Older image of my father receiving his masters in Software Engineering.
Not fatherless, but fatherless
In the emotional wake of Fathers Day, i thought the best thing i can do for myself and for those i share this with, is to be honest, in the hopes that by getting this out, i will not only ease my own heart and mind, but perhaps someone else will connect to my experience and, in turn, not feel so alone, in theirs.
When i was younger, i took my absentee father’s approach to parenting (although always present to dole out the heavy discipline) personally. Despite having little in common with my father, i admired his emotional self-sufficiency, his intellect and while a bit nerdy looking, my dad had a smile that lit up his whole face. He was also eccentric, which i found curious and fascinating.
I failed in my impish efforts to win his approval, praise and respect. He found my sensitivity annoying to deal with, my fast-paced mind, bothersome and my inquisitive nature, irriatating. The only thing we seemed to share was a love of solitude, emotional self-sufficiency and a quirky nature.
As a child, it was painful to be repeatedly rejected by my father, whom i adored and loved, unconditionally. He would seek solitary sanctuary in his den with his door closed. In his den he had a big stash of science fiction, “The Kinsey Institute” books/studies, his beloved flight simulator and all his computer wares.
Much of the time he was away on travel, working for the FAA. When he wasn’t doing that he was out flying in his Cessna. When he had to be home, i remember he would stay in his den most of the time but would come out for meals. He addressed my fraternal twin sister and i as colleagues, always referring to us by our proper names and in the kind of tone you would take with a business associate. There were no, “hi honey” or “i love you’s”. I never saw my dad exhibit compassion except when it came to animals. Why wasn’t i worthy of his love and acceptance? It would take me 30 some years to figure that out…
So i don’t have any kind of real relationship with my father. I know of him, where he lives and the things he is passionate about. I also know my sister and i were planned, but came into the world at once, as fraternal twins, rather than two years apart, as my parents had initially intended. BUT… i also know my father brought us into the world to appease my mother, who wanted built-in praise and unconditional love and was sadly disappointed when we came into the world with our own ideas and identities.
My parents divorced my senior year of highschool. It was at that time that my dad admitted he married my mom far too young and for the wrong reasons, for her physical beauty. She wouldn’t be with him unless they were married, FIRST. So… eventually, he caved.
My father is hyper-intellectual and emotionally detached. He loves the tangibles, science, aviation, politics and software engineering. So if he were to have a daughter he could enjoy spending time with, it would be a woman about as far away from me, as one could get. As i am everything he isn’t; abstract, non-linear, emotional, sensitive, intuitive and empathic.
He makes no apologies for his approach to life and describes himself as materialistic, having no qualms about enjoying the finer things in life. He does have an extravagant and cushy lifetyle. His masters in Software Engineering has served him well in his career and financially. He is an honest person, living his definition of happiness.
I just happen to be quite different. I believe in a simplistic existence and less-is-more, mentality. My interests are art, music and just about anything creative. I am not about materialism or instant gratification and am much more about seeking the everlasting kind of peace that comes with living and seeking, fulfillment.
It would be easy to villianize my father, he didn’t protect my sister and i from unspeakable abuse. He was not our protector, encourager, his absence was so painful and his discipline extreme. But i love him too much to do that. There is another perspective to view my father from. He was a good provider for my mother, she wanted for nothing, he gave her financial security, a home to call her own and a reliable car. He had good medical insurance/coverage. My mother never had to worry about finances or getting medical care. She was in and out of the hospital a lot. So i am sure she was grateful she could count on that kind of security and stability, from my father.
My father pursued his passion for aviation, for software engineering and found a way to combine the two into a career with the FAA, later branching out into his own consulting and certification business. He makes no apologies for who he is and does not care what anyone else thinks. He is his own person. He is a great storyteller and has a way with people despite being a natural introvert and preferring to not be socially obligated to others. People just love to be around my dad. My father is open-minded. Something i appreciate but didn’t realize fully, until he left the Mormon church, my senior year of high school. It was at that time, he came out as an agnostic and stopped, “faking religion” and finally felt free to express his personal views and opinions.
He came from a physically and emotionally abusive upbringing. His own father was short-tempered and violent. His father was raised in an orphanage, and wasn’t shown a lot of love or tenderness. So, perhaps my dad shut-down emotionally to cope with the abuse he endured. And though my dad’s discpline methods were a bit brutal and questionable, they weren’t as extreme as his father’s and he did the best he knew how to do. He didn’t have the best example. But i had no idea of this until we were at his father’s funeral. My sister and were holding back tears of grief. So I was shocked when my Dad said (later at dinner with extended family), “I’m glad the bastards dead”. My jaw dropped. My sister and i had fond memories of our grandpa. He was so good to us, so kind and fun to be around. Nothing like the terror of a man my father described. And he did tell us some pretty heavy things about Grandpa, that day.
Both of my parents favored my sister because she was quiet, “normal” and easy to deal with/relate to. She was the golden child. And i think it helped that my sister did not resemble my mother, at all. To this day, my father still can’t see me clearly. I used to drive myself nuts wondering why he couldn’t see me, as i am. But one day, the answer hit me, in a rare dinner out with him, he looked at me and said, “You look exactly like a younger version of your mother, when she was thin.” Physical resemblance is powerful and i think subconsciously or unconsciously he sees his ex-wife when he looks at me and that can’t be comfortable. But my mother is a whole other story, i will get into, some other time.
Understanding breeds tolerance and compassion. So when i think of my father, today, it’s not that the pain doesn’t come up but i know what to do with it and i can put it in perspective and not take everything as personally, as i used to. Because much of the lacking father/daughter bond was in spite of me and not because of me.
My father speaks highly of our two younger cousins, his brothers two daughters, of whom, are just a few years younger than my sister and i. And he visits his girlfriend of twenty two years, daughter, regularly, even though she lives out of state and is about the same age as me. He tells me he doesn’t believe in holidays but he does spend them with his girlfriend and her family, flying back home, to her home state.
I used to wonder why he could lavish his girlfriends daughter with gifts, time on the holidays, going out together and not me? But he doesn’t have the baggage he has with me, the dark history, the mistakes. He’s never really owned his role in how my sister and i were abused, growing up. I’ve tried to get that validation from him, a few times. It’s just not going to happen, so i finally let go of that hope. And had to approach closure from a different angle that didn’t include him, or my mother, for that matter. My sister said, “When he divorced mom, he divorced us.” But the split from us was felt long before their divorce.
If i take the word, “dad” out of the equation, i see a man that followed his dreams and is living his definition of happiness. He takes good care of his girlfriend, his mother and is good to my sister’s daughter, his grandchild. Plenty of people are breathing easier due to his help and assistance. He is a very good teacher and has flown all over the world teaching others the proper techniques for certifying the software on airplanes, which in turn, keeps people safer in flight and in their travels.
And while it’s tempting to put my father on a pedestal, at the end of the day, he is just as human and fallible, as i am. And although he may not be able to receive it, i love him dearly and always will. Still… some tiny little part of me fantasizes that someday he will be proud of my artistic ways, proud of my art. Stranger things have happened!
There were some positives to be gleaned from the experiences i had with my father and i share them here in my companion piece to this journal entry:
Fragments of my father . . .