By Marley K.
My father made a profound impact on my life in several ways. Here’s why.
My Dad Tried To Be A Father
My parents divorced when I was in the first grade. It was an ugly divorce that ended with him going to jail for attempted murder. To make a long a long story short — my mom was cheating on my dad and decided to leave my father and his three kids. She waited until he went to work and go to some of her family members to move his everything out of his home he had worked hard for while he was away. Someone saw us moving and called him. It didn’t end well. It was considered a “crime of passion.”
In any event, the law was involved and we were separated from both parents for long periods. I loved my dad. I remember him walking me to school every day, and walking to come and pick me up after sleeping from working his night shift job. I don’t remember my mother doing much for me until after the split. I grew up without my father, and I often wonder what my life would have been like with him in our lives in our home.
My mom wouldn’t allow us to have contact with him despite court-ordered visitation. I remember one after learning my brother and I walked home from school, my father rode up and down all the streets on our school route until he found us. My brother and I were shocked and afraid because our mom would beat us if we had contact with my dad without permission. It was around the time of my birthday and he didn’t want me to think he’d forgotten.
Once he found us, he stopped his car in the middle of the street, hopped out and gave us a huge hug. He gave me a pair of brand new shoes. I gave him a hug and cried because I missed him so. I was probably in the 3rd or 4th grade. I had to give my gift away to a friend because if I took it home and tried to wear it, my mom would know. I didn’t want my father to get into any more trouble dealing with my evil mother. It broke my heart to give my father’s gift away. I never told him, not even to this day. I feel really bad knowing how expensive those shoes were back in the day and how hard he worked to get them to me.
My father always tried to be a dad, even when my mother tried to stop him. As long as I live, I will always know he tried — and that’s all that matters to me.
His attempts to find me and show my brother and I love despite all the obstacles and roadblocks my mother threw his way made a profound impact on my life.
My Dad Gave Me Wise Counsel
My dad was full of wise counsel. He advised me on lots of things and about life. Things like: “Don’t marry him” (I wished I’d listened), take care of your car, always pay your rent and buy groceries first, check your oil and transmission fluid, there is nothing up past midnight except legs so stay out of the street. He would give so much practical wisdom. My dad was a business owner and an ASE certified mechanic. He taught my sons how to work hard, and the value of work. They learned a lot of their old grandpa.
I hate his mental illness is so bad and he’s so mean now. My kids can’t be around him because he hurts their feelings. That hurts my feelings because he’s been so good to them. It’s a shame the mental illness makes it impossible to have a decent relationship with my dad. His wise counsel saved me too many times to name.
My Dad Loved His Family
My dad was the oldest son and considered the unofficial patriarch of his family. If anything happened good to his siblings, nieces or nephews, he honored them. I feel like he did more for them than he did for us. He was a really good man, and he sacrificed a lot to care for his family. Especially his mother. He gave a lot and received little in return. That’s what kind of happens when you’re the responsible one.
His love for his family impacted me profoundly, teaching me how to love and cheer for my family.
My Dad Gave Me Away
My father sent me away to foster care for the most ridiculous thing. I was made an orphan after having endured a life of abuse with my mom and abandonment by my dad. He tried to care for me without getting the help I needed. He wasn’t equipped to deal with an abused or broken kid — no one really is. My dad threw me away because it was easy when I was a teen, when I was vulnerable, when I was neglected — and when I needed a parent to love me most. I will never understand how a parent can have a child and just walk away from him/or her because things get difficult.
This event of dropping me off at the child welfare office on a Friday afternoon at 4:45 pm impacted my life profoundly. I’d say it made me a better parent. It taught me how to love difficult children and difficult people. It made me pay attention to hurt people, especially young kids. I see them even when they are trying to hide it. It taught me to try and figure out what is wrong with people so that I’m able to connect with them better. Giving me away gave me a heart for orphaned and abandoned children. Being donated to foster care also made me a little cold. I’m also just a little less tolerant of first world problems, trivial complaints, and selfishness.
Where there is no love — there can be no life.
My Dad Is Complex
My father suffered a lot of trauma as a child. None sexual, but plenty of abuse, neglect, and my dad even spent some time on a boys farm as a very young child for attempting to steal food for his young siblings in elementary/middle school. The abuse he endured at the hands of detention staff (not being fed, being beaten, not being allowed to bathe) resurfaced as he aged. He drank his pain away until he couldn’t anymore. I’m going to assume his childhood environment caused the personality disorder and mental health issues he’s been diagnosed with. He’s hurt a lot of people with his volatility.
My dad’s unresolved trauma caused him to lose everything. It taught me not to fall in love with material things or money. I have learned family secrets will one day manifest themselves. Men holding in trauma and pain causes eventual breakdowns and let downs. Another thing that really makes my relationship complex with my dad is his love seems to be conditional at times. When this happens, I withdraw from each interaction stressed, which negatively impacts any relationship we’ve managed to rebuild. It’s an ongoing, tiring process.
Sometimes profound, complex people can help and do harm at the same time. I can recall so many pieces of wisdom my dad passed down to me and my sons that we still refer to this day. I consider my dad’s wisdom timeless, priceless, and practical. All parents should spend time teaching their kids the basics of life.
I also understand people like my father can do irreparable harm. Some harm caused by complex people is accidental and some of the harm inflicted is intentional. I try to learn from it and grow.
Hopefully, all the different events and contacts with my dad have made me a better person. Life is too short to drink rank lemonade made with tart lemons and artificially sweetened. My dad has profoundly impacted my life forever. For better and sometimes for worse. In any event, my dad taught me some of the most important life skills I have.
*This essay is in response to a Pivot Point Prompt by my good friend LaMar Going