On dads ‘n ‘at

I had an unexpected heart-to-heart with my pastor’s wife between first and second services today. You can tell she’s a mom (to four girls, God love her) — just so nurturing and welcoming and full of the right things to say at the right time. But today I guess I caught her off-guard.

She was excitedly telling me about today’s sermon topic, about loving one’s enemies, and she was telling me funny stories about her in-laws and her two older daughters and how they are all the enemy today because they’re driving her nuts. 😉 Which is why I love her and her husband — they do not stand in front of us and act all holier-than-thou. They will lay their own faults at our feet, whereupon we are as quick to forgive as we are to relate.

I asked what they were doing for Father’s Day and we chatted about her lack of plans because her kids are driving her nuts and if they wanted to do something, they could be her guest, but she was going to take her husband out to dinner to get him away from all those crazy teenagers and elders in her house. 🙂

Then she asked how I celebrate Father’s Day. Given that she’s occasionally seen my mom and never a male with me other than of the friend variety, she looked curious but also seemed to want to slap her hand over her mouth the moment it came out.

I shrugged and said I don’t celebrate my father, as that man is nowhere to be found. And she said, “Well, in keeping with today’s theme, I guess he’s YOUR enemy.”

But then she realized that might not have been the best thing to say, either. So, she started to apologize and say all those right things that you would expect a preacher’s wife to say, but I stopped her.

I said you know, his absence was the best gift he could have given me. If it were between that and begrudgingly being a figure in my life, I could have turned out very differently. Some would say he made the selfish choice to not get to know me; I would prefer to give him credit that he knew he couldn’t be man enough to be a dad to me.

Instead of screwing me up immensely, the way it turned out is that he can’t take an ounce of credit for how well I turned out.

I don’t want to say I grew up fatherless. Father’s Day was always about my grandfather, a man who saw my mother getting knocked up at 16 as a way of having a second child of his own — another daughter to love. Whereas I could have grown up without a strong male figure in my life, he was the calm, steady, reliable influence in my life.

I often wonder how much I took him for granted. I know I did.

I also know that when my grandmother died in 1999, I suddenly realized how old my grandfather was. And I think a part of me kept him at a small distance after that — that I knew I would lose him someday, the way I lost her, and I didn’t want to hurt that much again. So, while my moving far, far away helped us to build a stronger relationship, it also helped me to kind of not notice how fragile he was becoming.

When we finally reached the untimely end of his life almost two years ago, it was when I finally got involved in his health care. He’d wanted so badly for me to advocate for him — although my Mom fought for him, she was still a pushover. I was my grandmother’s child at heart — a royal pain in the ass when I wanted to be and even when I didn’t mean to be. 🙂 That’s what he needed all along, and my involvement was far too little and way too late.

My mom envies me my strength and balls and sass, but I envy her ability to love. She was always Daddy’s girl, and she loved her daddy with all her heart. She showed him that love every single day of her life. Every sacrifice, every gesture, every meal was done “just so” — to please him.

He asked for so little in this world, and sadly that’s all he really had. But he loved it all — he loved every one. Even if they were unlovable (i.e., his abusive father, his moronic brothers, and sometimes maybe even me, too).

I don’t know how he lived 80 years with all the pain he was in, and how he never spoke an unkind word. Not once. Not ever. Everyone had potential, everyone was unique and God-created.

He took care of everyone — not just my grandmother, great-grandmother and mother, but my grandmother’s brother, my blind great-aunt Annie and her son Tommy who came back shell-shocked from Vietnam (Tommy never recovered from that), to my great-aunt Lenna whom we lost in ’98 and her crazy hypochondriac daughter who crashed my grandfather’s funeral, to his niece Carole, who still looks out for my mom and me … essentially to anyone who needed someone.

Read that again: He cared for/about anyone who needed someone.

I don’t think I saw even a fraction of what he gave out in his life come back his way. I became very jaded by that. I don’t expect people to do favors back when they’re in such need in the first place.

However, for all that church-talk that you do for others and you get blessed out the wazoo, well, is bullshit. I think, anyway. I saw the cruel hands at which he died. I see how phony his relatives are. I see what it’s like to give till there’s nothing left, and yet people will still be standing around, looking for a handout.

On the other hand, he did have some friends who were cut from the same mold. In fact, I just learned that one of his best friends passed away a couple of weeks ago. Of course, we didn’t find out till after the funeral. I would have gone to pay my respects, though.

Donald treated my grandfather like a king — loved to tell me stories about my grandfather as a paratrooper in WWII, of him being the lead singer/guitarist of a popular local band, of how hard he worked to keep all “his girls” happy.

They came from an era where families stayed together and friends were friends forever. And it’s difficult to believe that such great men of such a great generation could have raised deadbeats like my father. But I think it goes to show that my father was clearly not lucky enough to come from good men like these.

And that’s why I’m lucky — so I didn’t hit the genetic lottery with my Sperm Donor. So I can’t wish his dumb ass a Happy Father’s Day because he was too horny and stupid to use a condom. But that my grandfather was there to not only step up in his place, but to overshadow his absence to the point that I never really even noticed it, says a lot for the role men can and do play in the lives of little girls.

While the proverbial “they” say that girls wind up marrying men like their dads, I may not know mine well enough to do that (nor would I want to, based on what little I HAVE experienced). But if I could marry a man like my grandfather, I would be the luckier one in that relationship. No doubt about it.

So, Happy Father’s Day to all the real men out there, even if you haven’t (yet) had children. (And anyone who wants to make babies, just let me know — I’d be happy to go through the motions!) Whether you’re a friend, a brother, a husband, an uncle or someone who is kind to others, this day is for you … even MORE so than it is for those who’ve managed to knock someone up who never were able to be a man about it.

Happy Father’s Day to you, too, Grampy. You brought your girls up right, so even though you’re not here, you did your job well enough while you were here that your positive influence will last as long as we do. …

One Lonely Response to On dads ‘n ‘at

  1. A Life Once Lost » On dads ‘n ‘at :

    […] On dads ‘n ‘at …in my life, he was the calm, steady, reliable influence in my life. … Not once. Not ever. Everyone had potential, everyone was unique and… […]