Saturday, June 22, 2013

Halphaned Myra

I know it’s not Father’s Day anymore; and I know it is definitely not Mother’s Day, but bear with me here.  First, I intended to post this on the day some people celebrate Father’s Day, but alas, like many of us who never forget the second Sunday in May but can’t remember the third Sunday in June, I got super busy and never got around to it.  Sorry, dads.  But you are used to the second class treatment, right!  Then I got even busier, then sick, and before you know it, it is a week later.  But you really didn’t ask all of that; plus since I celebrate Father’s Day every day, I’d say I’m right on target!!!

My reason for mentioning Mother’s Day is because I want to touch a little bit on my mother, so please, please bear with me again because if you have been reading my blog, you know how I feel about her.  

When she died suddenly and tragically over three decades ago, we also lost our father.  And yup, I WILL go out on a limb here and speak for my other five siblings, and say we definitely lost him too.  Sure he was still around, physically……well, sometimes.  And yes he still berated us……often times.  But emotionally, he was totally absent.

I don’t recall if it happened immediately.  And I know growing up in the 1970’s, fathers weren’t as hands-on as many of our men are today; but in a very short time, we kind of experienced what it must feel like to be orphans.  For years, we lived in that dysfunctional entity, and for most of my teenage years, if it wasn’t for my siblings, I would have felt totally all alone in this world.  I will now speak for myself only when I say this:  there were times when I fantasized about what life would have been like if my parents had just switched.  It’s not that I wished him any harm.  I just needed to dream about some kind of happiness, albeit unattainable.  Because right or wrong, I just knew in my heart if my Mommy was alive……..heck anything would have been better.

Most teenagers say they hate their parents, but I never said that.  Well, not that I recall.  I just didn’t feel any love for him because I didn’t feel like he loved or cared about us anymore.  I really didn’t feel hatred either, which was worse, because at least it would have been good if I felt something towards him.  At that point in my life, I just felt like the longer he stayed out of the house, the better for me.  And unfortunately, that was the extent of the emotions I felt for my own father.  I got used to having a father but not really having a father, and that was fine by me. 

Whenever anyone asked about my parents, I would say I’m a half orphan.  Depending on how close I felt towards the person, I would joke that I was an orphan.  For some reason, the shock on their faces always made me laugh.  (Hey, I never said losing my parents tragically never affected my mind!) But the way I saw it, I would eventually grow up, move out, be my own woman and he wouldn’t be able to tell me shit.  I would just stay out of his hair for the next decade or so and everyone knows how fast time flies; before you know it I would be working and wouldn’t have to deal with him again.

Or, that’s what I told myself……..

Because one day, cannot remember what provoked it, my father had a meltdown and burst into tears.  When my sister and I saw, we instinctively held him and cried with him.  And at that moment, it dawned on me.  This man does care about the relationship or lack of relationship he had with his children.  This man does care for his children.  This man does love his children.  This man was just lost.  This man was just scared.  This man was just in agony.

See, when we lost our mother, we still had each other; but our poor father had no one.  He was left to take care of his wife’s six children alone, and to make matters worse, five of them were girls.  What was he going to do?  He had no clue!  But instead of being vulnerable and saying something like, “Kids, I am lost without your mother.  I am going to need a lot of help from you guys to get through this.  I’m going to need you as much as you are going to need me.”  He decided to be Mr. Macho Man.  I don’t know who he thought he was impressing, because it wasn’t us.

He had lost the love of his life.  He had lost his better half.  He had lost his soul mate.  But us being kids, that was lost to us.  As kids, we just wanted to know that we still had one parent.  We were not thinking about a lover’s loss; we were thinking about a child’s loss.  As the parent, we expected him to know what the heck he was doing and what the heck was going to happen; but it is impossible for people to do things that they are incapable of doing because they never learned how to.  They can only do what they know.

People often say actions speak louder than words.  There is a lot of truth to that; but words speak real loudly too.  I cannot recall one kind word that man spoke when the fear of raising six kids alone overtook him.  He tried to rule with an iron fist instead of a warm heart.  We were well raised not to do anything to embarrass our parents and even in her death, no one was going to do disappoint our mother.  Unfortunately my father must not have known that.  Because he did not communicate.  He did not ask.  Fear might have kept us from doing anything to upset him, but it also kept us from having a relationship with him, when we needed him most and vice versa.

Ultimately we were able to put that past behind us and enjoy reasonably good relationships with him as adults, but for fathers out there who are afraid to be vulnerable with your children, don’t.  Believe me, they will respect and love you more.  I’m not saying to do it every time, but seeing my father cry and seeing him be a bully, after so many years, the former still warms my heart more than the latter garnered fear.  Seeing him cry proved to me that he was man enough to connect with his feelings and not fight them.

People will do things only when they are ready or when their backs are against the wall, therefore I won’t bother appealing to any man out there who is parenting in a distant, oppressive, domineering way.  After all, you may or may not know who you are.  However, watch the fathers that parent in a loving, communicative, gentle manner; watch what kind of adults their children grow up to be because perspectively speaking, those are the children who are usually on their way to being successful and happy.