Here’s to you, dad.

 

cards

My father’s parents raised their kids in a small, musty house in an equally small and musty town in southern New Jersey. I never knew my grandmother very well; we lived in Germany and I can count on one hand the number of times we visited. As a matter of fact, when she came through the receiving line at our wedding 32 years ago, I had no idea who the woman was.

My dad and his siblings were dirt poor with an abusive father who eventually ended everyone’s misery when he put a bullet into his own head. Dad was a trouble maker who frequently volunteered at church just to get away from his increasingly authoritarian mother. ย His ‘bedroom’ was in the attic where he shared the space with the meat his mom hung on hooks for scrapple. He joined the Army to see the world and close the door on his miserable youth.

My dad was not a great father.

This fact was driven home every year at this time as I’d sift through all the father’s day cards trying to find one that “fit.” This annual exercise left me bitter and jealous and taught me to make my own cards.ย I also eventually realized thatย Hallmark is about as representative of human relationships as Vogue is representative of the human body.

It took me a while to get to this place, but I know now that my dad did the best with what he had. Who knows what I would have been like if I had grown up in his shoes.. My father was a survivor and a good provider and maybe that’s the sum total of what he was emotionally capable of.

As an adult, I learned to look past the flaws, both mine and his, and allowed the moments we shared to stand alone without the added weight of history or expectation. I will forever be grateful for the years we did have to build a bridge between us.

My dad wasn’t perfect, but he was mine and I’m a better person because of him.

Hmm, that sounds good enough for a card.. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Happy Father’s Day up there dad.

 

 

 

12 comments

  1. Oh, Cindy … you have me all teared-up over here. It takes great wisdom (and a big heart) to be able to step back and acknowledge that our parents โ€” though never perfect โ€” did the best they could. I’m glad you realized that while your dad was still around, and that you were able to share those priceless moments “without the weight of history of expectation.” Thank you for sharing this beautiful and wonderfully written post.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hey Heather..you are too kind. It’s true though that carrying grudges is like strapping on a backpack full of rocks every day. My poor sister never could make peace- and I think it ultimately led to a bunch of poor choices in her life and an early death. I also really felt bad for the life my dad led as a kid.. (and I’m pretty sure I don’t even know the half of it..)

      Liked by 1 person

      • How sad about your sister, Cindy. But how wonderful that at least YOU were able to see your dad with such compassion (as your last sentence so clearly demonstrates). You’ll probably never know how much that meant to him, or how much it probably healed him that you were able to overlook his faults and just *be* with him. A big hug to you on this Father’s Day weekend …

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Your relationship with your dad, sounds much like mine with my mom. She too, I believe, did the best she could with what she had. She also did not have an easy childhood with an abusive dad who was himself abused as a child. The cycle goes on and on. While my mother wasn’t abusive, we were never close. She was very self centered. I’m convinced it was a survival technique she used in growing up with 10 siblings.
    Great post, Cindy!!
    And yes sometimes there just isn’t the right sentiment on a store bought card.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s really sad isn’t it? That’s so interesting that you said your mom was self-centered..wow- so was my dad..but no abuse..I mean I got a spanking twice in my life and I’m here to admit, I deserved them both.. big time..but he was totally absent ..just not into family really. Later in life he did spend some time with my kids which was strangely weird…you know seeing him doing things with them he didn’t do with us..but even that was a blessing. I seriously hated him for so many years. I actually found an old card he kept that I sent him when our son was born. It was like i was writing to a distant relative..eerie. Oh well, this is just life, huh..you gotta move on..and forgive so you yourself can be forgiven! ๐Ÿ’œ

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      • I look at it like they were handicapped. While I wouldn’t blame a person who was physically handicapped for their inability to complete a foot race, then I can’t blame my mother for the things I longed for but never received from her. She didn’t have them to give. Both of her parents had been abused as children. We got much deserved spankings and sometimes a slap on the mouth for sassing. But I wouldn’t call her abusive. I longed for a daughter but God saw fit to gift me with 3 beautiful sons. I tried to have a better relationship with them, but it seems they hold me at arm’s length. It makes my husband and I much closer.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Being a parent is so incredibly tough..I think especially for people who had strained relationships with their own folks. On the one hand we are so determined to make it better than we had it..but on the other I feel like we also torture ourselves with idealistic and unattainable images of what a perfect family should be like. I always wanted to be the perfect Betty Crocker mom and let’s just say I know THAT cake never got frosted..haha. But who is the perfect mom..who are the perfect kids? What do these perfectly wonderful relationships look like anyway? I know we are far from the perfect family..but we are who we are and it really isn’t so bad at all…well, ok some days are..hahaha

        Liked by 1 person

      • Great perspective, Cindy!!!
        Thanks for that!
        You’re right. I’ve been doing the comparison thing again. Which only leads to being unsatisfied. Thanks for the reminder. Nobody’s perfect!

        Liked by 1 person

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