Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Thoughts of Daddy

I don’t remember ever calling him “Daddy” in my younger, and even ‘middle,’ years. But it was always what my Soul called him. He and I were not comfortable with each other. We were not comfortable with the world around us.

I was his first child … and he repeatedly made it clear that I was an inconvenient intrusion on his honeymoon. The termination of my presence was something looked forward to … and I got the message (loud and clear) that when the time necessary for my raising was exhausted … there was no place for me under his roof. Sitting around his dinner table (after divorce had removed the Element of conflict from between my mother and me) there was some discussion about all of those years between my leaving home, and rekindling contact. Mom wanted some help in understanding (or, better yet … wanted me to suffer through an attempt at justification for) the twenty-plus years that we did not speak. The wedding that I chose to not invite them (any of my immediate family) to; the children who did not know that they had grandparents (on my side) or an aunt, uncles, cousins, and on and on. “How could you live like that without it bothering you?” I was asked.

“It was really quite simple” I replied. “I had lived so many years hearing the house, that I lived in, referred to, by my parents, in phrases like “as long as you live in my house …” that I had no difficulty in understanding that it was not OUR house. I was living, out of a temporary necessity, in YOUR house. So, first … it was never ‘home,’ and secondly … it was, quite clearly, not MY home. When you are raised to understand that you are an unwelcome intruder into someone else’s world … leaving, and then dismissing, that world, is to rid oneself of the burden of being constantly reminded, of your ‘unwelcome alien’ status.” And, at that point, I recall looking around the table … and seeing looks (on all faces present there) that showed the light of an awareness that silently said “Oh! I remember saying those things. Oops! Didn’t know that they would be taken so literally.” And, in Daddy’s eyes … I saw the “oh shit!” look. A well-recognized look of having failed … yet again. That look that, certainly not for the first time in our pilgrimage, gave me cause to feel oh-so-badly for him.

For, you see, Dear Reader Friend, I have always sensed that Daddy wanted to experience a tender and yes, intimate, relationship with me (in fact, with All in his world.) But, alas, he never had a clue how to allow that to happen. Raised by a man who knew only military discipline (my granddad served in the U S Coast Guard [after the dismantling of the Lighthouse Service] as a civilian Keeper of navigational aids in and around the manatee River and outer Tampa Bay. He bore the total responsibility for raising his three sons, after his wife [Daddy’s Mom] passed away, early in their lives.)

There was NO affection, nurturing, tenderness, encouragement, praise, or even remote validation in that home. Only discipline. Orders, and punishment, for orders not perfectly followed. So … poor Daddy … he had all of his feelings, yearnings, desires, and emotions … all stored, pent up, confined, and compartmentalized … and for the first time in his life he had a window of opportunity for releasing them all … and having them eagerly accepted, embraced, and appreciated. He had his wife. Bliss! Then ... he became a father. And the full weight of parenthood landed on his unprepared shoulders. And the only script that he had for that role … was the one given him by his father. And he hated that script. But it was all that he had. Hence, the Conflict, that my presence, visited upon him. And no more, the freedom to explore all of those neglected, suppressed, and denied inner workings of his most passionate and caring Self. Responsibility and duty were, once again, his masters.

( My suspicions of the presence of a complex, of hidden aspects of his inner Self, were confirmed with Mom’s sharing, with me [fairly recently], his letters written whilst they were courting [and he was away in the service of the U S Navy.] She stumbled upon the letters [long forgotten] as she delved into the bowels of ‘The Cedar Chest.’ That vessel of ancient Treasures holding all of her life’s artifacts and mementos. She phoned me, in excitement and with an urgent need to share these resurrected Intimacies. It was with an obvious sense of wonder, and even surprise, that she read Daddy’s words of endearment. He was open, unguarded, romantic, insightful, empathetic, and yes … even poetic, in his messages to the first person who he had ever been able to expose those beautiful aspects, of his inner Self, to. As I listened, I heard (in the background of recollection) a lifetime of Mom’s chiding and belittling remarks about what she deemed to be “the inherited inability of the Brown boys to have any sense of romance, tender affection, or regard for the feelings of, anyone.” I had heard such declarations so frequently, and openly, made, for so many years, that their echo was deafening. And then, here she was … over the phone, reading words that reminded her … and informed me … that my Dad was, in fact, a gentle and caring Romantic. Further confirmation, to my predisposed and sensitized mind, that my birth had confused and discouraged Daddy’s sensibilities and capabilities. No wonder, indeed, that he felt so threatened and resentful of the circumstance of Parenthood interrupting his first chance to live out all that had been denied him before falling in love with Mom.)

