My memories of my father are incredibly conflicted – and as the time since his death recedes they only become more conflicted. Truth be told, he was also a conflicted person, though I don’t think he understands exactly how conflicted he was.
He kept his own counsel. I often wonder how much of that was because of the family he was raised in, the time he was raised in, his particular mental struggles, a combination of all three or another factor I haven’t mentioned yet. But he kept a lot of secrets. I still know very little about him – I’m learning far more about him after his death than I ever knew while he was alive. And I think this is the saddest thing of all, to me. A man is entitled to his secrets, but if they’re so important to you that keeping them is more important than keeping your spouse and children, a sane person would begin to rethink the wisdom of keeping said secrets.
I don’t think my father was a sane man.
I remember many things about him, but he was kind of a black box, in a way. Things went in, and reactions came out, but no one knew what processes went on inside his head that would cause a specific reaction. He didn’t really like being married, and he didn’t really like having children. We weren’t something he wanted for our sake, we were something he wanted for his own reasons and his own sake. We might even know what those reasons are, but that’s the point – we can only guess. We just don’t know.
I think that is the thing I regret most about my relationship with my father – even though it’s not my fault and it’s nothing I could have controlled. If he had been human with me, I might have been willing to reciprocate. But he never was. We were never truly his family, and when it came to him having to choose between us and his true family – the Worldwide Church of God – he always chose the church. He refused to work on Saturdays because that was the day the church told us to rest. He sent in ten percent of our income, and saved another ten percent, because that’s what they told us to do. Whether or not we had food was a secondary consideration. Somehow we always did – if just barely – but it was in spite of him, not because of him. If my mother hadn’t worked, we would have starved. I even suspect we were born just to increase his standing in the church – men were expected to have a family, so he did.
I find it difficult to express my sadness, because I am not sad that he died. I wasn’t when he died, and I’m not now. He never truly treated me like a son, so I have no interest in treating him like a father. But at the same time, he was the only father I had, and by not being a father to me, he took from me that which no one else could give me. All I ever wanted, really, was to know him and be respected by him. And he could never give me that. And thus, I never respected him, either. He never earned it. You only get one father, and he took that away from me.
All that said, he’s dead, and as I stated previously, he died as he lived. The only people who he cared about being his church, and the only people who cared about him being, well, I guess his church. I’ll never have another father. But I never really had that one to begin with.
I hate God sometimes, I’ll be honest. I think it’s partially because he is known as “The Father”, and quite frankly, he seems to not be a whole lot better father than my own. After all, he created a Universe whose sole purpose seems to die for his own purposes, dragged me into this world against my will, and now demands my loyalty while giving none in return. Ultimately, he’s far more like my real father than I’m comfortable with.
Perhaps that’s the most valuable thing my father taught me. Perhaps God is a narcissist, and he did a far better job modelling God than one would expect at first glance. It’d be the worst indictment, both of him and of God, that this is even something I could consider as a possibility.
I have many memories of my father. And for all the memories, I knew him not. Even in death, his secrets are still kept.