Yesterday was Father’s Day. That means Saturday past I had to perform the most difficult scheduled task in my year. I had to pick out a Father’s Day card for Daddy. The problem that makes the task so onerous is my inability to lie to myself and others coupled with the extreme lack of creativity exhibited by most greeting card writers.
Most cards for Father’s Day, at some point in them, will say something on the order of “Thank you for always being there for me” or “I could always count on you being there.” I can’t buy those cards because they would be a lie. Daddy wasn’t always there for me. As a child, he almost NEVER was there for me. I can’t remember a play or a chorus concert he ever attended. I wrestled four years in high school. He came to one match.
Daddy doesn’t live in Texas or Alaska or anywhere else like that. He lives about six or seven miles away from me, as he has pretty much since he left Mama and me.
Now, things are better these days between the two of us. Budge worked very hard in the early years of our marriage to broker, if not complete reconciliation, then at least a peaceful coexistence that allowed us to be in the same room without firing daggers at one another out of our eyes. For reasons I don’t fully understand, Daddy loves my Budge very much — not that I find that hard to believe, but Daddy actually TELLS her he loves her.
So holidays are pretty much enjoyable these days. I can go eat a meal my stepmother (who is the woman Daddy left Mama for) has prepared without nausea; I can even acknowledge that she makes my favorite chicken since Granny Hughes stopped cooking. Daddy, Nicholas (my 12 year younger half-brother, that I don’t count the “half” because none of this sordid mess was his fault and he’s always loved me warts and all), and I can sit in the living room with our spouses and have grown up civil conversations.
Daddy has not mellowed much over the years. Rather, he’s gotten older and so cannot keep up the rant for as long as he once could. He is not a happy man. A good part of that is due to terrible times he endured in Vietnam’s Central Highland killing fields as a 19 year old kid. Some of it is due to Granny’s unyielding and un-breathing over-protectiveness. Some of it is due to his own father, my late, beloved, sainted Papa Wham’s belief that a man showed love to his family by providing comforts for them rather than quality time.
Daddy is very complex and I love him tremendously. I have ALWAYS loved him, even when I’ve wanted to rip his heart out and take a bite out of it right in front of him. At the heart of 99% of everything I’ve ever done, attempted, or accomplished has been the desire for two things: to show Daddy just what a great thing he left AND to hear him say, “Son, I’m very proud of you.” He will never admit the former and I still haven’t heard the latter in 38 years.
I cannot discuss my relationship with Daddy in “adult terms” because, for reasons I can’t explain, but my therapist probably can, any discussion of Daddy and I turns me back into a helpless, fat, blubbering, five-year old standing on the front porch of the trailer where I grew up watching Daddy put his bags in the truck I “helped” him paint as I begged him not to leave then watching him leave.
We have an understanding now, Daddy and I. No peace treaty has ever been signed. We are rather more like the DMZ of North and South Korea than we are the deck of the U.S.S. Missouri. I do love him and I live to please him AND over the years I’ve learned as a man things that a child cannot have understood. Daddy isn’t quite the monster that five year old inside me accuses him of being. Mama wasn’t quite the angelic saint the five year old clung to. In my five year old mind, the math is simple. Mama stayed; Daddy left. That was as far as I took the matter for years and it remains the “argument ending” fallback position. But I do love Daddy.
I just have a very hard time finding him a Father’s Day card that is truthful AND loving.
Fathers out there. Take this post for what it’s worth to you.
Sons out there. You do the same.
The phone lines run both ways. So do the post office, the cell towers, and email. Don’t tell me it’s too hard and don’t DARE tell me I don’t understand.
So, until next time. Love y’all like always.
Keep cool and wash your feet.