This Sunday is Father’s Day…a day of celebrating and remembering.
Have you ever stood in front of the greeting card rack trying to find the “perfect” one? You know, the one that says just the right thing only to discover that no such card exists. At some point, you either decide on one that comes close or you leave frustrated and end up not buying a card at all. Could it be that you’re buying the card in the first place out of some sense of guilt or obligation just because it’s Father’s Day?
There are many different types of fathers and this mini memoir is about mine.
I’ve joked with my sister before that it would be cool if a baby could poke it’s head out of the birth canal and decide whether or not it wants to be born into a particular family or situation. Of course we don’t get to choose, but I think it’s a great idea anyway.
Mom and dad were married in the fall of 1955. I came along the following January on a cold, harsh, rainy night. Mom was a shy, awkward teenager. Dad was older…a good looking, smooth talking guy. He cast his spell over her almost immediately. Growing up, I always felt that dad blamed me and the urgency to marry for their tumultuous life together. That’s a heavy burden for a little kid to bear. Today I know that wasn’t the truth.
We had a few good times together, me and Daddy Bob. Occasionally we would go places, just the two of us, and he would show me off like a proud dad. Sometimes he would take me shopping and buy me a new dress. One of my favorites was a blue one that I’m wearing in the photo below.
There was a beer joint in the downtown section of the city where we used to live. It was called The Palms Restaurant, although calling it a restaurant was a stretch. We would stop by there in the afternoon on the way home sometimes. Today we call this happy hour. Dad would sit me on the counter beside the jar of pickled pigs feet. With a little encouragement from him and his cronies, I would sing my heart out to the few patrons in the bar. One of my favorite songs was Chantilly Lace by The Big Bopper. At sundown, dad would send me home in a cab where mom would be waiting at the door to let me in. Of course we never knew when Dad would show up or what kind of mood he’d be in.
Once school age arrived, dad didn’t seem too interested in hanging out with me much anymore. I call it the puppy and kitten syndrome…adorable and cute when you’re little…not so much when you begin to grow up and develop a mind of your own.
The dad of my childhood had many demons. He was an angry, depressed and sometimes abusive alcoholic. We lived the “typical” alcoholic life characterized by shame, guilt, poverty and fear. I understand now that Dad was incapable of loving anyone in a healthy manner, including himself.
It was difficult to recognize our blessings back then. I oftentimes wondered where God was and if He were listening, why He didn’t answer my prayers. How could a good God allow us to live in such a difficult situation for so long? We lived pretty much every day just trying to survive.
Today I know that God was with us, loving us and protecting us every step of the way. Unfortunately Dad never really knew God until he was standing at death’s door. He made it through Heaven’s gate before it closed on his earthly life at the young age of 54.
I believe that the love we have for another person can get buried underneath layers of hurt, fear, anger and resentment. As we grow older, it takes a lot of hard work and willingness to forgive. We must, however, in order to move forward and find peace in our own lives. I made my peace with dad a long time ago.
When I think of Dad today it makes me sad because of the kind of life he lived down here on earth. I find relief in knowing that he is in a much better place. I understand that hurting people hurt people and as miserable as our lives were a lot of the time back then, he was probably suffering more.
I’m grateful to my dad for some of the personality traits he passed along to me and my brother. He had an entrepreneurial spirit and was a born salesman. He loved cool cars and great music. He loved the water and we were blessed to have a river home. He was spontaneous, a free spirit and a dreamer. He was a people person who hid his demons well. He also had the good sense to marry my mom.
Dads come in all ages, shapes and sizes. There are great dads and not so great dads. Whatever your situation may be, I hope this Father’s Day is a good one…whether you’re celebrating or remembering.