Saturday, June 20, 2009

keep it together in the family, they're a reminder of your history

This is the first year I won't be buying a Father's Day card or making "The Call".

I will admit, I hated making "The Call". My relationship with my dad was so strained in the later years that small talk was excruciating, and it usually consisted of him asking how my car was doing, then putting my mother on the phone. Or, the more popular:
Me: "Hi, Dad, I called to wish you a Happy Father's Day."
Him: "Thanks, here's your Mother."
Good times. Good times.
Because Mr. G's relationship with his dad was somewhat similar to mine, after we were married, we used to goad each other into making "The Call".
Me: "Did you call YOUR dad?"
Mr. G: "Did you call YOURS? You go first."

Mr. G's relationship with his dad used to vacillate between "you're an idiot" and "you know I love you and would do anything for you." At least he has that to hold onto. I never got that from my dad.

I tried to think back on my memories of my dad, but truth be told, I don't have that many. He worked hard and he always provided for us. He was always home at night, never drank or carried on. We always had a good home and nice clothes to wear, but emotionally? Eh, he wasn't too available in that area. And guess in what area I was the most needy as a little girl:)?

I grew up in the era of "Don't bother your father. He worked hard all day". To a little kid, that translates into "Dad can't be bothered with you." And my dad, like a lot of dads, spent the majority of their down time working in the garage, doing yard work, or at his work bench in the basement. We generally didn't spend time with him there, because he was more worried we were going to touch his stuff. Or God forbid, walk away with one of his prized Popular Mechanics magazines, which trust me, was highly unlikely.

If there was a problem in our house, usually it was solved by my mother. It only moved up to the next level--Dad--if Mom couldn't handle it. Then Dad would solve it with his 'magic belt'. That belt solved rapid time.

Not long ago, a friend of mine made a comment about "having" to go to lunch with her dad. She has no idea how envious I am of her. My father never took me to lunch or shopping, my father never took me--just me--to the movies, we never had any special moment that I can recall of him and I. Even when he walked me down the aisle, mostly I remember him being pissed that we arrived at the church too early. He never gave me any words of wisdom, never told me he loved me, never wished me well, just took my arm and did his duty. Every time I see a movie where the father says something special to the bride before he gives her to the groom, it makes my heart ache. Dads, say something special to your daughter on her wedding day, even if it's just "you look beautiful and I love you" because she will remember. My husband would try to talk to me about it and I'd say, "I don't care. I don't care what he thinks," but I did care, and it hurt like hell.

If you're a Dad, don't EVER take your relationship with your daughter for granted. Do something special with her every year. Have at least one day where you spend alone time with her and listen to her. Even if she's rolling her eyes at everything you say now, it still means something. If she's in college, tell her you want to drive up to see her and spend the day with her. And don't let her make excuses because girls will test you that way. They'll want to see if they matter so much to you that no excuse will deter you.

When Female Offspring #1 comes home to visit, I always make a point to let her and her dad go to supper or out to lunch alone. She doesn't get it now because she's had lots of lunches with Dad, but she will some day when he's gone. She'll have those moments to look back on that I don't have. Yes, something as simple as having lunch alone with Dad.

With every year that passes, I think this won't matter to me, but it hurts every bit as much. There was a little part of me that sealed off the 'Dad section' of myself so that I wouldn't be hurt by him anymore. A little part that strove to be indifferent to the things he said or didn't say. That worked fairly well until he had his stroke and his personality changed. Every time he'd yell at me, I felt like that little kid getting yelled at all over again.

About ten years ago, he and my mother were going on vacation and I visited hours before they departed. I impulsively said, "I love you, Dad," as I was leaving and he said, "Yeah." It hurt tremendously that he didn't say it back, and I never said it again.

I generally blab about everything going on in my life, but when he passed, I didn't mention it on my blog, because I spent so much time trying not to care, and I had gotten myself to the point where I didn't know what to say about him anymore. To most people I pretended we had a good relationship, because it was easier that way. I didn't even know if I wanted to acknowledge Father's Day today. Sometimes a catharsis doesn't feel all that great.

My dad was not the father I dreamed of having, and I'm equally sure I wasn't the daughter he dreamed of having. He made mistakes. I made mistakes. And neither of us knew how to undo those mistakes, but none of that makes getting through this first Father's Day any easier.


Dustin said...

This is the first year I wont be calling my father. Harold has hurt me too much in the past, and is now dead to me. After all of the drinking, the drugs, and the lies, I just couldnt take it anymore. So on that aspect...I understand.

Goddess said...

Sorry to hear your dad experience hasn't been any better.

BRUNO said...

Well, guess I'm sorry to admit that my experience with my Dad couldn't have been better---guess me being a MALE made some difference? But still, my late-eldest sister was a "Daddys' Girl", so---??? He was tough as hell when needed, but had been known to have given a hug when needed, too!(Even to ME! But I'd never admit to it...!)

And, I also hate to admit his death a decade ago was a relief. The "claws" of then-basically-unheard-of Alzheimers had already torn him from us, for about three years prior to his death. And in that death, he finally found relief himself, I'm sure.

Nope, didn't get a card for mine, either. But, I did give him and Mom a fist-full of(artificial!)roses, and brushed the bird-shit off his bronze service placard. I don't think he would've asked for a better Fathers' Day tribute...

*Goddess* said...

I'm glad somebody had a good Dad experience:)