Sunday, June 20, 2010

Fathers' Day Memories

At 4:00 AM I woke from sleep to thunder rumbling and lightning flickering -- it was not a frightening storm, but as it lingered I was unable to get back to sleep. As a child I was terrified of thunderstorms, always fearing that this would be the storm when lightning would strike us -- pretty morbid thoughts for a child -- but I am a worrier by nature, descending from a long line of worriers.

Somehow, I always felt a measure of safety and security when my father was home. In my eyes he was all-knowing and strong, and could protect us from all harm as long as he was there. As I lay awake listening to the storm this morning -- Fathers' Day morning -- I pondered my relationship with my father.

I don't believe he really enjoyed fatherhood --I think he loved my mother deeply, and would have been content to have remained childless. I was never "Daddy's Girl", and always had an awareness that I irritated him on some level. I was talkative, affectionate, and needy -- he much preferred my sister who was reserved and quiet, as he was. Fortunately, my mother filled the empty spaces of my soul with her love and affection, but I remain to this day somewhat of a "pleaser", always striving to be "liked". I believe this is because I tried so hard to earn my father's affections.

He was a good man -- honest, hardworking, loyal -- the quintessential father of the fifties, whose children complain endlessly about their lack of fatherly attention and affection. He chose a simple life -- working as a mechanic, though his intellect would have allowed him to achieve much greater status. He taught me to be true to my own inner voice and to take pride in what I accomplished, even if those accomplishments were not highly regarded in the world.

He disciplined fairly and firmly, and could correct our behavior by his tone of voice with much more success than men who ruled by harsher forms of discipline. He passed on his love of nature and his contentment with the daily routines of life. He greeted each day with a smile, and, though realistic, was an optimist at heart.

He worked twelve hour days and six hours on Saturdays, and looked forward with relief to retirement at sixty-two. However, his retirement was not to be the peaceful respite he longed for. He developed emphysema and died a slow, debilitating death four years later. Watching my strong, capable father weaken and become dependent on others for his day to day care was heartwrenching for me.

As I pass through this day, I will think of him in a better place -- now joined by my mother and my sister -- and thank him for the strength of character he passed on to me.

Happy Fathers' Day, Daddy!!

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