Weighty Matters

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Daddy Issues

on June 17, 2012

I’m always a little sad on Father’s Day and Mother’s Day because both of my parents are gone.   Dad died in 1983; Mom in 1998.  I still miss them everytime I think of them.  That said, I’m going out on my boat in a little while and I know that they’re smiling at the thought.  I’ve talked before about being a water baby.  I believe I have my folks to thank for my love of boating and the ocean.  I have very early memories of family fishing trips.  I think there are some photos somewhere of me on our family’s first boat when I was only a few months old.  Good times all of my life.

So why did I title this post “Daddy Issues”?  Well, even when you grow up with loving parents who you loved and respected in return, you can still have some issues.  In my case, when your father is a larger than life personality with an awesome success story who was revered by our community, it made me feel like I never quite measured up.

The bar set by Dad just in the course of building his life was pretty damned high.  Son of immigrant parents, he attended college (The first of his family to do so.) on academic and athletic scholarships.  Served in WWII and then attended a prestigious graduate school before going to medical school.  He excelled academically and became a great doctor.  He and his partner delivered at least half the babies in our area.  Then, when it was determined that our area needed to be able to provide radiation treatment for cancer, Dad went back to study and do a residency in that specialty and became the first Chief of Radiation Therapy.  In the meantime, he and Mom served on other organizations and foundations.  We grew up learning that service to others is important.

I was not a wonderful student.  I’d get As in the classes that I liked and was good at, Cs in the ones that didn’t grab my interest as much, and struggled sometimes to make a C or D in math.  (I firmly believe now that I have some sort of low level math processing glitch in my brain.  I still struggle.  Thank God for calculators.)  A C was not acceptable.  I remember him saying, “Cs are average.  You do not have an average brain.  Work harder.”

I won’t bore you with an entire life history in which there was considerably more good than bad, but I can tell you that by the time I was in college, I was screwing up pretty badly and set myself on a horrible circle of messing up and partying too much so my grades suffered which made me feel worse because I wasn’t living up to expectations and that just fed my already degrading self-esteem.  Dad and I had some big yelling matches over my lack of academic performance.  That man could bellow when angry.  I mostly cried.   It was awful and at the time, like a typical person that age, I outwardly blamed it on “My parents don’t understand me”, but inside I told myself I was worthless and a failure.

In hindsight, I wish that we had spoken heart to heart instead of fighting.  I think we both were responsible for the poor communication.  I was no more ready to listen or self-examine my behavior so I coped with attitude which pissed him off no doubt.  Despite my best efforts to trash my college career, I graduated — not with honors, but with a GPA above a C at least.   I also got a job before I even graduated.

The girl who messed around with her classes became an ultra-responsible, dependable employee.  Along the way, the rough patches Dad and I experienced began to smooth over and I found it easier to open up.   I don’t remember what prompted it, but one day we had an epiphany-level conversation.  I told Dad how sorry I was for being a disappoinment in school, that I never felt like he was proud of me and that I figured I was pretty much his only failure.

Hearing that and  knowing that I believed it nearly broke his big heart.  I will always remember the stricken expression on his face and the way he reached out to me.  “Not proud of you?  Honey, if you could hear the way I talk about you and how hard you work, you’d think you owned the damn radio station.”   In that moment, I realized that my perspective was skewed and he realized that while he was telling other people of his pride in me, he’d missed making sure that I knew.

After this heart to heart, the nicks, scrapes and damage in our relationship really began to heal.  Where there had always been love, there was also now more ease.  I wasn’t defensive and on guard; he wasn’t critical.  It made the good relationship even better.

Through it all — even the rocky times — Dad and Mom were my foundation.  They were my refuge and comfort.  Talk about people being the wind beneath my wings!  Dad in particular was my safety net.

Losing him when I was 25 was a horrible blow and it took a long, long time to recover.  Yes, I took refuge in eating, trying to anesthetize my pain and sorrow.

I look back on all this 29 years later and still wish that we’d had him with us for many more years than we did.  Along with that wistfulness, however, is gratitude that we at least had him for as long as we did.  There are lessons that I learned from him, either directly or by following his example, that remain with me today.  I am a better, stronger person because of those lessons.  Because of him.  I also know in my heart of hearts that he would still be very proud of me indeed.

So on this Father’s Day, I’m going to go out in my boat, think of Dad and Mom and smile over the good memories.   Sure we had our issues.  When all is said and done, however, I have never respected a man more than I do him and I am very, very proud to have been his daughter.

Thanks, Daddy.  Love you.

3 responses to “Daddy Issues

  1. Mary says:

    Beautiful post.

  2. hoperoth says:

    What a beautiful post. I do believe I have something in my eyes. 😦

    Fathers Day was hard for me this year, because I went to call my Grandpas and I realized that I couldn’t.

  3. Skye says:

    That’s a beautiful story, the epiphany conversation. That’s wonderful.

    I lost my dad when I was 17 so I didn’t get to have any adult conversations with him or get to know him as an adult, but I felt toward him as you felt toward your dad.

    Enjoy remembering your parents. I’ll do the same. Good idea; Mother’s & Father’s days make me a little sad, too.

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