Sunday, June 16, 2013

Forgiving on Father's Day

“My mother's voice and my father's fists are two bookends of my childhood, and they form the basis of my art.”
― Pat Conroy, My Reading Life

Father's Day has always been tough for me.  I am drawn to fathers but I am confused by them.  The ideals I have of them have been formed by television, movies and books.  I am afraid of fathers and yet my entire life has been centered around finding that "daddy love" I never experienced.

I sat down to write about fathers and I have no idea what I'm going to say.  My story is not easy and is embedded deep in my psyche.  I have a variety of memories of the man I grew up with...the man who, for all intents and purposes, was my dad.  Some of them leak through the garbled mixture of confusion and deep pain as the lifelong gifts he gave to me.  That is what I will focus on today.

  • He gave me a love of the outdoors.  We went camping and fishing regularly when I was growing up.
  • He gave me my sense of wanderlust.  We didn't have a lot of money and would often wander out in the car, driving along winding mountain roads to explore.  
  • He made me competitive.  I wanted this man's love and admiration desperately.  I worked hard on basketball courts, in the house and in the yard...partly to avoid his wrath but partly so that he would look at me and see something of value.
I remember his rages.  I remember his silences.  I remember the atmosphere in our house on days when we knew he was a powder keg waiting to explode.  We didn't talk about it but you always sensed the days when your room needed to be clean and you needed to speak as little as possible.  But there was a flip side, too.  He took us to amusement parks.  He took us to our grandparents houses.  He quit a lot of jobs but, for the most part, he worked.  And he provided.

I don't speak to him now.  I don't ever want to speak to him again.  And I will write about him again.  Hallmark has taught us that fathers are always heroes and that we are always their princesses.  That is not always the case.  But on this Father's Day, I am going to forgive him.

I forgive you for all the pain.  I forgive you for not being able to move past your own problems.  I forgive you for your inability to be a father.  I forgive you for hurting me.  I forgive you for hurting my mother and my brother.  I forgive you for kicking my dog.  I forgive you for breaking my ice cream bank.  I forgive you for your raised hands and fists.  I forgive you for waking us up in the middle of the night while you screamed.  I forgive you for locking me on that cold porch in the winter.  I forgive you for the holes in the walls and in my heart.  I forgive you for the night you pulled out the gun and my brother and I spent the night at the neighbors' house.  I forgive you.  I forgive you.  I forgive you. Because of the pain you inflicted on me, I am a better mother.  Because of your actions, I am strong.  Because of you, I can forgive.  And I can move on.  
Fathers, I am living proof that what you do matters.  What you don't do matters, too.  You play a vital role in shaping lives and the actions you have now will affect them forever.  Be kind.  Be strong.  Put aside your own insecurities and fears and PARENT YOUR CHILDREN.  Parent as a verb.  

Happy Father's Day.          

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