopped holding them on their laps,, stopped tucking them in at night or kissing them.

    It sounds, though, like your father had a mental illness. My heart breaks for you. My father blocked me out of his like because after my mother divorced him, I tried to maintain relationships with both. He would have none of that, it was all or nothing. After about 30 years he finally relented and let me visit him once before he died.

    Like me, our hearts feel the pain of loss and hurt and nothing can wash that away. I developed coping skills and one was to remember it was about him, not me.

    Many hugs to you,

    Jackie

    Liked by 2 people

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