Today is Father’s Day, at least in my country.
On two levels, Father’s Day means nothing to me. On one level, it’s a fake holiday that I’m betting was created because of fathers feeling left out due to Mother’s Day. I have little to no respect for fake Hallmark holidays. On another level, my father and I were pretty much in active enmity, so I have no reason to celebrate it. Because of my particular background, I don’t think too highly of fatherhood. Not to say my opinion on that is anything but wrong, but that’s where I am.
Still, as I wrote, my father died a few months ago, and this seems as good a time as any for some reminiscing.
My father was, in general, not a good man. He was, in all likelihood, an narcissistic schizophrenic with delusions of adequacy. He saw demons everywhere – once he thought that an electric clock was speaking to him, even though it was unplugged. He would talk about hearing footsteps in the living room in the middle of the night. He was afraid of his own shadow and clung to his church for support – even, and especially, at the expense of his own family.
He worked at a manufacturing company in my hometown in Ohio. When I was a child, the company moved out of state. He was given the option to go, and didn’t. He never again held down a permanent job – he always had an excuse. He refused to work on Saturday because of his religion, or he had to work with a gay person, he didn’t like the music his coworkers insisted on playing, or he just didn’t like the job. My mother ended up having to work to keep the family afloat because he wouldn’t or couldn’t. Many days I had to eat toast with butter for lunch, or scrounge for whatever food I could find, because there was often little to no food available. To be fair, we never starved, but it was close some days.
He failed at being a husband, he failed at being a father, and quite frankly, he failed at being a human.
As a child, though, I was predisposed to good feelings for him, obviously. Sometimes he would go to the garage and we would work on the car. Or try to- he generally failed at that too. But I valued the times where we would do stuff together. That ended when it became clear I was better than him at almost everything. I liked when we would have a lot of stuff to do on Sundays. It was always nice when he would include me or try to teach me stuff. I’m not sure he ever really taught me anything of value, but at least he tried. I’ll give him that, anyway.
When I was a preteen my mother wanted a divorce from my father. This ended up with him being disfellowshipped from church for six years or so, with my mother still going. He spent those six years deliberately turning us against her. That was a difficult time in our family, to be sure. She ended up not getting the divorce at that time, but eventually I saw him for what he was, and our relationship never recovered. Not that there was much of one to begin with.
He was a petty, vindictive man who had to have things and people around him exactly as he wanted and would raise a holy fit I any one of us dared to express a contradictory opinion.
The concept of a good father is rather alien to me, as I was never exposed to one as a child. I sometimes mourn the fact that I never had one, but since it’s all I knew, I can’t imagine what it would be like to have had a real one. But you play the cards you’re dealt. As I wrote closer to the time of his death, I didn’t mourn his death, though I did mourn the fact that he never was and never could be what I needed him to be.
If you have a good father, thank him today. Do something nice for him. Buy him a gaudy tie if you must. Because not every father is good, and a truly good one is a treasure. But if you didn’t have a good father, take heart, I suppose. You’re not alone. And don’t feel obligated. Respect is earned, even from fathers. Some men just donate sperm and that is the extent of the good that can be said about them.
I dont hate my father. That ship sailed a long time ago. But I wonder at how someone could damage a child as thoroughly as he did and still have a clear conscience. It boggles my mind. I hope everyone reading this is having a good Father’s Day, and thanks for indulging my memories.