Sunday, June 19, 2011

Father's Day, It's About Our Father

It’s Father’s Day.

What’s there to say about The Father today? Seeing as we wrote about The Mother on Mother’s Day we figured we should probably write about The Father on Father’s Day; of course we had very little, if anything, nice to say about The Mother than day.

Unlike the things we’ve said about The Mother we have less bad things to say about The Father. He may not have been aware enough of the abuse that was going on under his own nose while we were a young child but he was the man who raised us, and The Brother, from the age of 12 years old, to his best ability, after The Mother left. It was undoubtedly hard to be a single father, as hard as it is to be a single mother, no doubt.

We’ve written in one of our “Addressing Issue of Frank” stories about how The Father had been sort of wrapped up in his extra-marital affair for the better part of 6 years (if memory of what he has told us about the duration serves correctly) and in doing so had been distracted from The Mother, her mental illness, and the things that were going on at home while he was at work.

We have many fond memories between all of us, of time spent with The Father. Chances are the memories we have with him are so cemented because all-in-all, due to the hours he worked and the farm he took care of, any time spent with him was rare, precious, and memorable, and fun…and usually did not include The Mother.

The Parents got married too young, before the age of 20, and The Other Girl came along just a year later. They were young, barely adults, they clearly had not had the time to discover life, to become themselves; and in this case, being thrust much too quickly into parenthood lead to acts of selfishness throughout their marriage.

But that’s just our opinion, not just on Our Parents, but on most young adults who get young too early, and who have children much too quickly.

Among our happy memories of The Father are attending horse shows overnight, sleeping in a camper and eating what can only be described as cowboy food; going on trail rides through the woods on our property; winter sleigh rides, in the sleigh The Father built with his own hands, bundled up under piles of blankets and a thermos of apple cider with Red Hots melting into the hot liquid, the dogs, one of which was a big German Shepherd, running next to the sleigh as long as they could keep up, the jiggle of bells attached to the horses. In is supremely idyllic, these memories.
We are unable to locate pictures of the red Santa sleigh that The Father  had made, the one we remember; this was the other sleigh/wagon we had on The Farm (Hey, The Father....if you have the photo you should send it to us, please!)
The Father was always loving when he could be, though his overall version of love seemed to be more of the "tough love" kind, when we look back on it. It’s not really surprising, most fathers approached relationships with their children like that.

There are of course, things about The Father that some of us remember that are not pretty. Like spankings with leather belts, or an oak wooden spoon he made with his own hands in the wood shop of the farm. By today’s standards that would not be acceptable, but in the 80’s, in rural United States (which are generally about ten years behind by most standards), living on a farm…it was more acceptable to punish a child in this way. What we could have done as a child to warrant spankings we don’t know or remember. We had been raised to be good children, particularly at that age. Respectful, quiet; when The Father was involved we were quiet as church mice in public, not able to utter a word in public for fear we’d get that look and the “Wait until we get home” speech. We found out years later it was not only out of respect for the people around us, but required in order to keep The Mother from getting angry and yelling in public, which we completely understand.

Eventually The Father would resort to grounding us after attempts on our part to be tough, strong and stubborn, and from turning an age unacceptable for a father to be spanking his daughter. One of the last times he spanked us with the belt is a day we will never forget. We were around the age of ten or eleven.

We held back our tears that day, as we positioned ourselves over the brown oval synthetic leather footstool that served double purpose in our living room. With every lashing we pretended that it didn’t hurt as we bit our lip and squeezed our eyes close; at one point we turned to look directly at him and defiantly said “That doesn’t hurt”, which only worked to make him angrier. We knew he would stop when we started to cry, but we also knew that, somehow, it hurt him just as much to be punishing us in this way, and we wanted to punish him. Eventually we cried and it was over, but out of that day a severe stubbornness grew.

Taking our own pain, internalizing it, and using it as a punishment for someone else was a lesson that one day we would make a man we loved (Fuck Face) use to help us in the destruction of The Other Girl, our original host*.

To say our childhood was strange, some days, seems like an understatement, we feel fortunate though that it probably could have been worse…it is worse for other children, in other families, in other places around the world. To have grown up with an abusive mentally ill Mother and a Father who probably had not been ready for the responsibility of a mentally ill wife and three children, who had his own growing up and maturing to do, as far as family goes, we were more fortunate than some. Of course we don’t all agree with that statement…

There are many random things from our childhood in regards to The Father that can’t be put into coherent sentences to make a story out of them, like taking pictures and laughing at us when we cried  (mostly though when we fought with Angry Brother); video tapping us eating meals, to be able to point out our poor eating habits (habits we could only have learned from watching him); or the endless Sundays of listening to football on the radio in the car on the way home from church, and then watching him squat in front of the television, glued to the football game all afternoon, ignoring the wife and children he didn’t have a lot of time to spend with anyway; feelings of loneliness and rejection because The Mother who was mean, abusive, unhappy and ill, and from having a father who was selfish and disconnected from him family, living a double life with a mistress on the side.

