One of my earliest memories during my childhood was probably during kinder. It’s not about the teacher (which was a great teacher by the way) or about the little red wagon that would be taken by a student or two to the lunchroom to pick up our milk and cookies, or about the new friends I had made, or about anything more or less normal, but about my dad’s absence. I remember clearly the day he moved out as it was yesterday. It was so bad, he took some money my mom had on top of our refrigerator that was for milk. That’s the sort of dad I had.
That was the starting point of a series of episodes where my dad would be in and out of our lives. His absence would be sometimes for shorter periods and other times for longer ones. During my early years my dad was a figure that wasn’t always around and when he was it wasn’t a good thing.
That made Father’s Day even more difficult to bear with. I remember watching all those glossy commercials on television, where always a beautiful little girl handed her dad a great present (obviously bought by the mommy that adored the daddy) and he would swing her around. Both dressed perfectly! My dad wasn’t always around, I wasn’t the typical beauty and my mommy surely wasn’t going to buy A THING for my dad, and I wouldn’t be swung around with my dress mingling with the wind.
Basically because my dad struggled with alcoholism.
Probably right this second you’re thinking, “Well that ought of explain what a crappy father you had!”
Nevertheless, I actually never saw him like that. I didn’t understand him that’s for sure (neither did my brother), but I knew he loved us. What was crystal clear was that he didn’t know how to manage or express his love, but we knew it was there. Probably because he always would be coming back, even if Mom would shout on the top of her lungs, that he wasn’t welcome.
They never divorced if you’re asking yourself what happened to their marriage along the way. Up to today, they are still married (God knows why.). My brother and me glued their fate, and I’m not even sure if this is good or bad. Yet, as they approach their mid seventies I’m happy they make each other company, they are more civilized these days (but that’s another story to tell).
Coming back to me and my dad, I had an issue with giving him a father’s day card. I could never find the right card for him as I grew up and up to the day I still can’t. What card can you give a father that never gave his own child a birthday card (at least not until I became a grown woman), or her first bike, or waited for her after school to buy ice cream, or given her some sort of advice on dating or marriage (except a lousy example), or drove her to the movies or where ever it was she was going, and I could probably go on for a while more, but I have to stop at some point.
That’s when I came up with the brilliant idea of making him his card. I would always write the same thing, that I loved him and would wish him a great day. Today I don’t bother, I hug and kiss him and give him a nice present (which he is always expecting with great joy).
Our relationship has evolved, no longer does he battle against alcoholism, and he still has a hard time expressing his feelings, but one thing still remains, the love we share. I gave him an opportunity and let him be an active part of my children’s lives. He has been a better grandfather than a father, and that’s okay with me because I’ve always loved him and I can only feel blessed he’s gotten to experience how it feels to be a father, even if it has been a little late in life.
I look back at my own childhood and sometimes feel a stab of pain, but then I look at him (now 72) and only feel grateful we’ve made it up to here and as the autumn of his life comes around we still share our constant denominator, love.
Life isn’t perfect and some of us simply aren’t going to get a picture perfect family, but that doesn’t mean we can’t find our own common denominator. We’ve come a long way and today as I see the love he has learned to express to his grandchildren, I’ve come to terms with him, my mom and most importantly of all, with myself.
I love you Dad, have a great day!