Sunday, June 18, 2017

Fathers' Day Meditation: How the Curse Was Vanquished

Growing up ain't easy for nobody. Didn't you ever wonder why Tom and Sid Sawyer were being raised by Aunt Becky?
So, I'm not trying to say my sneaky passage into adulthood was any better or worse than anybody else I know. I just know it had all the bad stuff I wanted, thank you very much. Plenty of good stuff! Yes indeed! But my older sister and I were unique on that little dirt road in Macon, GA, in the early 1950's because we were the only kids living with a single mom.
However, we were ASTOUNDINGLY fortunate to be living in one side of a rental duplex right next door to the house where my mom grew up, and where my grandmother and grandfather still lived. So, when my mom went to work, my sister and I went next door, and that's how childcare worked in the country in Georgia in the early/mid 50s.
And therefore, the only father I had, to speak of, for the first five years of my life was my grandfather, William (Bill) Jordan Paulette. He worked for the railroad, and delivered the mail, and was a Primitive Baptist preacher. He took me fishing, and to baseball games held at Luther Williams field at Central City Park. He told me stories, and sang ridiculous songs. We sat on the porch in the hot summer evenings (this was LONG before air conditioning). He could only tolerate me swinging with him for a short time, because I wanted to go HIGH! and he just wanted to relax. But he WOULD tolerate that short time.
My biological father wasn't ENTIRELY removed from my life. He lived in faraway Atlanta, and I believe the arrangements were that he got to take my sister and I for one weekend, every two months; two weeks in the summer, and every other Christmas. I don't remember much about those visits.
In 1959, my mother married again, and for the first time in my life, I had a live-in father figure. It was great! At first. Then, not so much, for the next many, many years.
Also in 1959, my father remarried, and with the new bride came stability: a house in the suburbs, two new little brothers. I got to know my father in a little more depth. It was not a very successful relationship.
But, as an adult, you have obligations. So, every Fathers' Day, I'd buy three cards. One went to my grandfather; it was the most expensive, sentimental card I could find. The other two went to my bio-father and step-father, and were just as plain and simple as could be.
In 1975, my grandfather died while I was in the Army, stationed in Germany. Tore me to pieces. A few months after that, it was Fathers' Day again; I went to the PX, and looked at the card offerings, and thought, "I only have to buy two this year." I guess I bought them. I guess I bought other cards for other years. And sometimes, I used the occasion to try to make an approach. I remember one card said "A father is someone who a son always looks up to, no matter how tall he gets." That one made me want to throw up a little bit, but I sent it.
But, essentially for me, after 1975, Fathers' Day was over. I resented the fact that it was on the calendar. I wondered if there might be a niche for "Toxic Greeting Cards: When You Really Want Them To Know What You Think Of Them." I drew sample cards out in my head, when Fathers' Day came around.
One said "Father, All that I have accomplished, All that I am, All the wealth I have accumulated: None of it is due to you!"
There was one that said : "Fathers' Day! : Just think of all you threw away!"
And it seem like there was another one that said something like "Because it's Fathers' Day, I have to get you a card: This is it."

Even when I had kids of my own, I still hated Fathers' Day. In fact, I didn't like ANY holiday. That wasn't due to any religious belief; I didn't like Fathers' Day because I didn't have a good impression of fathers (with some GREAT exceptions!) I didn't like Christmas because we spent most of our adult life making it on one income, and didn't have much money to spend on Christmas presents. And I didn't want my birthday noted, because I didn't want MY kids to feel compelled to give me something, just because.

Yes, I WAS known as the Grinch.

(Parenthetical note: in the last days, both my bio father and my stepfather reached out to me in very authentic ways, and we forgave each other for the bad. It was greatly healing. Didn't save the holiday, though.)

But: I'm a little bit okay, now. A little bit. How did that happen?

In 2011, I married my gift-from-God, happily-ever-after trophy wife Vanessa, the elegant, foxy, praying black grandmother of Woodstock, GA. And so, at age 58, I found myself a father again, this time to a 5 year old girl, and a 6 year old boy. They were Vanessa's grandchildren, and we are raising them.

Vanessa already knew I didn't like holidays, because I told her.
Actually, Christmas was redeemed, but that's another story.
She fussed at me about not liking my birthday.
BUT! When Fathers' Day came around, and I was starting to make noises about not wanting any observation, she put her fists on her hips, and spoke energetically to me.

"You listen to me!" One hand comes off her hip. A finger extends from the fist, and waves under my nose. "You are going to shut your mouth, and you are going to let those children give you presents for Fathers' Day! This doesn't have anything to do about what you like and what you don't like. This is for Kenneth and Alicia, and you ARE going to accept whatever they give you, and you are going to appreciate it! Do I make myself clear?" 

The finger withdrew into the fist. The fist remained alarmingly close to my nose. I could read the message without glasses.

"Okay, dear, I get your point. I'll be good."

And so, now it's okay. It's not that I look forward to it or anything, but I DO so appreciate the lovely messages I get on Fathers' Day. I boast "I have 10 children and 11 grandchildren, and number 12 will be here next month!"

And the ONLY purpose that the memories of the old pain and resentment serve, is to remind me that I don't have them any more.

Peace be on your house, and Happy Fathers' Day!


  1. I decided not to be scarred by the fact that you were anti-holiday basically all of my life. I didn't know until the recent past why, but I DID know it wasn't anything I had done. Because I am who I am, I have forced gifts and extra affection on you on those days, cuz I don't care if you don't care about those days. But I also have, in the past few years, tried to make sure you know how very special you are to me every day, not just on certain holidays. I thank God that you became the wonderful father you are to me despite the mainly poor examples you had. They taught you how NOT to do it. I am so very blessed to be your only Beautifuful Princess, and to be the mother of 2 of your grandchildren, one of whom is named after your grandfather who I know meant the world to you. I am glad that you got put in your place by the best stepmama I could have ever asked for. About dang time.

  2. That was a lovely post. One I could relate to in many ways. Thank you.