Equipped as I am with the Temperament and Nature that is mine, I had been keenly conscious (throughout all of those years of his rigidity and frustrated anger) of an unidentified current that flowed beneath Daddy’s well-rehearsed surface. So, as I said earlier, I knew … but had no definition for … another Being that was him. For many years he and I battled that unspoken, invisible, and troublesome ghost relationship. Prior to my leaving home (at age twenty-one) … and then after our reuniting (at age forty-three) we had both struggled with what we sensed that we wanted to realize … but had no facility for claiming.

And then, Life gave me the Gift of understanding and appreciating the beauties of freed and enjoyed thoughts and feelings. Thankfully, I was (in Daddy’s final few years) able to celebrate telling him that I love him … at my parting, after every visit. And to tell him with the tag of “Daddy.” “I sure do love you Dad,“ I would say. His discomfort and unease lessened noticeably over time. Even more wonderful is the way that he accepted my Heart’s message … embraced it … and learned to share it between us. Unfortunately, I am the only one of his children, in whom he found that sweet Place. But I am so delighted that I was given the lovely opportunity to invest those few years that were required to nurture it into reality, for us.

I tell you, Precious One, these things … so that you can grant yourself (and perhaps some specific Others) some measure of patience and maybe even forgiveness. I give this to you, to offer real and tangible Hope, for what can be … now that you know that good stuff can be born out of yucky stuff. Daddy and I want you to know that. [smile]

I do love You … really!


Suldog said...

Fascinating reading, John-Michael.

I've been having some private correspondence with another blogger, and she has blessed me with her trust, telling me deep tales of rigid parental behavior and other disturbing aspects of her childhood. Some of it sounds similar to your recollections, some not. Anyway, as I read along here, my thoughts were "Oh, no. Not another person with a sad childhood!" because I have been emotionally drained reading about this other person's not-nice upbringing and wasn't sure if I could actually take anymore at the moment. I came from a very loving home, two sides of my family who never had any compunction about hugging and kissing and showing affection to me, and I very much find myself aching for folks who didn't.

I am so, so very glad that your story turned out as it did, with you and your Dad able to enjoy peace and love displayed with each other. So very glad.

John-Michael said...

You, my Dearest SulDog Friend, are so precious to me! [loving smile] My celebration of the Story of my relationship with Dad, would be lessened without an understanding of the turmoil and frustrations that were at its beginning. As it is, Life granted us a marvelous Gift in the lovely appreciation of each other that we were able to enjoy in the last chapters of his being here.

I am so glad that others are blessed with your inclusion into the intimacies of their lives. (Though I am sensitive to the 'costs' that such an inclusion can bring to bear on you, Dear Friend.)

Rich and grand is this Marvel, of our kinship, that I so relish and treasure! I do, happily, love you Jim.

Anonymous said...

This is truly an expression from the heart. You are so wise to recognize individual temperments and the disparity that they can cause. It is wonderful that you were able to make peace with each other and now do not have the ache of regret and guilt for things left unspoken.

John-Michael said...

It was, indeed, so sweet and thoroughly satisfying to participate in the intimacy of those closing months of Daddy's life. I will never tire of revisiting my fond recollections of each of our shared laughs, sillinesses, and meaningful moments of agreement ... exchanged in eloquent silence.

Thank you, Darling Carole, for sharing in it with me. Your doing so multiplies the richness of the memories.

Lovingly ...

nitebyrd said...

It's what's inside You, John-Michael that let you think about your Father and Mother then to choose to see the worthwhile. You have an incredible outlook on life, my dear friend. This is a good lesson for others to perhaps look past the obvious.

John-Michael said...

I am compelled, my Darling NiteByrd, to 'see' the struggles and efforts made by all of us, in our personal quests to survive (firstly), and then to, at least, function ... or, at best, flourish. These Realities are always before me. And I do admit, I make the conscious choice to 'see' them.

Your notice of and acknowledgment of my views is of great and appreciated encouragement to Me. I thank you for your loving notice.

I love all of who You, my Precious, are ...

Classic Charm said...

I'm glad you were able to find peace, wish everyone could have an outlook such as yours.

Stop on over and let me know what you think of the song I posted, it's powerful.

John-Michael said...

In discovering the "Me" at the core of all of my inclinations, motivations, and thinking, my Precious Rose, I am infinitely glad that I found a genuine sense of respect for Who I am created to Be. Hence ... as I discover the 'Who' that is the core Being of Others ... it becomes natural and appropriate for me to embrace all that constitutes their being. That, of course, includes my Loved Ones.

