My dad was not perfect.
He did not have a perfect life.
He did not create a perfect life for me.
In my own injured child-self, it is hard to celebrate Father’s Day.
My dad was an abused child, who passed that abuse down.
He failed to make that decision that it stopped with him.
My sisters, both gone now, and myself, as well as many others endured - - and we survived.
We all talked about it in later years, after he was gone.
I remember standing at his casket there in the funeral home on the night of family visitation, looking down at him, and saying, “It stops here. It’s over, done.”
This particular blog is not to discuss those years or times of abuse.
But rather -
My dad taught me a lot of what not to do, what not to accept in a man - in any man.
But as forgiveness worked its way thru my heart, mind and soul -
I realized that my dad also taught me a lot of good things, and a lot of things TO accept in a man.
My dad -
- was a hard worker. He went to work regardless of how he felt, or what else was wrong in his morning/day. He was a factory worker, never made $2 an hour. But he worked, every day - Monday thru Saturday at noon. 7 am to 4 pm. There was a day here or there when he had the flu that he just could not get out of bed - but otherwise, he went to work.
And when he came home from work, he would eat supper, then go outside to either work with the stock, or work in the garden, or mow the yard. Those were the days when we only had a pair of shears and a hoe for a weed-eater, but there was not a blade of grass or a weed where it did not belong! And the ONLY place weeds belonged was out in the pasture!
. . . This taught me the value of hard work. A work ethic that has often been called “crazy”. How many times have I been told - “You don’t even know how to do nothing!”
- was a master gardener. We lived on what was called “gumbo clay”. One of the hardest types of soil to grow anything in. Yet, he had 3 massive gardens that over-produced every year, year after year, without fail. He had fruit trees that covered that front part of our acreage. And he was very adept at grafting 2 trees to create new kinds of fruit. Some were keepers, and some were not! Lol
. . . This taught me to try, and try, and try one more time. To use what I have without going for the latest and greatest methods, or products.
- was a provider. We never went hungry, unless it was our choice. We never went without shoes or clothes - might not be the latest fashion, or what we wanted, but we had clothes, and we had shoes. We never were homeless - wasn’t the best roof over our heads, or the warmest walls that surrounded us, but we never had to do without housing.
. . . This taught me to make do with what I have, or to do without. To be thankful for what I have TODAY. And that somehow, tomorrow would be taken care of, time after time.
- did not have a good education. He could barely read, or sign his name. But he was on a genius level when it came to math. He could not explain how he got to the answers, but he never missed a question - no matter how long or difficult you made it.
. . . This created in me a love of learning. Math is probably my worst subject, always. But I love to learn, to read, to write.
- taught me how to play checkers and dominoes. And when I finally won a game, or a hand, I EARNED it! I remember asking him why he wouldn’t just let me win a game - his answer: “How would that be helping you? If I just gave it to you? Earn it and you will never forget it!”
. . . This taught me to work hard for what I wanted. To not give up, don’t ever quit trying. And when I “win” - I deserve to win!
- had been a hobo in his younger years. His dad and mom both had died in the Flu epidemic back in the early 1900’s, and he was left to be raised by his older brothers. One of their wives was very abusive to him, and he ran away when he was only 12 years old. Rode the rails as a hobo, working here or there. He never talked about those times on the rails. But he did mark the trees at the back of our place, down at the railroad tracks, so that other hobos would know we were a “safe house”. So for many years, day after day, we had hobos as our guests. I would often see daddy, when he was home, standing off away from the house and little ears, talking with one or more.
. . . This created in me a love of travel - whether in reality, or in books, or in conversations. I love to learn about other places and cultures.
- did not raise his voice to Momma, or to me. He had a voice he used when the line was close, or when it was crossed. But I don’t remember ever hearing him yell. Even when he was dealing with the stock. There was a hardness about him that I seemed to know not to try.
. . . I can only wish that I had gotten this part of him in me. But sadly, I grew up to have a “voice” when I was angry or hurt. When I was frustrated or confused. Now as I have gotten older, and Rick is no longer here to bear it all, I have grown more still and quiet - and every day seems to be a deeper quietness to my soul.
- was very much a creature of habit. From the time he got up and went to bed, to how he drank his coffee, to what he would eat - or even try.
. . . This taught me to value habits. But also to stretch beyond those habits to try new things, to go new places, to reach farther than the end of my own thinking.
I could go on and on.
Just my coffee thoughts this morning:
In this day and age we are taught, more than not, to blame our parents for the way we turned out.
We are encouraged to go back into our childhood, pick it apart and see their mistakes.
We are told that this is healing for us to do.
We are told that our choices and decisions are not truly OURS, but are a product of their choices, decisions, and what they said, did, or didn't.
What if we saw honestly their mistakes, called them what they were - mistakes, missteps?
What if we also saw honestly all that they tried to teach us, even when they went about it the wrong way?
What if we held to the good and cast away the bad?
What if we stopped raking them over the coals for things they said or did that we didn’t like then, nor do we approve of today?
Health comes from growing, learning, and forgiveness.
Whether it is physical health, or mental health.
Dig deep into the medical journals and see what was the standard and norm for physical medicine in years past.
There are things that were said and done that are nothing less than shocking and WTF - now.
Mental health many years ago was a whole ‘nuther world, as well.
Does that make it wrong what they did? What they tried?
- From our perspective now, YES!
- But what about what they knew? What they understood, or didn’t understand?
Should we go back to those archaic, and what seems to us so perverted, ways of treating illnesses and health?
Thru the years upon years since the earliest times, we have grown, learned, and forgiven the past generations for their ignorance.
The definition of ignorance is “NOT KNOWING”.
Stupidity - “Doing the same thing time after time, expecting a different outcome.”
Granted, if you read the history of physical, and mental, health - there are things that were done and said that sound outlandishly stupid to us - now.
But again, we have grown, learned and forgiven.
Or at least we should have - grown, learned, and forgiven.
My dad was not perfect.
He was an abuser.
He had been abused.
The abuse should have stopped with him.
But for whatever reason, he did not make that decision.
To the best of my ability - I did.
To go back and rake him over the coals - all these years since growing up and leaving home, all these years after he died - what will it change in my life? In my soul?
I remember very clearly the abuse.
It changed my life.
Then. Since. And now.
I have often wondered why he did not stop it, with him.
I have often wondered what he was thinking all those times.
I have often wondered how could he have done what he did - what made him think it was even just “ok”.
Oh there are a gazillion wonderings that still float around in my head and in my heart.
But all I can do is grow, learn, and forgive.
I think, I hope, I am a better person, a better parent, a better grandparent - than he was.
Isn’t that growing, learning, forgiving?
Happy Father's Day to everyone -