I never really knew my father.
There are several reasons for this. My father was always distant emotionally, and I didn’t know why until decades later when it all came out. We didn’t understand why he was aloof and cold to us except when he wanted to wrestle. But those fun-filled sessions quickly turned ugly, when he would try to choke one of us, or tickle us until we passed out, despite our screams and cries.
After my parents divorced when I was but seven, he had an alleged “nervous breakdown,” and was institutionalized. It was a door slamming shut between us, and it was only later that we were to learn that he’d actually experienced a psychotic break and had received a diagnosis of paranoid-schizophrenic.
While he was in hospital, a mean, petty, and small-minded woman moved in on him at his most vulnerable. She became his wife a year later, and, like the cuckoo bird slips its own eggs into other birds’ nests, tossing the original eggs over the side to insure its offspring’s survival, so did our new stepmother make her own children the apple of our father’s eye.
We could never believe the stories we heard, but as children, hadn’t quite learned how to block out the lies and see the truth behind the words. So when my biological mother told me that she’d had an affair just before she’d gotten pregnant with me (this after a miscarriage, the first of several), she put into doubt my paternity. And true enough, I was the only blond-haired child in the family. The person I knew as my father was dark complected with brown eyes and black hair. “Black Irish,” it was called. Mother was red-haired and blue eyed, but there had been no blonds in her family before me. Well, not of the natural kind. So I allowed my mother to drive that wedge between the man I had once considered my father. My stepfather and I hated each other from the first moment we laid eyes on each other, and that bitter rivalry never faded.
When I finally left home, eager to be away from all of the fighting and loyalty testing that took place on both side of the divorce, I found that I had never really known any of the men alleged to be my father. For many years I pitied myself because of it.
On Father’s Day each year, I read the posts of my friends who had a father present for their lives, and I appreciate that love they hold for their pater familia. And I want to tell them to never let it go. Never take it for granted. And never forget that he took the time to be present in your life. It’s a gift beyond measure.