Happy Father’s Day, all you fathers. May your day be sweet. May you forgive yourself for all the things, big and small, that cause you shame and suffering. May you be at peace.
In My Life, part 1
My relationship with fatherhood is complicated. It’s complicated in origin- my dad was a good man plagued by bad demons. He could not be the father he wanted to be. It’s complicated also in it’s fruition of the parenthood experience- I am the parent of a dead girl, a suicide. I can’t claim to have been the father I wanted to be.
My dad struggled. He was deeply guilty, shamed by his mistakes. For many years I resented him. It took me a long time to see him as a “man”- subject to error and utterly worthy of absolution. I am so glad I came to understand that before he died. I am so sorry he died so quickly that I didn’t get a chance to really tell him. In the end, I was proud of him for everything he endured and overcame. I pray he is at peace.
My sons would probably disagree with my eligibility to wear the above button. I would have to say that over all, I’ve done a good job; certainly the best I knew how. Still, in my heart, I feel that I have failed deeply in ways that are both vital and obscure.
Maybe we all fail. Maybe none of us can claim honestly
to have passed every test.
But wait! There’s more! In truth I have gained more peace as time moves along. Not just the peace of dimming memory but peace that comes from perspective. I see the essential rightness of even my worst mistakes. Like I said,
I was born in Tripler Army Hospital in Honolulu, Hawaii. My father was in the US Navy. He served aboard the class of ships referred to as “Destroyers”. His job, as a Gunner’s Mate and later a Chief Gunner’s Mate, eventually killed him. (He died over 30 years later from Mesothelioma). My dad was often gone during the first 5 years of my life. He would be “at sea”. That left my mom, bless her heart, to care for the 4 of us kids. She was tired. It was hard. It was probably harder and more tiring because she drank. Drinking enabled her to tune out my incessant crying (“colic”- my dad says I had the 6 month colic for 3 years but that it didn’t affect him much because he “would be at sea”.) My earliest memories are of standing in my crib, crying, and no one would come to pick me up or hold me. My oldest memories of my mom are of her seated at our cheap dining room table with a glass and a bottle of wine. Anyway, the thing is (this is the thing), I’ve been wanting to do some storytelling. As a subject, I find my life to have been extraordinarily interesting. This most likely means that it has been remarkably average. As average stories go, it has been chock full of twists, drama and dark humor; all the elements of a reasonably good strory. This is the start.
I just got a call from my oldest son. He lives near San Fransisco. He called to say “Happy Father’s Day”. I really can’t fault myself too much. He is the nicest, best, most gentle man I know. My younger son is also wonderful- smart, funny, creative and caring. They are both excellent men.