Father of Mine: What I Learned from Having a Shi*#y Father

Today I was listening to a random playlist on Spotify and an Everclear song that I hadn’t heard in a long time played. This song has always resonated with me because it has always made me think of my biological father.

Father of mine
Tell me where have you been
I just closed my eyes
And the world disappeared
Father of mine
Tell me how do you sleep
With the children you abandoned
And the wife I saw you beat

I will never be safe
I will never be sane
I will always be weird inside
I will always be lame

Now I’m a grown man
With a child of my own
And I swear I’m not going to let her know
All the pain I have known

-“Father of Mine” by Everclear

Brings back memories

The lyrics above take me back to elementary school when my whole world was rocked by my mom, my sister, and I moving to a different town to live with my grandmother.
At first, it was fun, like permanently spending the night at Grandma’s house. Then my parents divorced.

In the three years, we lived there, I only remember my father visiting us three times. Once we went bowling, once we went to see Home Alone in the theater, and I remember him playing my sister’s Pretty Pretty Princess board game with us. Perhaps there were more times, but I don’t think so.

Please, please, please

I remember lying on my New Kids on the Block bedsheets in my bunk bed, inside my grandmother’s dining room-turned-bedroom. For a long time, each night after the lights went out I would fervently pray until I fell asleep. I would pray over and over that my parents would get back together and I apologized because something in my little kid brain blamed myself for their divorce.

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Of course, now I know that my biological father is not a good person and that in no way was I responsible for their break up, but I didn’t see it then. Then he was my daddy, held high on a pedestal in my kid brain.

Now when I reflect back on my early childhood I realize how terrible of a father he was. For example, I remember him taking us to the donut shop, letting us both pick out a donut and a carton of chocolate milk, and then dropping my sister and I off at the hospital where my mom worked- while she was working, in a laundry full of germs and chemicals and big machines- just because he wanted to go do something instead of watching us.

Floating

Once I had a dream where I felt like my head inflated like a balloon and I would jump around and float down the alley behind our house and around our neighborhood. But once when I was at a high school party, I walked into a room where older people were smoking pot. I remember that the instant the smoky scent hit me I realized that my balloon-head dream hadn’t been a dream after all. My father had been smoking pot while he was watching my sister and I (more accurately, not watching) and I had gotten high off of second-hand smoke and walked down the alley.

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Now, I have always had an overactive imagination, but I am 100% certain that story is true because I specifically remember attempting to float down the alley on another day and being disappointed that I couldn’t figure out how I had done it the first time.

How’s that for a great dad?

He turned into a judgy, on the fringe, born-again Christian weirdo after the divorce. Please know, I have nothing at all against Christians or born-again Christians, but we’re talking crazy train here. I remember spending a few days at his and my stepmother’s home one summer. One night as my sister and I lay in bed he anointed our foreheads with oil in the shape of a cross and prayed over us. I thought, dude you’re not a priest, what makes you think you can do this? Anytime we were in the car we had to listen to Christian music only and they gave my sister and I Christian cassette tapes for birthday gifts instead of what we’d asked for. I remember cringing when listening to conversations where he claimed that God gave babies illnesses like AIDS as a punishment to their parents for some kind of horrible act they had committed.

There’s also the time when I was 17 and my paternal grandfather had just passed away on New Years Day. My biological father and his new family were staying at my grandmother’s house. My sister and I were charged with watching the two little kids because obviously, we were the obligatory babysitters. When the adults returned we ate dinner and my two half-sisters were pouting and refusing to eat, instead repeatedly asking for McDonald’s. One of them eventually ate, but the youngest one refused, long after dinner was over for everyone else. My father began to spank her for not eating and it crossed the line into beating. By the end, I think everyone in the house except my father was crying.

Say what?

My mother told me once that she didn’t want to marry him, but she felt like she had no choice because both families were pushing her to do so and my father threatened to kill himself if she didn’t. That’s messed up.

As much as I disdain my biological father, I also somehow sometimes still feel like I got screwed in the whole situation. There is still a part of me inside that is that little girl who loved her daddy. Why didn’t he love me? He helped to create me; why didn’t he feel about me the way I feel for my children? Why did he leave us and start a different family? It still makes me angry, even though I have tried to make peace with it and move on. I never have been able to put it aside though. Like the song says,

I will never be safe
I will never be sane
I will always be weird inside
I will always be lame

Those words have always felt like something I could have written to describe my feelings.

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After recently reading a wonderful blog post by Roger at Mind and Love, I decided that I needed to change my mindset about how I think and feel about that history. Changing my mindset has allowed me to put what I have felt into a different perspective and learn from my experience. It was like the Anne Rice quote below.

