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Monday, June 18, 2007

a day late again

If my relationship with my mother is complicated, then the relationship with my father is relatively simple; we don't have one. At least, not one that's meaningful. After the birth of his first child, my dad decided that he wasn't interested in parenting after all, and so he didn't. (My mom and dad were married for almost 25 years before finally divorcing, in my opinion, about 24 years too late.) I grew up with him rooming in the basement as if he was a boarder, and I can count my memories of him from that time period on one hand. A couple of my siblings are completely estranged from him, a couple of them have sporadic contact, and I probably talk to him about twice a year (on Father's Day, and around his birthday which falls close to Christmas). Every year, like yesterday, I wonder why I even bother, but then go ahead and call him anyway. He usually seems pleased that I at least acknowledge the biological bond on this particular day, but after running out of things to say within ten minutes, we go back to our own lives.

Needless to say we don't have a "normal" (whatever that may be) father-daughter relationship, but then I don't know any better. As the youngest child in the family I sometimes think that it was probably harder on my older siblings, but I'm not sure. Why else the surge of anger every year at around this time? What I do know is that we were all affected, and that we didn't have the benefit of being witness to what a loving union is like. And that, I believe, is the best and most useful gift any parent can bestow on their kids: modelling a healthy relationship.

What I'm starting to realize though is that my dad is getting old (he's 81 now), and with him in frail health, I wonder how I'll react when he passes away. At this point I think I'd react to his death as if he were a stranger, which he is, and I'm beginning to question whether I need to resolve my feelings about his lack of parenting before he dies. Because if I don't, will whatever is unresolved come rushing back?


What about you? What is your relationship with your dad like? Care to share?

10 Comments:

Anonymous krissa said...

My relationship with my dad is probably the same as most father/daughters. We are not close, but we have no animosity or anything. My family is pretty dysfunctional, but I'm realizing that most families are. If you do have feelings that are unresolved, I think you have every right to address them with your father. He might surprise you and open up. The thing is, it seems to me that at least with my parents and I'm guessing many others, they won't face reality. There is an image of what was *supposed* to be, of what should have been and what they believe life should be - and that is the reality they choose to see. When someone is living in that kind of delusion, there's not much you can do to get to the heart of anything. For having grown up in your situation, you seem to be remarkably well-adjusted and insightful. I have three brothers, two of whom have baby daughters and I can see already what wonderful dads they are and I just know that my nieces are going to grow up in the security of loving, normal homes. That has helped me "get over" some of my own issues. ... I could go on and on, but I will leave room for someone else. My comment came out more lame than what I wanted to write. :(

June 19, 2007 6:19 AM

 
Blogger KJ's muse said...

Your comment wasn't lame at all Krissa! It was a very thoughtful response, and I thank you for it.

I think you're probably right about most families being screwed up, or at least, not as functional as we'd like them to be. Glad to hear that your nieces are off to a good start. It helps!

And um, for the record, I'm really not that well-adjusted and have major issues in most areas of my life, but hopefully don't bore blog readers with those too much. ;)

June 19, 2007 6:54 PM

 
Anonymous krissa said...

Well, you've got a good head on your shoulders and you are correct towards living creatures. At least you are a good person, issues or not. :) And you are self-aware. That's something that a lot of people aren't! Or they don't appear to be.

June 20, 2007 11:03 AM

 
Blogger LukeMeows / SissyTails / CooterDays said...

Screwed up is the new 'normal' don't you know! My dad slept on the couch downstairs starting when I was 3 years old. He worked a lot and I hardly saw him but every summer we went camping together in Niagara Falls. My mom moved out when I was 15 and I chose to live with him, I had thought I would eventually move in with her but I figured out that I'm a daddy's girl.(plus hate her boyfriend)
It was hard moving out actually, and it was hard on him too. But we see each other on a regular basis and talk on the phone every evening (mind you it's only to check in and never longer than 5 minutes)
My dad and I have a fun and yet frustrating relationship. He always knows just how to push my buttons and enjoys doing it too. I just threaten to put him in a home LOL He also loves to embarass me! I can't go shopping with him or I will kill him. But he's there for me when I need a helping hand. He has his secrets and I have to really pry to get answers out of him. We've had plenty of fight, he's a yell-er and therefore so am I, but there are never an grudges... I always tell people I got 3 things from my dad: my straight hair, my temper and my sneezing fits. I love the old man, what can I say!

June 20, 2007 12:26 PM

 
Blogger KJ's muse said...

Thanks Krissa.

And thank you, LSC (I'm lazy), for sharing your story. It's much appreciated, and it makes me feel like I know you a bit better. :)

Screwed up is the new 'normal' don't you know! Funny.

Your response though makes me wonder just how many "basement" or "downstairs couch" dads there really are! Maybe it happens more than I thought. But it sounds like you've fashioned a relationship with him that works well enough for the both of you, and that's nothing to be sneezed at I guess. Ha ha! Couldn't resist. ;)

Thanks again for sharing.

June 20, 2007 11:17 PM

 
Blogger Dakota said...

I had an amazing relationship with my Dad and was a real Daddy’s girl. We did almost everything together. He helped me with my homework; we went camping, shopping for Christmas trees, he gave great advice, we had tons of fun but most importantly he taught me how to value life.
Unfortunately he died 20 years ago and I still miss him every day. There is so much more I want to share, to know and learn from him but hey that is never going to happen :( Guess he’ll always be a bit of a mystery to me……

June 21, 2007 3:40 AM

 
Blogger Bogdan, the editor said...

I'm way late on this ...

My dad was a guest-bedroom dad...
He and my mother, I think, didn't divorce because they thought it would "scar" my brother and I. But, they never shared a bedroom. I don't know what is worse? BUT I was/am a daddy's girl. I remember many nights he would come home after work on Fridays (and after the bar ...) and we'd dance to Billy Idol. Those were my favorite days with him. Now, we talk politics for hours, and it's great. He's much more laid back in his older age. AND, if it weren't for him, I would have never moved 3,000 miles from home (D.C. to California) and have ended up so happy. I owe him that. He wanted me to do what I wanted, not what he wanted. I guess I have a fairly "normal" relationship with my dad ... my Mom? That's another story for many, many long blog posts.

And I agree with all of you ... no one has a "normal" home life.

June 21, 2007 3:52 AM

 
Blogger KJ's muse said...

Wow, what a great relationship you had with your dad, Dakota! You were very lucky. But I'm so sorry that it couldn't have been longer, and it must be hard missing him when the relationship was so good. Hugs to you!

Jen, it's never too late to respond, and yeah, my mom and dad stayed together for the sake of the kids too, which personally I think is a huge mistake for parents to make. But what a neat relationship you have with your dad now! Almost sounds more like a peer or friend.

Thanks everyone, for contributing thus far. Reading how it is and how it has been for others, somehow makes it easier to put my own situation in perspective.

June 21, 2007 9:34 PM

 
Anonymous krissa said...

WoW! What great posts! Mine seems empty now. My family was pretty "sterile". I do remember once when I was in First Grade, though, (that's about age 6 in the U.S.). My dad took my brother and me kite flying. My kite got away from me and it was clearly, clearly gone. My dad ran after my kite. He ran faster than I could then or now believe. He ran so fast and so far that we lost sight of him. He came back with my kite though. I have no idea how. I was really happy that day! :)

June 22, 2007 3:51 PM

 
Blogger KJ's muse said...

Not empty at all Krissa. But what a sweet memory of your dad getting the kite back! Thanks for adding it.

June 24, 2007 6:14 PM

 

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