In Your Absense

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.


The Hull – Really

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

Daddy & I, 1959

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.


  1. Such a difficult story to put into words, yet you are doing it, Valentine, with infinite clarity. I heartfully hope doing so releases the hurt, frustration and anger (even rage) pent for years and analyzed silently, over and over again.

  2. Seems like being there and not being present is just as bad as not being there at all. What was your stepmother’s history that made her act as such?

    It’s so sad that so many adults are dealing with what happened to them as children because their parents weren’t protective. The emothinal scars run the distance of the lives that were affected. You’re brave to tell your story so openly and as well, it’s a healing process of sorting things out and letting go. I’m glad you and your father made amends. That has to give you consolation, yes?

    • I told my second mothers story here:

      Her story is hard and I know that she had history which doesn’t mean she gets a free pass, only that she brought forward her own abuse.

      I think part of the reason I am finally telling the story is in part because it is worth telling, proof we don’t have to become what was done to us. I don’t know that it is brave, thank you though. Yes, that my father and I found peace between us was huge, I always adored him and fought hard to become what he knew I could be this was a defining part of my personality for many years. Each trilogy of Broken Chains is another mending I think.

  3. This is the part of the story which saddens me the most. You did so adore your father, even when you were sitting in the hull. It was that love which made his absence so poignant and obvious. It is hardest to be separated from someone who is in the same room with you.
    I love you,

    • I still adore my father, funny how his loss was easier yet harder than anything else I have ever endured. Perhaps because we found each other so late in life. He enraged me more easily and yet, I forgave him more quickly.

      Thank you for knowing this one might be harder than all the rest.


  4. Hey it really possible to make peace…i am asking you cos i have not been able to or rather i dont want to..there is this bitter side filled with rage and resentment which i dont want to let go..i have absolutely no problem living with it because from very young i learned how to keep that aside and have fun when i could…but parents are there to protect kids and if they fail should we forgive them…
    i know you have and it must have taken a lot of courage and will..

    but i dont want to forgive mine i mean we are in talking terms..we talk and chat about hundred things but there is a wall and there are no doors for them to open it…they had chance and they blew it big time…
    no i dont hate them but i dont trust them,and i will not let them fail me again..

    • Soma, dearheart sometimes yes and sometimes no. I had a loving heart (not my own) who mediated the peace between my father and I. You will see as the story unfolds.

      I wasn’t prepared to forgive and certainly didn’t want to provide opportunities for more hurt, my trust like yours was broken. But the other side of that coin for me was always remorse, acknowledgement and reconciliation. Of course, parents are supposed to protect their children and sometimes they fail miserably. My mother failed with her overt actions and my father with his absence. As an adult and knowing their history I wanted to forgive because I wanted family and completeness.

      In the end my father and I found peace. My mother and I did not.

  5. I like your writing style – the words and phrases of expression > impressive.

    The ‘storyline’ is quite sad but am heartened it worked out well, late than never.

    Peace, Eric

    • Thank you Eric, oddly I think I write mostly the way I talk (mostly). Perhaps it is because I escaped to books all my life.

      Broken Chains is indeed a story, but it is mine and I just write it in trilogies because it is all I can take in or put out at once.


  6. Valentine, I thank you for sharing this story with us. The way you write is heart-breaking and at the same time memorizing. I know from experience that talking and writing about these situations is healing for us. xx

    • Fortunately Christy, this part of the story has already seen most of the healing. But to write through the Broken Chains stories I have to write about my father, he played his role just as my mother and others did. The healing, well for now I will just say I am just letting it be a release. Perhaps healing will come when Broken Chains is done.



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  3. […] Part I – In Your Absence […]

  4. […] Part One of my Fathers Story – In Your Absense Share this:TwitterFacebookStumbleUponTumblrLinkedInPinterestLike this:LikeBe the first to like this. Filed Under: Broken Chains, Family Tagged With: Art of Living, Family, Family Life, family tree, Great Depression, Relationships, years of the great depression « In Your Absense […]

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