It seems predictable to write about your father on Father’s day, I know this. I know a lot of people will post tributes and memories and I will read them and tear up. I can’t do that. Take no insult but I find praising him today a little too, I don’t know, pedestrian. I love my father. I don’t need a specific day for that. What I need lately is permission to live outside of his gaze.
Growing up, I was a daddy’s girl. Like so many girls, I believed my dad could do no wrong. My dad made birthday cakes and danced with my feet atop his. He painted my toenails and tucked me in. He taught me to ride a bike (after accidentally landing on top of me and said bicycle). He taught me to speak up for myself, to have legible penmanship, to tie my shoes and spell my last name. (Probably harder than the bike lesson) He gave me my love of the theater and of music. He laughed at my performances, showered me with raspberry kisses.
He taught me to lie. I learned as a kid from my father that you made things sound good, or better. He was raised in a house where you kept up appearances. I picked up on that early.
I know there have been a number of times when I disappointed my father.
When it was rumored that I was having an affair with a faculty member in high school.
When I went from a straight ‘A’ student to one floundering to do well in a particular class.
When I stole money from my parents.
When I left for a trip with nothing but a quick scrawled note about when I’d return.
When I left my first job.
Then I got to the point where my dad started to disappoint me.
The time he called my sister a waste of sperm. I couldn’t to this day tell you what they were arguing about so vehemently, I only heard his retort to something she said. From a man who never raised his voice, who always let my mother play “the “bad guy”, this was unexpected. Truth be told, I’m sure that lives on in my sister’s memory and contributes to the odd relationship she has with our father.
The way he’d tell someone he knew things about you that were wrong. Inflated your position at work, downplayed your heartbreak, fabricated something you’d done. You’d be left in the awkwardness of outing your father or lying to a stranger.
A few years ago, it got sticky. Ooh, wait, bad choice of words. My father borrowed my laptop to submit resumes for jobs. I found an email to a mens group. My father knew I had access to his email, not for the sake of snooping, but because I set up the account. I monitored it as well since my parents don’t have a computer at home. I deleted the email and tried to forget about it.
Jokes were made in middle school regarding my father’s speaking voice, stylish dressing, etc. It seemed ridiculous to me at the time. Of course my dad wasn’t gay. He was married! It’s funny how we can reduce things to black and white at that age. Not shy, pretty open minded, still, I wondered why he didn’t hide it better. I never told him I knew, or anyone else for that matter.
But my dad? My dad is the reason I’m still married. My parents were “high school sweethearts”. Married seven years after high school, they are full of storybook lines.
About how my mother knew he loved him when she saw him rock a baby….
They never knew each other until senior year. During a rehearsal, the choir director’s child cried and my mother had her solo. He quieted the crying while my mother performed. She then pursued him relentlessly and they dated on and off for years.
About how he knew he just “had” to marry my mom…
After returning from Italy on vacation without her, he knew he didn’t want to spend two weeks without her ever again.
There’s more, but it amounts to one fact. Their marriage is pretty damn hard to live up to. Married for decades, they seem a perfect example, even knowing what I know. They are kind to each other, affectionate towards one another, considerate of the other’s feelings. They enjoy the same things, enjoy each other’s company. Their personalities balance out well.
While I have feelings of guilt and obligation towards my husband, I have just as many towards my parents. They absolutely adore my husband. Me divorcing him would be a betrayal to them. They don’t believe people should get divorced. That people give up, after promising to do whatever it takes to make a marriage work, they find reprehensible. They would never understand my marriage, much like I can only see theirs from the perspective of being their child.
When I told my mother & father that we may not have children, he shrugged and said we’d find a way or make do. When I shared that I had lost a baby, they were relieved, since they thought I was too young and we weren’t ready. When I told them we were having a hard time, they attributed it to circumstances and told me to suck it up. When I shared my worries about moving here, he told me it was what I had to do, for my husband and my marriage. My parents, but especially my father, come from a long line of sufferers. If you have to suffer through it, that’s just what you do.
My father never saw me cry during the whole cancer thing, because I didn’t want to let him down. My father has never heard me rage at life as an adult, because that would be letting him down. My father doesn’t know my marriage has become a mess, because I don’t want to let him down.
My life is a reflection of his, he told me in the third grade. I remember the speech word for word. I still live every day as if he might walk in and judge the very girl he raised not to care about other people’s opinions.