But there are some good things to remember, because he is a good man; like a Christmas holiday week spent snowed in playing endless board games like Monopoly, and extra readings of Little House on the Prairie, the one thing we loved and looked forward to about the winter months growing up.

A year or so after The Mother moved The Father packed us up and moved us to a New City where he would attend college and become a contractor, to provide a better life for us and The Brothers. It created more opportunity for him and eventually for all of us, but it did not provide us and The Brothers with the parent we still needed, and The Other Girl was left to take care of The Brothers, like she had on The Farm, as The Father attended classes, did homework, took part-time jobs, and dated to try to find a “new mother” for his three children.

In the end The Father became Mom in the sense that he had to play both parts. Perhaps raising a girl was a little out of his league. After The Mother had gone he had his two sons, and this very sad, broken, and confused 12 year old girl to raise; not to mention that his sons were also broken.

We had always been a good child though, reading a lot of books, writing stuff, drawing, staying to ourselves, mostly because we had to. There were strict rules living under The Fathers roof, they mostly were enacted to “protect us”, and so the last five years, until The Other Girl turned 17, became tougher as we became anxious to exert our independence, to escape and be an adult; to live.

We ran away from home when we were 17, a Senior in high school, which is laughable because a few months after that, a couple of short days before the last day of high school, The Other Girl moved out to live on her own; but the day of, and the day after, we ran away is another memory that we haven’t forgotten.

We will spare you the details of why and how of the day; we can save that for another entry. However the day after we ran away The Other Girl went to work following the school day, as we normally would. We worked in a large hardware store, a popular chain that runs through the Midwest of the United States. Our manager that day told us that The Father had called earlier in the day and was coming to take us to dinner, because he wanted to talk to us, and while it didn’t make us scared, it made us nervous.

The Father picked The Other Girl up from work and when we got into the pickup truck he yelled at us, he said he had told the manager we would not be returning to work that evening. When we began to yell at him angrily for taking us from work he slapped us across the face. It was the first, and the last time, we were ever slapped like that by The Father. We were stunned, saddened…disappointed in him. Even today, when we think about it brings tears to our eyes. He took The Other Girl to see The Pastor that evening, where we would have to explain and talk to him about why we had ran away. When we think back to all the other things that we did, all the other events of The Other Girls life we had a hand in, we are sad for her, that we put her through so much.

The day The Other Girl moved to the Northwest United States we stood next to The Father on the front drive next to the house we had lived in for two years, his new wife’s house, and said our goodbyes. We were 19 years old, excited to be seeing the world, to be leaving the State in which we were living; we were ready to run.

We don’t know how he felt about us moving so far away, he had been a typical dad who was not open about his thoughts and feelings. He hugged us goodbye and as he pulled the loose change from his jean pocket and placed it in our hand, the last thing he said to us before we got into the car and drove away was “Good luck”. The content of his pocket was less than a couple of dollars worth of change, and a screw. We clearly remember it, as we stood there on the gavel starring at the handful of change and the single screw. We couldn’t help but pull from it deeper meanings, it’s what we do.

Over the years between 19 and 30 we didn’t see The Father much, we had done our best to avoid our family, and The Other Girl, we and him have ever been the type to go out of our way to call family members. There was eleven years where The Father was pretty much in the dark about most of the events in our life, including the details of our marriage, our attempted suicide, and all of our mental illness diagnoses.

We guess what we are trying to say with this story is that The Father wasn’t perfect, nobody is of course, but we love him. Our relationship with him the last few years, since our near fatal car accident, and the death of his own father, has improved. Since facing our fears and coming to terms with our metal illness, and coming out about our Dissociative Identity Disorder, he has been a supportive force in our life, when compared to the past. While his finding out about out mental illness before we could tell him ourselves was an accidental occurrence, he being directed to our blog by a friend who was concerned about us, we are happy that we are able to share with him the things about us he has never known, the things that had happened right under his nose.

All of that/this, we guess, to say to The Father (because he reads our blog) … we love you dad, daddy, daddy-o…and we are thankful you are our father.

1 comment:

  1. don’t know what to say, except Well done. gotta be honest here, when I do something important I try to devote complete attn to it. Takes me a long time to read a book. lots of thinking going on. I had to copy the text, print it, and read it at lunch. ttfn