Sunday, January 9, 2011

A Series of Epiphany Posts on Being Human: on fathers

My father has arranged his life in such a way that to sustain it he must reject the family he helped create. One result of his choices is a deep estrangement from me and one of my brothers, an estrangement that has now been reaffirmed by him with a fair level of hate and cruelty, no doubt fueled by shame. Being as I am unable to process this by taking my three days of paid time off to attend his funeral (since he is only mostly dead) I decided to write something about my human experience of loss of father. (I am not seeking sympathy, please. I am just thinking out loud and maybe you will resonate in your own life.)

The need for father-love is primal. Even an absent or wicked father doesn't kill the father longing inside me or those I see around me. I don't know if this is universal (I expect it is tied to our need for God-love) but I am guessing it would take a fairly violent series of experiences to finally crush it. I do not crave my father's attention or his particular form of presence in my life which has never been life giving. In fact, I could say I am finally just walking away from a painful and bad thing. Except that my inner self feels flimsy and the powerful suction of depression is pulling at my soul.

So I will not talk about the experience of all of humanity, I will only talk about the experience of being a particular person in this situation. As a middle child I have always felt responsible for the success of my father and for his rarely achieved happiness. (I found out recently that my kids have called my dad "sad Grampa" for years.) Letting go of this inner compulsion to protect is not easy, even if it was a burden.

I have always had heightened ability to perceive the emotions and underground currents of people/groups. I knew when things were not okay and spent my life trying to right a tipping canoe. Letting go my grip of the sides of the canoe and the weight of all that is in it might be freedom, but it might also be a possible swamping. On the other hand, a swamping means release from the canoe as a vehicle. Maybe that is the gift in this - not just survival but actually moving to a whole new way of travel, via swamping. (Is this what baptism really is?)

I cannot immediately move from "my father is no longer my father" to "God is my father." Both of these are flimsy to me now. I know this is my 'religious obligation' but it is my spiritual obligation? In a time of grief must I jump across the trauma of my life into the arms of God or can I travel on foot with a limp in that direction? In no sense am I removing God from the equation.

I am simply being human.


Lee Ann said...

My Dad is a benign entity in my life, meaning he never did anything overtly hurtful to me. He didn't mistreat me in any way, but he was absent. I have a list of things that he never did. When I was 12 he left my mom and we had open visitation, meaning we were with my mom all the time. About once a year he would take us for a week on some adventure. The rest of the time he was having them without us. He seemed perfectly happy to go on in life without us, but the interesting thing is that I had a deep feeling of sadness for him and longing to protect him. I was so worried about him being alone. Of course I too longed for father love and it played out in my life in a variety of ways. It is a long story, and it was a long process, but I finally made peace with my dad (or the lack of him). But sometimes the girl in me still has father envy.

Krissi said...

You don't want sympathy, so I won't give you a pity party (I certainly wouldn't want one). But your dad sucks and I do feel sorry about that. And I love that you wrote this. It is good for the rest of us, too.

Anonymous said...

The deepest sorrow knows no words, The saddest song is silent