Monday, June 22, 2009

Father's Day

Father's Day is not a day that fills me with all sorts of Hallmark feelings. I love my dad. I am thankful for what good he did display. I respect his position as my father. All of those have been conscious acts of will. I have chosen very deliberately to cultivate those attitudes after a lot of soul searching. He is a very difficult and harsh man. I chose to forgive the ways he hurt our family even though he felt no need to apologize or seek forgiveness. I had to for my own sake more than for his. There have been times when I've had to set some very clear boundaries too and know he might choose to walk away. Fortunately, he decided to respect them. We've managed to build a decent relationship and accept each other as we are. I am glad for that.

All that said, I have to credit my mom with equipping me to be able to do a lot of that. She was very clearly wronged in a number of ways by my dad. In spite of that she refused to descend into bitterness or undermine Dad in the eyes of her children. Regardless of whatever occurred between the two of them, we kids were expected to show Dad respect simply because he was our father. I never told her the ways he'd run her down when we went for visits with him but I noticed the difference between the two of them even when I was very young. I saw her integrity very early.

I remember being in college and taking the time to go over and visit Dad for Father's Day. When I told Mom where I was going she raised her hands in victory and said, "Yes! I succeeded!" I was confounded as to what she could possibly mean so I asked what this display was all about. She explained that one of her biggest goals was to do everything she could to foster a good relationship between her kids and their father. She said she didn't want what he had done to her to poison our relationship with him. She had hoped when my brother and I grew up we'd take steps to show we still wanted to be around dad. We had all seen the way an aunt and cousins had completely cut out their dad and his side of the family when divorce tore them apart. We had all seen how many times over the devastation spread as a result. My mom didn't want to repeat that terrible magnification of sadness and pain in her own family. That I would voluntarily choose to go see my dad on Father's Day meant to Mom she had reached her goal. I gained even more respect for her that day than I already had.

Recently, another difference has become glaringly obvious.

When Dad left, Mom's only marketable skill was as a seamstress. When she couldn't generate enough income from her own dressmaking she went to work in a nearby garment factory that was close enough to walk to when the car was in the shop. She was regularly cheated out of wages. My brother and I got free lunches at school because of our economic situation. I never knew until years later that we actually qualified for food stamps but when Mom received them she couldn't bring herself to use them. She returned them saying, "Give this to someone who needs it more than I do." She kept us fed and dressed through other means. She is still the most resourceful woman I know and the most adept at managing limited amounts of money. In fact, even though we lived on the edge she somehow managed to save enough money for a family trip to Texas to visit friends of hers just 3 years after Dad left. The house she bought with her share of what was left from selling the house she and Dad owned was a disaster. The upstairs had no heat or electricity and had holes in some of the walls. She bartered her seamstress skills and willingness to babysit for the carpentry skills of a friend who was willing to teach her how to frame, insulate, run wire, and hang drywall. They worked together to improve the house and my brother and I were expected to assist the process by carrying lumber and supplies or by holding things in place. Any ability I have to stretch a dollar I credit to her. Any willingness I have to learn a new skill that will be useful or make me more self-sufficient is because I saw her successfully do the same.

At the beginning of the year my Dad's position at his company was eliminated. For all of my adult life he has made a very comfortable living at this company and complained at every turn about the incompetence of his bosses, the board, anyone over him. When his position was cut Dad was offered a year's full salary as severance. Since he is of age he is also collecting full Social Security and his pension. Unlike so many others who have recently lost jobs (my brother among them. His position as eliminated in November. He has sent out over 95 resumes and been on a number of interviews since then and still has no job.), Dad is making out better after being downsized than he ever did while employed. The day he got the news he took time to email my brother and me (He never emails us except to share his travel itinerary if the company sent him to some far flung location.) to know he had "finally beaten the company and gotten them to pay him to go away." I can be glad for him. He worked hard for the same company for 42 years and gave his best effort even when it seemed clear the company was trying to run itself into the ground. However, he also found out that in Pennsylvania it is legal for him to collect unemployment. He is doing so most gleefully. Personally, I find it rather unethical that he would even file an unemployment claim. I find it reprehensible that he would cash the unemployment check. When I called him for Father's Day this time he once again related his joy over this great windfall and shared the dollar amount they send him every week. Suffice it to say his unemployment checks alone are more than the salary is for the library job I applied for and he's getting full salary, Social Security, and pension on top of all this. It kind of boggles the mind.

Happy Father's Day, Dad. You seem to have gotten what you wanted though for all the wealth you've amassed and continue to gain you seem rather poor.

Happy Father's Day, Mom. You got what you wanted too...and what you wanted is of far greater value. Thank you for teaching me that. It makes me rich in ways not reflected on my bank statement.

Happy Father's Day to the men who are fathers in the best sense of the word, those who value, nurture, and guide the children in their sphere of influence in a wise and loving way. I include those men who have not actually fathered a child but who still take their position of influence in a child's life seriously and give of themselves for the betterment of that child.


G-Man said...

I knew we would get a wonderfully typical 'Holiday' post from Lime..

Loved it....G

furiousBall said...

hang on, i need to get back to showing the kids how to toss cats down the slip n' slide

Jazz said...

Vintage Lime. Beautiful post.

Shadow said...

the two people who influence us the most in life. our mother and father. and now that i'm one of those, this responsibility can lie quite heavily on my shoulders. yet i've noticed, that when i relax and have fun in daily living, the responsibility become less that, and more of a pleasure and a privilege... good thoughts, so honest, nice post!

Desmond Jones said...

Beautiful post, Lime. Thank you for this.