β€œOne moment the world is as it is. The next, it is something entirely different. Something it has never been before.”

― Anne Rice, Pandora

Instead of feeling angry and damaged, I am grateful.

I am grateful that I know my parents’ history and was able to learn from it. When I was younger and in an emotionally abusive relationship for six years, I finally worked up enough courage to break up with that guy. And when he told me if I went through with it he would kill himself, I said, Nope, I’m not going to let you use that on me. Then and there I made him call the university counseling center to make an appointment and I called his mom and left her a voicemail telling her the situation and that she needed to get in touch with him. Buh-bye.

It feels good.

I realized a long time ago that my mom, my sister, and I got the better end of the deal. It feels good to know that my wonderful mother didn’t have to be in that relationship for her whole life. I am glad that she is a strong woman who took it upon herself to get the three of us into a better situation. It feels good to know that he didn’t hold us down.

I feel appreciative.

I am appreciative that my mom was able to move on and able to find my stepfather. Even though he was pretty rough around the edges and hadn’t had any former experience with kids, he shaped into a great dad. He is who my sister and I consider to be our dad and he is our children’s grandpa. He has been loving and supportive. He sat by my side in the ER with my husband after I’d had my first seizure years ago. He’s not perfect, but who is? I know I’m not.

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I am also happy.

I remember naively telling my mother once, when I was in the fourth grade, that I wasn’t ever going to get married until I found someone who I was sure I would never divorce. She told me then that it was not possible to ever be sure of that because people can change, situations can change, and sometimes you may never really know someone like you think you do.

I am happy that I was provided with a prime example of the sort of man I wanted to avoid in life. When I found my husband, I knew he was the one for me. I meant with my whole heart the “’til death do us part” in our wedding vows. He is the gentlest, kindest, most loving soul. I am so happy to have him in my life and to feel his love for me. He is my rock, the father of my children, and the person I want to wake up next to each morning.

I now understand what my mother meant, and I know that what she said is true. But I know that even if for some reason my husband and I were to ever part, he would never be like my biological father. He doesn’t have it in him. He loves our children fiercely. He would never leave them, never forget their birthdays, never try to push them into strange beliefs, never miss the important milestones of their lives. I am happy because I know that he would always continue to be a daddy to them for the rest of his life.

I am hopeful.

I have hope that the three children who came into his life after my sister and I had a more positive relationship with him. I hope they grew up with the parent they deserve and will have a caring and supportive father for their whole lives.

I think it is amazing how making a shift in perspective can change the way you feel and how you interpret your life and the world around you. I have always believed that my experiences had made me a stronger person, but I know now that they made the rest of my life better too.

Sarah

12 thoughts on “Father of Mine: What I Learned from Having a Shi*#y Father

  1. Tina Siuagan says:

    Your childhood was actually a silver lining. A blessing in disguise for you to enjoy a better and more fulfilled life ahead. May God bless you and your family even more in the years ahead!

  2. Its Kelle's Space says:

    This post got me a little emotional.
    I wanted to write a post similar to this on Father’s Day but I stopped myself at the last minute.
    I think I have finally made peace with the fact that my father was a terrible example of manhood.
    Instead, I think about the father of my future children and the kind of qualities I would want him to have. I hope my children never experience the pain I felt because the reality is that it never really ever goes away. You just make peace with it.
    Thank you for sharing such a powerful and important message.
    Kelle – http://www.itskellesspace.com

      • Its Kelle's Space says:

        It takes time honestly. I remember when my mother used to tell me that I should be over it because I was in my mid 20’s. Nah, you never really make peace with it until you get the answers or some other form of closure.

        • momminintherealworld says:

          You’re right, it does take time… and honestly I don’t know if you can get over it. I don’t know that in my case he would give me any answers or closure even though I have asked for it multiple times through the years. But I like to think that it is their loss, not ours.

  3. Kaila Smith says:

    I really like that Everclear song and am happy to see it used in your blog! Thanks for writing something like this. My parents were never married since they had me when they were 16, but my father was shitty also. Seeing that I’m not the only one that struggled with this is good for me. Great post. πŸ™‚

  4. Mind and Love says:

    Wow Sarah! This a beautiful and heartwarming post! Your story is compelling and I relate to so many aspects of it. My father and mother divorced when I was 11. He had been having an affair. Since, I believe he chose to spoil us in an attempt to deal with his guilt. At times he morphed more into more of a friend than father figure. I use to focus on how these dynamics impact me today, but recently I have awakened to the beautiful positives that he has offered my life.

    Thank you for sharing your experience! It is a truly touching piece and wonderfully written as well.

    Roger

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