My father and me…can we say “DYSfunctional”?


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What I Wish I Could Have Had… A Father with his Daughter

Good morning. It’s getting hot down here early. Is your father still living? If so, what kind of relationship do you have? I’ve been thinking about my dad all day. Something was said in our book discussion Sunday that brought back my whole childhood relationship with my father.

When I get started on my dad and me I could write a book. Actually, I have the first three chapters done. I started 32 years ago. A part of me really tried to love my father but the feelings were never returned in a way that as a growing child I could understand.

Eckart Tolle in his book, A New Earth, says: “The longing for love that is in every child is the longing to be recognized, not on the level of form [our physical Human] but on the level of Being [our spiritual Consciousness, the formless]. If parents honor only the human dimension of the child but neglect Being, the child will sense that the relationship is unfulfilled, that something absolutely vital is missing, and there will be a buildup of pain in the child and sometimes unconscious resentment toward the parents. ‘Why don’t you recognize me?’ This is what the pain or resentment seems to be saying.”

My father made a promise to my mother before she died that he would keep our family together. That meant my sister and me. As an adult I learned there were several couples who wished to adopt me but father refused. Perhaps after all it was the best idea.

One couple was my aunt and uncle. She was several years older than her sister. Her only daughter was twelve when I was born. I reallly liked this aunt. She was a teacher. Every morning in first grade I would go to her room and she would comb and rebraid my hair and inspect me to make sure I looked nice. I would have loved to live with her. However, if that had been the situation, she died in the spring of my first grade year. She had a massive stroke at a PTA meeting. I would have lost two mothers within three years. As it was, no one bothered to say anything to me, thinking I was too young to understand.  She just disappeared. I went to school and there was a stranger in her room.

The other couple who expressed interest had a daughter my sister’s age. She was always friendly and I liked her. I loved her mother who was kind and gentle and caring. The father, however, was a drunk. The mother confided in me only a few years ago that they wanted to adopt me. She then told me that one time her husband had her on the floor and was choking her. The same thing happened to me. She, like me, told no one about that incident. Had I lived with her, I would have been in a very dysfunctional family all those years.

We had our own dysfunction. Each individual lived in our home alone. The only thing we shared were the walls. My father, I found out many years after he died, had such a miserable love life that he chose to close himself off in depression for almost twenty years. I often felt as if he died spiritually the day my mother died. It took that long for his body to know he was among the walking dead. Both my mother and father were born in July. Both of them died in April. April was always a month of tension in our home.

Father was a three time loser when it came to matters of the heart. The girl he loved in high school ran off and eloped with his best friend. Twelve years later, he got engaged to a very popular and well-loved young woman. Just a couple of months before he was to be married, she died of pneumonia. Four years later towards the end of the depression he met my mother and was married twelve years before she died of cancer. And there I was, a child needing his love, and he was an empty shell.

I can remember crawling up into my father’s lap. I would “read” the newspaper with him. Then, one day, as I tried to climb, he blocked my way and wouldn’t let me into his lap. He said sharply, “You’re too big.” That was it. He didn’t invite me to sit beside him. He just went back to reading his paper. That’s the last time we had any physical contact with each other. I was either six or seven.

He would come home and I would be playing on the floor of the living room. I’d say, “Look, Daddy!” wanting him to say, “That’s good” or something like that, and he would mumble , “Yeh” and keep on walking. I knew as soon as he got home it was time to put my toys back in the closet so I wouldn’t be in his way.

We would go to family gatherings but he would always be among the men and I would just wander around after dinner. Then we would come back home again. I would be in school plays but he always had meetings to attend. One open house our childsitter/housekeeper was paid extra to go to the school with me because I insisted on going. I remember the embarrassment of being with her. Everyone else was excitedly showing their parents all their good work. I can remember at one point leaning against the chalkboard and feeling this heavy sigh escape. I felt as lonely as I possibly could. When I entered sixth grade, we finally stopped sharing a bedroom. My sister, who had her own room all this time, was made to move in with me so father could have a room to himself. I can remember he always slept in the other twin bed with his back to me. I went to sleep before he came to bed, he quietly left the room in the morning before I woke up. That was our life for eight years. That was our unwritten pact of mutual tolerance.

In seventh grade I was interested in make up like the other girls in my class. I came downstairs and put on lipstick using the mirror by the door. I had bought the lipstick by myself, no one helped me make a better decision. The lipstick was the brightest red you could imagine. I turned around. Dad had been sitting in his chair watching me. All he said was, “You look like a two-bit”. I had no idea what that was but from the derision in his voice I knew it wasn’t a compliment and my cheeks burned.

It’s another busy day making decisions on what I want to take with me to my new house. Yesterday the photographer was here and by now the virtual tour is on the internet. What an amazing world. Come back tomorrow and I’ll tell you more.  In the meantime, Go with God. Attic Annie

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