Yeah…Yippee…Hurrah, Father’s Day is almost here. What to do? What to do? For a good many folks, the day serves as an opportunity to heap praise and admiration on their first love or hero. For some of us, it is a day that only serves as a reminder that we were short changed in the father department.
Now, you might think this note is going to be a “trash my daddy post” but you would be wrong. More than 20 years ago, my father taught me one of the most important lessons I would ever need to know in my life. Growing up, my sisters and I were really good at wearing masks that showed no scars. Those masks showed no evidence of what was really going on in our dysfunctional house. Our father was and as far as I know an alcoholic until the day he died. Some drunks are jovial and you can just put them to bed and they will sleep it off. Some are not. Can you guess which category Harry belonged? He was a mean drunk. He wanted what he wanted when he wanted it. If that meant a meal at 2:00 in the morning then his wife sure as shootin’ better get it on the table. If he wanted his children to witness the punishment for misbehaving, then they sat on the sofa and witnessed one slap and/or punch after the other. And, the next day, we got up, dressed and went to school like absolutely nothing happened. That was just the way things went in our house. I share this not for pity purposes, but for information only.
For so many years, I was angry. I hated him for how he changed our mother because she became cold, distant and unfeeling. That was how she learned to cope. So, in the parenting department I believed we were short changed on both fronts.
Thinking about my childhood, I remembered only wanting to run as far away from home as I could. I knew I never cared to see or speak to him again. And, I made that happen. He was not at my college graduation. He was not at my wedding. And, he did not know his grandchildren. But, that was not punishment enough. I hated him!
One day I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror and I saw a woman who looked like my mother… sad, angry and just plain old before her time. That’s what years of anger will do to you. I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life on that endless treadmill going nowhere. After forty plus years, I realized I needed to give up punishing myself and offer genuine forgiveness to the one person who had caused so much pain. Now, I was not naïve enough to believe Harry gave a fig about my feelings. But, I knew I had to let go of the anger… not for him, but for me. So, I wrote him a letter laying bare my words of hurt and pain. And, as expected, he didn’t care. But, I knew I had brushed aside his indifference and turned a corner.
So, this Father’s Day, I can, with a clear conscience and open heart, say thank you Harry. You taught me that forgiveness is a powerful gift that keeps on giving year after year. Let’s face it people, whether we had a good or bad father, it doesn’t matter. Whether our fathers were present in our lives or not, it doesn’t matter. Whether our fathers taught us how to live, it doesn’t matter. What does matter is that our fathers are one-half of our life blood. We are here because of them. So, this Father’s Day, no longer harboring any hate in my heart, I can introduce myself honestly… saying Hello, I am Jamie, daughter of Harry… and YOU ARE?