My Daddy, My Daddy

March 16, 2014 at 10:25 am (Life, Memoir) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

It is my daddy’s birthday tomorrow.

Tomorrow my daddy would have turned 80.

I never called him daddy.

Calling him daddy makes me feel little.

Little as in small. Little as in tiny. Little as in young. Like a little child.

I have no memories of my daddy from when I was little.

He wasn’t there. He left before I turned two and I didn’t see him again for about ten years. It felt sudden his coming back into our lives. There were visits and new rules and new relatives to get to know and I don’t like sudden change. I spent a lot of my time avoiding him in his own house, that was never my home, and feeling anxious.

I never called him Dad, only when I had to address him directly or in letters.

I barely called him Father, friends would say my father and I’d stay out of the conversation. I think that’s why I became close with my childhood best friend – neither of our mothers had husbands but she talked about her daddy because he was dead not just gone off. Her daddy didn’t choose to leave.

I’ve gone years ignoring my dad’s birthday and father’s day. I didn’t send a card because I didn’t know what to say. I couldn’t write dad. I couldn’t sign it love me. It felt dishonest. I didn’t know who he was to me and what I felt. Was I mad at him? Was I hurt? It seemed he so easily forgot about me and replaced us.

I spent decades conflicted and feeling guilty. I spent years spending bits of the summer and occasional holidays at his home – but never Christmas or his birthday. I don’t remember ever being with him on his birthday. I don’t know what kind of cake he liked or what presents he got.

When did you last see your Father? I saw him a week or so before he died last year. It was on my birthday. It just worked out that way. After years of never getting a card from my father on my birthday and then years of me ignoring his birthday.

The first emotion that comes up when I think of my father is not love but guilt. I should have been more forgiving. I am at fault.

I never thought he felt guilty for leaving us and ignoring us for all those years (my formative years). But maybe that’s why he drank so much.

My father was an alcoholic. Maybe he drank to forget. Maybe he drank so he wouldn’t have to feel guilty. I don’t know.

He eventually joined AA and went through the 12 Steps. I’m upset with him though because he never tried to make amends (steps 8 & 9) with me.

I tried to understand him better. I tried to get him to talk (no write) to me. I poked and I prodded. I sent letters. I wrote poems. I sent him a blank journal to scribble his life down in. I needed the words. I needed the stories. I wanted both the fact and the fiction of who he was. I got no feedback.

This is as much my fault as his. I am a writer but my father, like my mother, is a talker. How I came from their DNA I can not explain.

I could not sit in a room, with him, and ask these questions. It did not feel safe.

What I know about my father, I know through rumour and innuendo. What I know about my father I have deduced myself. I may be wrong.

My father was a small-town, self-centered teenager. He was the eldest and his younger brother still complains that Dad always got the car (the three boys were supposed to share it).

My father was a looker and a player. Women around town (I grew up in the same small-town he did) still talk about how handsome he was and how much fun he was to be with. I don’t see it. It confounds me.

My father joined the army as soon as he could against the wishes of his parents. His father wanted him to farm (my father would have made a lousy farmer and probably wanted it as much as I wanted to be a farmer’s wife) and his mother wanted him safe.

The army aggravated my father’s drinking problem that probably started in that small town. I saw it growing up and in all the generations that still follow, alcoholism is a persistent curse in my small, rural home town.

My father was never sure that his father loved him and his mother loved him too much. Here I understand him all too well. There are rumours that he is not my grandfather’s son. We don’t discuss rumours in my family.

What scares me is how much my younger brother, whose upbringing our father was not involved in, made so many of the same mistakes with his children. I see my nephews getting it wrong as well and wonder when the cycle of hurt stops.

You have to be there.

This is one of the reasons I am child-free. I was not going to raise a child in a one parent household. I would get it wrong. I would not make a good single parent. That does not mean my siblings could not choose to raise their children as single parents only that I could not. I would not. I will not.

I also see my nephews and nieces doing it right. They are raising their children as single parents, with the help of family and friends. They are forgiving their parents for not being perfect people. They are stronger than I am.

None of us are perfect. My father was not perfect. I am not perfect.

Dad's Grave Oct 2013

I’ll finish up with a story about my Dad’s 21st birthday – Myrna told me this story. Jim and Myrna were long time friends of my mom and dad.

It would have been 1955. It would have been Spring. March 17th was a Thursday.

They rented a cabin at Stoney Lake to party in. (I think I’ve seen pictures). They snuck out at 4am so they wouldn’t have to pay for the cabin – people used to trust you more, you wouldn’t get a cabin now without pre-paying first. Later Myrna and her dad went back to Stoney to fish and the owner came after Myrna’s dad for the money for the cabin. I assume she got in to some trouble for that as I know from other stories that her dad was very strict.

On the birthday trip, the boys (Dad & Jim) “borrowed’ an out-board motor, went fishing and lost the motor in the lake.”Borrowed” as in one of the guys had the motor to fix it and the owner would not pick it up until Monday. I wonder how they explained that. No, I don’t. I think they didn’t explain it. They just ignored the problem. It’s such typical small-town teenage behaviour and yes, 21 back then was still teenage!

Also, at this time, Jim was being hassled by a local cop. Jim would put his beer in a ditch between the bigger town where he bought the beer and their small home-town because he knew where the cops were most likely to stop him. If the cops found beer in the car they would confiscate it. This, of course, annoyed the group so Myrna decided to get back at the cop. Myrna invited the cop out to Dad’s official party at his parent’s house. She gave the cop a beer and posed on his lap for a picture so she could blackmail him into leaving Jim alone.

Dad & Myrna were the wild ones. Mom & Jim were more stable. Myrna married Jim and settled down. They were married for over fifty years until her death. Mom and Dad barely lasted five years together.

1 Comment

  1. Secret Revealed! | Solitary Spinster said,

    […] Fathers Day – here is a link to his birthday post that I wrote in […]

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