I wrote the following on Father’s Day but could not bring myself to post it until I thought about it for a couple of days and decided to go ahead and put it out there. Considering the kinds of abuse other of my friends experienced as children this was minor and yet to me it was major. The abuse is in the eye of the beholder. Perception is everything. So here goes.
June 19, 2016
Today is Father’s Day. I struggle with this every year since I was not close to my dad. I probably loved him at some level since I know it hurt when he died suddenly at age 65. He had come up with Mom to visit us before they took their trip to Ireland and we were very excited for them. They had just celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary and I believe the trip was part of their gift to themselves. They had been taking some really nice trips in the three years that he was retired. Spain, North Africa, England etc. They enjoyed going on tours and meeting new people and seeing new places. I am sure if he had lived they would have done much more traveling as the years went on.
We had given him and my mom a weekend at a Marriage Encounter for a 40th Wedding Anniversary present. We told him he could ignore the religious parts but that we thought they would enjoy the experience since many of their children had attended and liked it. Some more than others I am sure but it really gave our relationship a boost. And after 40 years of marriage we could all use a shot in the arm.
But then he died before they could go or even take the wonderful trip to Ireland they were going on a week or so after his death. Poor Mom had to cancel everything herself. We were all in shock since it was so sudden and we all had little kids and kids in school and could not take that much time to stay with her. We all managed some time to help her but probably not enough. I think we just figured she was so self-sufficient that she would be okay. Always the quiet stoic one never asking for anything. Dad had worked in the field a few weeks every month so Mom ran the show. She attended concerts we were in, occasionally a track meet but usually it was our musical events she came to. Dad missed most of those at least I don’t remember him ever attending any of mine.
I remember being around 7 years old and getting mad at my Dad and making the decision never to be close to him. Not sure what was said but I know whatever it was I was pissed off and decided I had had enough. I figure it was something to do with the Catholic Church but you never know. It might have been something else. Around that time I would have made my first Communion and it was so weird. Sneaking out the back door of the house, putting on my pretty white dress, going to church with my Mom and seeing all the other kids there with their families all happy and proud of them. Not my family. Afterwards they all went home for parties and I went home, took off the dress and put my shorts back on and went out to play. Then for my confirmation my Dad insisted my Mom go sailing with him. She went and left me to go by myself to confirmation. I was in a roar through the entire ceremony, actually homicidal would be more appropriate. As I walked out my brother John was standing at the back of the church. He was always there for me. But it did not help that my mom was not there. I always felt cheated out of being a real family. Dad had this mad on about the church and although he did not stop my mom from raising us as Catholics he certainly did not make it easy on us.
It was not hard to be jealous of my friends and cousins. They were celebrated for going to church and it was an event when they received sacraments. Not in my house. My brother John decided that we had been raised in the equivalent of the catacombs. We had to do everything on the sly. Our religion books were hidden in the sideboard and we could only do our homework when Dad was not around. We all learned early the rules. Don’t get the man angry about this stuff.
One year we did and found out how he would behave.. We were on vacation and camping and Mom asked if she could take us to Mass at some church in a town we were passing through. So Dad pulled up and off we went into the Church. Afterwards we got back in the car and off we went thinking this was okay. NOT….. after a while – I imagine he had been brooding the entire time – he stopped the car at a bridge and told us that we had our hour so now he would have his and he was going fishing and none of us were to get out of the car while he went to his church. Yes, it is true, a big baby reaction. At age 6 or 7 this really is imbedded in my memory. It was just stupid but that was my dad. He and my Mom, I wonder if they ever talked about these things. I somehow doubt it.
So over the years I would try and find ways to get back at him. Never really worked until my brother Jim’s wedding. He and Sally were married in a beautiful ceremony in Baltimore and we were all in the wedding. We were not sure how Dad would react to having to sit through a High Mass. As usual he did not stand or sit when everyone else did. He was an observer that was all. The bros and I were keeping tabs on this behavior hoping he would not do something stupid. Well that was about it but I was pissed. At the reception I refused to dance with him. He never said a word but when I was home the next week my mom, who never said a word usually, wanted to know what that was all about – well I let her have it with double barrels. No one had ever asked me anything about how I felt in my entire life and it all poured out. I think she was in shock.. It was never spoken about again but I think from then on she knew what damage had been done.
So that is why I don’t feel good on Father’s Day. Dad and I never got to work out our differences. He never knew as far as I know how mad some of us were at him for his stupid behavior. I had been hoping that after all those years he might be willing to talk about it and get it all out on the table but no – he had to go and die… so there never was a resolution.
In the years since I have learned so much about what my dad’s life was as the child of a roving minister who was out to change the world at the expense of his children and wife. I am sure that was not easy on him and after meeting my mom’s stable family and being embraced by them in spite of his not being Catholic the stupid Bishop in Kingston tried to have the wedding called off. He called in grandfather and tried to get him to stop his daughter from marrying the son of a protestant minister. Lots of luck there bishop. My dear sweet Grandfather did not stand for that kind of intolerance so the wedding went on or they would have gone to another church to be married and just think of the scandal that would have caused! I think my Dad had some good reasons for his anger but I wish he had found another way to express it rather than to cause us such discomfort.
He was not abusive and loved my mom like crazy. They were a cute couple and I know they loved each other very much. And I know he loved us. They were good to us and made sure our kids got nice things and had loving grandparents. And we have tons of pictures because Dad could not take enough pictures of all his kids and grandkids. Life is not easy and I am sure some of my kids might feel the same way about stupid things I have done in my life. But if they told me I am sure I would ask for forgiveness but since I don’t have a clue I guess I am just like Dad. Nothing was ever said so one cannot do anything about it.
Happy Father’s Day out there.