Your choosing to 'honor your father', even when he might not be so terribly 'honorable' speaks to your own character.

And, of course, your mom's. What an incredibly wise woman - and wise enough to override her own emotions. One doesn't run into that very often these days, and great is your good fortune to have that in your mother. . .

Ananda girl said...

A very touching post, lime. Thanks for sharing it.

S said...

I honoured my father in my post too, as you can see. Thank goodness for Mark Leslie, he did all the hard work for me.


Craver Vii said...

As I read this, my heart was filled with gratitude for my wife, who has helped train me to become a better husband and father. Sure, I look to men for example, but wives have a special insight that we are wise to heed. She notices things and makes suggestions for doing stuff with the family like, "If you're going to the store, why not take one of the kids with you... just to spend time together."

I have never heard a man's last words to be, "I regret that I did not spend more time at the office." I hope your father's eyes are opened to the highest priorities, and that future rejoicing overcomes grief and lament.

for a different kind of girl said...

What everyone else has said, with a bit of a sigh tossed in. You're a far, far richer person than your Dad, as he fills his coffers, will ever be.

lime said...

gman, thanks :)

furiousball, that's what cats were made for, isn't it?

jaz, thank you

shadow, those are wise observations. thanks for sharing them :)

desmond, i am so very grateful for my mom's choices in that regard.

ananda, i'm glad you enjoyed it

s, lol, wickedly funny post.

craver, i think you and your wife are blessed in the way you value each other and help each other grow. i do hope my dad's eyes are opened to many things before it's too late too. thank you.

fadkog, thanks. i take mom as an example and dad as a warning. an odd balance , but there it is.

Cocotte said...

Uplifting (your mom) and incredibly sad (your dad).

Anonymous said...

You are admirable for being so strong and accepting with your father, I hope I too can come to that.

Suldog said...

Happy Fathers Day to those in your life who fulfilled the role, Lime!

(Oh, and you should be getting your little surprise in the mail tomorrow or so. Enjoy!)

snowelf said...

Lime, it was almost eerie to read this...your parents remind me of me and my husband. Our relationship was just so very much like theirs. My biggest hope is that my daughter and son turn out the same way you and your brother did. My daughter told me that she wanted to get me a present for father's day because since we didn't have a dad, I should get two days since I have to be both parents.


lime said...

cocotte, that's pretty much how i see it too

solitaire, i pray for whatever grace and forgiveness you need in order to be at peace. it's not always an easy road.

suldog, i'm grateful for them. and thank you for being such a very cool uncle to the children in your life.

snowelf, the insight of your daughter should give you a lot of hope. she already understands a very important truth. made me choke up a bit...i'm sure it did you too.

NYD said...

Parenthood can be a crappy job too. Sometimes it comes to you even when you didn't even ask for it.

Children begin by loving their parents; as they grow older they judge them; sometimes they forgive them. ~Oscar Wilde.


lime said...

nyd, yes, it can be crappy and thankless at times. given that i am adopted though there were specific acts of will involved in my parents attaining that status. ;)

secret agent woman said...

I made a similarconsciuos decision to forgive and loove my father, and we managed to build a fairly decent adult relationship. Unfortunately, his current wife had other plans.

Jeni said...

Because I never knew my own Dad as he died when I was less than three weeks old, I always wanted my kids to have two parents to help raise them. However, that wasn't what they got. Instead they got just me and a father who was alcoholic along with being more than a bit abusive at times too. But even so, I tried to teach my children to understand although it might not seem that way to them at times, but that their Dad was sick and actually, that he loved them. I didn't want them and their relationship in the future with him to be colored totally by my own anger and bitterness at times. Thankfully, 18 years ago this fall, their father decided to stop drinking. It took a good bit of time and three grandchildren too along those years for my kids to develop a decent relationship with their father, but they have, for the most part, done that. Yeah, he still does things that are very selfish from time to time, but he does try to be a bit of the father he should have been all along to them as much as he is possible to do. I can talk to him now in a civilized fashion -even disagree with him too now and again -and I'm glad for that too. But mostly, I'm happy that my kids are able to comprehend there were errors on my part too that split us and they accept him today as he is -or maybe I should say, Warts and all! Teaching a child to be angry, bitter, and having only those emotions towards their own parent is just wrong, in my opinion. Kudos to your Mother for having the understanding that to do differently than she did would have damaged you and your brother and generations to come too in so many ways. A great post, Lime -very much so.

Jocelyn said...

You do this, you know: you make me love you more, when I thought I was already maxed out.

Thank you for not over-sentimentalizing or going all schmoozy; the affection you are able to feel for your dad rings all the more true for that.

Fat, frumpy and fifty... said...

lovely post, great sentiments

lime said...

sa woman, i am so sorry to hear the hard work you did to gain a decent relationship with your dad was undermined by someone else.

jeni, kudos to you for also making a very difficult but wise decision.

jocelyn, yer makin' me blush

fff, thank you

RennyBA said...

This was a special, personal, touching and readable post Lime - I like your stile - thanks for sharing!

.. and thanks for the greetings too :-)

Hilary said...

This was such a beautifully written post and so typical of you. You have a wonderful way of taking the best out of a bad situation. Your children will benefit from your insight just as you did from your mother's ethic.

WonderousWomanRetreat said...

Dear friend,

Consider to join us for A Wonderous Woman Retreat
on August 13,14,and 15

The Wonderous Woman retreat program leads and encourages every woman to connect to all facets of her purpose and value. Our approach is to create experiential retreats in beautiful venues where you can connect to your mind, body and spirit.

It's easy to take care of everyone else in our lives, but we tend to forget about ourselves.