Friday, April 3, 2009


Well, they've finally painted the torn up kitchen and soon I will be able to put my kitchen back into order. The painter was still here when hubby came home and announced to me that his father had died the day before. Not his beloved stepdad, but his biological father. I was shocked to say the least, but he seems to have taken the news in stride. I was more upset about it because I had never met him, only spoke to him briefly on the phone. DH said he never had anything good to say about our marriage, but I don't care. If it wasn't for him, DH wouldn't have been here. That counts for something, doesn't it? Even a little bit?

He really considered his father to be a failure in the parent department and his parents had divorced when he was quite young. He doesn't have any fond memories of him at all. I often thought that had he become a dad himself he would have found some sort of understanding or healing. If he had had a better experience would he have wanted kids earlier on in our relationship? Who knows? He has told me that he did take the opportunity years ago to tell his father what he really thought of him and often told me I should do the same with my own father. I have pretty much the same feelings but I never did find the nerve to confront my dad. I've only seen him a couple of times in 10 years or so. The only involvement he's had in the past 2 decades have been ...hmmm..... subliminal.

Some time after his 2nd marriage imploded (never met her, had a child) he expressed interest in getting back together with my mum. I told him point blank that I'd prefer to see her six feet under before that happened. Yes, I used those exact words. He didn't get it. You have to understand, my parents are West Indian. In their generation, you raised your kids through fear and shame. Respect was automatically given to them and you had to earn yours. His idea of parenting was paying the mortgage and putting food on the table. Your opinion of anything wasn't required. He had girls with my mum which he promptly left her to decide what to do with. I don't think he knew what to do with us once we hit puberty.

Later, he had turned up unexpectedly years ago in the States (married to #3, never met her) when we went to visit my sister and I was so taken aback, I used hubby as a buffer. You know, the let's go to dinner and talk about our happy life kind of thing. I can fake it with the best of them. And thousands of miles between us only made it easier. I guess I'll hear about my father's death too one day and I'm sure the news will travel through the grapevine and I'll be left feeling cheated. He has other children who never had him growing up and those are the ones that talk to him now. I had sent him a sympathy card when my beloved grandmother (he wasn't the one that told me) passed away but he never acknowledged receiving it. I've forgiven him his faults, but I never got to tell him how I really felt. He never asked and seemed to studiously avoid being alone with me. Definitely a family habit. He seemed so old and fragile and I was more afraid of not being understood than his feelings being hurt. I was never convinced that telling him that he had failed me and my sisters was going accomplish anything. In fact, maybe that was never the correct message.

My whole life I've pretty much done everything on my own, without guidance, but I survived. I learned. My sister and I wished Bill Cosby was our dad. I don't mean the real man, but at least the Dr. Huxtable TV version. My dad was "there" the whole time we were growing up, but he wasn't really present if you know what I mean. He was much better at criticizing, ignoring, negating you more than anything. I'm sure there were laughs in there somewhere, but he cut such a swatch of destruction through our lives, that it was much more peaceful without him. I was the kid who wanted my parents to get divorced. From him, I learned that men were unreliable, unpredictable, not to be trusted. I'm sure he's wondered why I married a white guy, but he really shouldn't. I didn't want to be near anyone that even remotely resembled him. The joke was on me cause I still managed to find guys who behaved very much like him.

I've heard of strange things - families getting together for "family meetings", families going on vacation together, married people actually staying together because they want to, yelling at each other and still talking to one another, saying I love you out loud, sisters actually enjoying each other's company - folklore, I tell you, fairy tales! Yet having lived in big girl panties for years now, I realize that I am responsible for healing my own life, overcoming my family dysfunction and releasing them from blame. I understand where my issues come from, had some lovely therapy, but I'm not interested in raking anyone over the coals. I'm a little busy. Finding joy is a full time job.


OHN said...

"he cut such a swatch of destruction through our lives"---this line is the best one I have ever heard from someone who had to deal with a father who really wasn't a dad.

On my 27th birthday,we had two people over for dinner, a friend of mine and a friend of hubby's...I was playing matchmaker. Things weren't going that chemistry and the silences were horrid.

Then the phone rang with the news that my father had died. When I came back to the dining room, hubby asked me who was on the phone, I told him, the other two people were stunned into even more silence, offered to leave, and I wouldn't let them.

My father had not been in my life and the only reason I cried, was because I was pissed he was never interested enough to find out how terrific I had turned out.

A swatch of destruction..indeed.

Beautiful Mess said...

It's hard to heal ourselves, but it CAN be done! I did it, it wasn't easy, but I did do it. I had to give myself permission to feel hurt even though it was YEARS ago. I had to stomp my feet and throw a little hissy fit. But once I did that, I felt a lot better. I do believe it's a never ending process, but once you get past that one wall, your good to go! You're an amazing woman and I have faith in you. You rock, my dear!

annacyclopedia said...

Oh, sweetheart! I love this post and I love your spirit. I have had similar thoughts in terms of claiming responsibility for my own journey. I am still in the process of figuring out some of what my family history means for my life, although a lot of the dysfunction in my family is another generation back, with my grandparents and what my parents had to face growing up, but of course there are consequences from that that I do feel deeply in my own life. I truly believe that no matter what our inheritance is, at some point, we do have to make some measure of peace with our past because otherwise it holds us back from so many important things. It is beautiful to hear how you and your hubby have both done that, in different ways.

This post also reminds me, as you did a few weeks ago after we met, to treasure my own dad. And I want you to know that I really, really do, and because I know from your telling your story, and from other friends in my life sharing theirs, I don't take it for granted that I have such a wonderful father.

The last line of this post just took my breath away. May you be repaid for all your hard work with joy beyond your wildest imagination.

Erin said...

I often wonder what I will feel when I learn that my own father has died. It's hard to imagine that I would be completely immune to tears because I cry for no reason and any reason, and yet I think if I do cry it will because I'm mourning something I never got to have and that is "Normal Dad". The one that takes you to father daughter dances, scares your first date, walks you down the aisle. Nope I got the Alcoholic Veteran model and though I know he loves me, it doesn't make it any easier to acknowledge that he doesn't know how to be a father. And so at the age of 31, I haven't seen him or talked to him in more than nine years. Just a card here or there. He has never met my husband. I don't hate him, but I don't care to know him anymore...

Wow, I went a little overboard there! Sorry for the novel...your blog just hit home, made me realize I'm not the only one out there that might feel like this. That's nice to know.

Sheri said...

Thank you so much for opening up and sharing with us. This post really hit home for me too...and it was beautifully written.

I had a great father growing up, complete with family meetings, arguing and still talking, family picnics, etc. This was even after my dad's father died when my dad was 8. My dad and his sister were raised by their mom (who had to work all the time) and step-dads, who my father says were not "dads" at all. He even lived in an orphanage for a few years.

My dad is evidence that we each have the ability to learn from things and change the pattern.

I am a better adult because my dad chose to be a better father than he ever had. Maybe I should email these words to him or send him a link to your blog. He probably already knows this, but it can never hurt to hear it again.

Thanks, Deathstar, for your insights on this. I also appreciated your comments on my guest post called, Cutting My Q Time, on
I encourage you to continue to tap into your intuitive voice. My sense is that you really do use it all of the time...even when you are at the dog pound. :)

eemilla said...

"Finding joy is a full time job." I love it.