"It's as if a great bird lives inside the stone of our days and since no sculptor can free it, it has to wait for the elements to wear us down, till it is free to fly." Mark Nepo

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Father's Day Gift

I see that little girl, her hair in braids, freckles splashed across a face equally capable of great sun and horrendous storms. I see her sturdy scabbed legs, perpetually bare feet, and a softly rounded tummy that speaks "child." On this day she is heart-broken and will make choices whose full impact won't be understood for another fifty years.

Her Daddy has taken away the one being with whom she shares unconditional love. She begged and bargained and offered her soul, but nothing reached him. Nothing stopped him. Her dog is dead. And now she is alone. Worse, she believes now that she has no power ever to stop the worst possible thing from happening. Worse yet, she completely loses her status as his special Squirt. He stops looking at her, rarely speaks to her, never ever invites her onto his lap.

She decides she doesn't need a Daddy. If she can't have him, she won't need him. While she doesn't yet have the knowledge, at some level her heart knows she's already been abandoned once, unwanted and unseen, by the man who gave her life. And Mommy has made sure God, the ultimate Father, is a being to be feared - a huge scary man laying in wait to catch her being wrong so he can punish her into submission.

Fast forward a lifetime. Needless to say that decision to never need a father has had some interesting influence on my attitudes and relationships with men, and God. As consciousness has dawned, awareness of the possibility of something else has grown stronger.

The loss of father did not, does not, mean that love and approval and adoration weren't necessary. One unhealed man's decisions did not, do not, speak for the capacity of all men or the worth of that child.  There was no way the little girl could know that, or survive the pain of the loss by still wanting the love she couldn't have.

Because I see her clearly, and understand, I can begin to shift the lenses through which I see men.

In an event of pure synchronicity I found myself yesterday in the presence of a group of men whom I hadn't met before, participating in a sacred ceremony overseen by the spirits of Lakotah Grandfathers. The leader, a single man devoted to a spiritual path, offering his time and heart to this ceremony which might help others move farther along on their own path. A family consisting of mom, dad, and two twenty-something sons. The dad gentle, quiet, eyes that greeted with knowing and compassion. The two sons friendly, open, full of laughter.

A brand new father, about to celebrate his first Father's Day, his son born in April, especially captured my attention. He seemed so happy, so thrilled to be a father, so committed to providing a certain kind of life for his family. So intentional. So full of love.

I am loved by men and love them in return. Brothers whom I respect and admire and adore. A husband who is the perfect partner for me and who offers me unconditional love and support. But there has always been something missing, some reserve and fear on my part, some expectation and preparation for their betrayal and leaving - even in the absence of any evidence that might be a possibility.

So this year, the Father's Day gift is for me. A new willingness to hold a more complete vision of what it means to be a man and what men are capable of. A fresh openness to the men in my life, and a tender faith that the need for male love will not always be met with pain.

Photo by Clive Reedman, from Flickr


Carol............. said...

Your words gave me chills and brought a reflection of my own early years and what is necessary to overcome and understand to eventually find resolve and to keep growing toward the positive light.

Wanda said...

This got me: "...and a softly rounded tummy that speaks 'child.'"

Happy Fathers' Day, Deb.

Piecefulafternoon said...

Stunning!!! It speaks to my soul.

Pam said...

Ouch Deb, this is incredilbly close to home. I have to remember that my Dad was one of many men flawed by WW2, a generation too proud for counselling,(and it wasn't provided on return to civilian life anyway!) Nevertheless, as I read this it resonated powerfully, and I am grateful.Loved animals are so important and we suffer their loss because our emotions have to go somewhere where they can land safely!I think these so many of men's emotions were/are scrambled and that's where animals have it over us. A purity of joy and intent, so direct and so easily expressed.(Oh Ginger, the head-butting wonderful cat-next-door in my soft-tummy years, I think of you still!!... lol) Your writing is wonderful
.p.s. I still feel a twinge when I see wonderfully warm fathers, and I do like a classy St.Joseph statue. Guess if they had Father's Day then he'd be saying to the Holy Family gift-wise "nothing wooden- I'm a bit over the wood, though I am low on tools...".

Journaling Woman said...

Moving and beautiful.

Carrie Wilson Link said...

"So this year, the Father's Day gift is for me. A new willingness to hold a more complete vision of what it means to be a man and what men are capable of."

Happy Father's Day! How appropriate!

Jerri said...

" a tender faith that the need for male love will not always be met with pain."


Suzy said...

Your words are healing.


Jessica Nelson said...

This is so beautiful and sad. I've had strange father relationships so I know what you mean about things missing. But with God, I don't know, I guess when I was a teen I wanted him to be my father and I just kind of took the Bible at it's word, so in many ways the strangeness of my childhood didn't negatively impact my relationship with God. Of course, my mom was MUCH different than yours in the way she portrayed God.

I love reading your posts! I had a friend who when she prayed always called God, "Daddy". I thought that was so intriguing and it also made me think of Him in a different way. :-)

Janna Qualman said...

I'm so thankful for your perspective and your healing.

And I'm sure we each--all of us--have something to be thankful for. It's gaining that perspective, like you have, that makes all the difference.

Gammary said...

Hi Deb
Just read your last two posts and thought how simlar they really are...that these two people have had such an impact on your life and what is left is, as you say, a story.

I don't mean to minimize the importance of a father and the automatic impact on a child's life, but in the end, as with Diana, the result is your story...and isn't that wonderful.


patti said...

What a poignant, expressive, fabulous writer you are.

Oh, how I LOVE memoirs.

Thank you for giving of yourself, Deb, so I could feel, think, learn.


Anonymous said...

Thank you for this, especially the last line.

Julie Garst said...

I agree with Carol, your words gave me chills.

"But there has always been something missing, some reserve and fear on my part, some expectation and preparation for their betrayal and leaving - even in the absence of any evidence that might be a possibility".

I'm still dealing with this one. I want to let this fear go, even amoung the "evidences". What a horrible way to live your life.

So like you I want to give myself a Father's Day gift. Thank you for your penetrating words. They touch a heart that has been trying to turn to stone.

Amber said...

Could not be better said. Beautiful. All of your words and thoughts here.

I get it.


M said...

Wow! Happy "Father's" Day. You can't know what a blessing your words were to me today. To see the way that you continue to heal and accept that you are lovable...AND loved nearly brings tears to my eyes.

You are loved by this man.


colbymarshall said...

Happy Father's Day, Deb. What sweet sentiments. That faith is something hard to find but important all the same.

She Writes said...

Beautifully and tenderly told, you.

Cheryl said...

Deb your writing, as always, touches me. I always try to find a quiet time to read your work so I can reflect on it. Today it is early morning and your thoughts will carry with me through the day and will help heal some childhood hurts for me. Thank you.

Katie Gates said...

Wow. Beautiful post!

Tabitha Bird said...

WOW! Amazing post. I avoid father's day like the plague. I am sure you can guess why. But I love your views on it. Very positive :)

kario said...


You are a wonder.

Kathryn Grace said...

So many of us did not have that Marcus Welby Father Knows Best dad. We spent a lifetime undoing our child-knowing. Some of us are lucky enough to forgive in time. Sadly for both of us, my relationship with my father is better since he died than all the years before. How I wish I'd understood, been more willing to understand him. Happily for both of us, he's strong-willed, and finds the most amazing ways to get through. I give gratitude for my dad, for Mom too.

I give gratitude for you and your willingness to share this story. You've touched many hearts.