When I was young, I was my father’s child, a daddy’s girl. This was apparently true of me from the moment my parents brought me home from the hospital. My first memory was of my father and all my best memories of childhood include him. My second family pursued adoption because my father wanted children; he wanted to be a father.
He failed miserably at fatherhood.
The above statement is an outrageously harsh indictment of a man who loved his children. I often doubted his love, through my childhood when he failed me so absolutely I often asked why he hated me. Even into my young adulthood, I sometimes would ask him:
“What did I do that was so wrong?”
If the question was asked during one of our many arguments screaming matches, he always had a litany of my wrongs, I never had an answer as they were mostly true. My father didn’t know the whole story, ever. I don’t know why he didn’t know the entire story of my childhood except he was never present; he lived in the same household he simply wasn’t present.
This is the story of my father and me, another entry to Broken Chains. My father, my Daddy, my Hero; the man who set the bar high for others, but also hurt me first and worst, fortunately this is also a story of reconciliation and redemption.
My first memories of my father all revolve around the shell of a sailboat. My dad always had hobbies, they absorbed him, took all his time and energy. The sailboat was the first of these that I remember. The shell of the boat was in our garage and each day my father would come home from work and change into his ‘work clothes’, eat dinner and abscond to the garage to sand, hammer, saw or otherwise work on the sailboat. Sometimes I was allowed to sit in the boat and watch him work; I liked this mostly because if I was quite I could stay there until bedtime.
Of course there were days this worked out quite well, others not so much. My mother didn’t think the hull of a boat in the garage was the place for a little girl and she would snatch me back faster than my fat little legs could carry me. Other days, well those days I was simply in the way; I didn’t understand then, I suppose looking back, I do now but then my feelings were hurt.
Did I mention my father would pick up hobbies? He became nearly obsessive with his hobbies, in the early years it was that stupid boat first building it then sailing it.
My dad built it from the ground up, lovingly bending every board, sanding every visible surface and polishing every piece of brass. When he finally launched Frappe’ spring and summer, boating and Racing season couldn’t come soon enough for him each year. The chance to escape, to feel the wind and test himself but mostly to escape the confines of a marriage that was always a misery. For all the years of my childhood and into my teens, that boat was my father’s escape. It was also the blight of my existence during many a summer holiday when I would be confined in 26 feet of Hell with two adults who spent much of their time bickering, another part of their time screaming either at each other or us and the rest in blessed silence to angry or worn out to fight any longer.
I hated those family outings!
My brother and I were adopted because my father wanted children, he wanted a family yet when he finally had one, he failed to be present. My father was so terribly miserable in his marriage he
failed to protect me from the woman he married. Perhaps it was the time, but he also failed to believe me when I tried to tell him who she was and what she did. Despite his own antipathy toward his wife, the woman he choose to marry and remain with for over twenty years, he failed to believe me even after I ran away multiple times. He failed to believe me even after a court removed me from their custody. He failed to believe me even when he saw bruises.
There were so many secrets in our home. Because my father chose not to be present, he was part of the problem by enabling the secret life and world. It was many years before we would finally talk; finally clear much of the hurt that hung over our relationship. His hobbies were his escape, they were his freedom but in escaping to the lakes and seas or later to the mountains to ski (his next obsession), he left me especially to take the brunt of his wife’s fury. It was a long time before the toxic wasteland of my own hurt and rage at his apathy would dissipate.
As with all the entries to Broken Chains, I will tell the story in three parts. The story of my father and I is not as terrible as other entries, for those who are afraid to read because Broken Chains has been hard.
I will tell what I know of my father’s story and how he brought his history to his marriage and how it affected me especially. My dad passed in 2009; before he passed, we had made peace. It was sometimes a rocky peace but it was a peace forged of forgiveness, understanding and most of all love.