So, this Sunday will be the second year without my father here to wish him a Happy Father’s Day. It gets easier every year without him here; still there are times when I find myself picking up the phone to call him, or times when I just want to talk to him. It’s on these occasions that I go to the wonder of voice mail, and I listen to his voice. Some days this gives me comfort, other days it just brings more pain.
When I was a little girl – there was no one quite like my daddy. I was one of the lucky ones – I actually had a Daddy. He worked the 11-7 shift when I was really young, so I got to play with him during the day. I was his “little one” and pretty much got whatever I wanted when it came to my Daddy!
I learned in my teenage years that Daddy wasn’t to be messed with when it came to following the rules. Mother was usually the one who made and enforced the laws of the house, but… when Daddy raised his voice I knew that life as I knew it was over. I only remember him striking me once, and that was because I told my mother to shut-up, and that was not acceptable at any time, for any reason, no matter how old I was.
When we stood at the back of the church on my wedding day – he held my hand and looked me in the eye and said: “Are you sure you want to do this?” I was only 19, and I knew I was running as fast as I could from my knowing I was gay, but… it was 1972, I was living in a small, conservative town and telling anyone I was a lesbian was just not something that was done. I wanted to say NO I don’t want to do this Daddy, and run from the church. But… I said something about Mother killing me if I left, the music started, and the rest is family history. I understand now that he would have been just as proud had I said No, and he and I had left the church.
When I finally had the courage to come out I was 50, and my father embraced me without hesitation. I don’t believe he ever understood, but… it didn’t matter. We never discussed it as our family doesn’t talk about anything, especially things that have to do with emotions or feelings – it just isn’t done. But, he never wavered in his support of me and he embraced my partner Susan as he would another daughter.
In the last few years of his life, and since his death, I’ve discovered that my father was not the man I knew him to be. Some of his decisions from years ago still tear apart a family who is simply trying now to put the pieces of the puzzle together. Pieces that fit into place show a man who acted foolishly, and put his personal interest above that of family, and we are left to wonder why and how a man who could be so kind and loving, could be so selfish. I struggle to understand.
What I’ve discovered is that my father was searching for something. I believe that the only time he ever really felt alive was on his Minesweeper “The USS Raven” sweeping the English Channel before the start of D-Day in June of 1944. He knew that his actions on that day had made a difference; he had helped to shape the world, he had made a difference in millions of lives.
My father searched the rest of his life for that same feeling. He wanted to be loved, he wanted his life to matter, and he wanted to be something to someone. I hope he knows now that he was all of those things – he was my father.
Rest in Peace, Daddy… Happy Father’s Day