For some reason, I am reminded of an occasion when Daddy was applying the punishment for some Infraction, to my posterior (as I was bent over the edge of my bed, and he was employing the 'voice' of his wide, black, leather, Postal uniform belt.) The belt broke in half with the force of the 'applications.' And what I have, to this very moment, is a vivid memory of the look of hopeless despair and emptiness, in Daddy's eyes. He did not have the money for a new belt. We were quite poor. That had been his only one. He needed a belt for his work the next day. And there was nothing that he could do to remedy his hopeless situation.

Here I was ... prostrate over my bed ... and I felt immense sadness and overwhelming compassion for Daddy. He looked so very lost and defeated. Each occasion for my seeing into his Unhappiness ... left me wanting to let him know how very much I loved him. Still do! And, forever, will.

And, my Darling Friend, I do love You too ...

Anonymous said...

I'm so pleased for you John Michael that you found & nurtured your Fathers true emotions for you, his son. I too had a less then perfect relationship with my Daddy. Yes I called him Daddy til the day he died. I always wanted to tell him what his father did to me at age 7, but as I sat in a car outside the church after his fathers funeral & saw the grief & anguish on my Daddys face as he too got into a car, I decided I could not tell him. So I kept the fact that grandpa molested me a secret from him. He never knew & for some reason it haunts me.

John-Michael said...

Threads woven into the fabric of Who we are, my Dear Anonymous Friend, are not dismissed from the unfolding tapestry that is our Being. Though the source of their colour and hue may remain a secret to those who we wrap in the relationships enfolded in that cloth ... we will always have an awareness of the reasons for those shades of our Selves. This is nothing to fault yourself for. It is, simply, one of the Realities of living. But I do ache with and for You in a sense of your continued pain and discomfort with your Soul's wounds. I am, truly, so sorry that You have been so egregiously wounded. Such a mean pain to bear!

As to your Daddy and your choice to keep your secret from him ... please accept a whisper from my inner Voice's suggestions to me. It occurs to me that your Daddy's "grief & anguish", could have (just as well) been sorrow for actions not taken or words not spoken whilst his father lived.

If you will forgive my intrusion here ... I am compelled to avoid calling your Daddy's father anything short of what his choice of behavior demonstrates him to be ... not a kindly or respectful Being that a name that like "grandad" would be fitting. But (please forgive my unvarnished candor) "Beast" ... would seem more appropriate. For that person made a choice to behave as a beast. And it would be incomprehensible to think that your Daddy would have lived with a beastly person for whatever number of years they shared ... without knowing that that person had elected to be beastly in his behavior, and attitudes, toward others.

I can not help but wonder what experiences your Daddy had with his fathers demonstrations of beastliness. We will never know what regrets and sorrows your Daddy carried for unknown acts perpetrated by The Beast ... that your Daddy could not prevent or correct. These are historical details that can not be, now, known.

But what we do know is that You, My Dear One, heard your Spirit's voice tell you that your Daddy was bearing a burden that was all that he could bear ... and You, My Darling Friend, made your own choice to respond with loving and compassionate care ... and spare your Daddy the added weight of your Soul's burden. This was not only a generous and selfless choice ... but an eternal Gift of loving Grace and Goodness that was then; is now; and will forevermore be to the credit of your Character and Personhood. In a word ... Ya done GOOD! Real GOOD!

I pray that you can allow your Self a warm embrace and gentle affirmation that You have added to the beauty and sweetness of our world with your act of Love. I love you for it! And I thank You for the consummate compliment of sharing this moment with me.

In loving regard ...

Anonymous said...

Ciao Dad, thanks for sharing and sorry for reading it so many days after you posted...Now I got it!All these years talking about my Father and you never judjing him or me...This is sth more that we have in common...ok...I get your message and I'll try to find the strenght to go and talk with him....maybe getting old he will open that door...:-)
I love you dad (yes Dad, cause in the soul you are my DAD!!!)

lime said...

forgive how late i am in getting around to this post but thank you for sharing the history which makes the gift that much more precious. i am glad you and your daddy were able to reconcile and grow into being able to express that which you each yearned for. i hope this piece may give other readers who struggle a sense of hope.

John-Michael said...

Five years now ... You and Me! Can you believe it?! I am so happy that Life joined my welcoming Heart with your seeking Soul. Being your Dad has never substituted for your Father. For (as you and I have acknowledged so many times) Daddy is a chosen place and responsibility to be willingly embraced. It is entirely separate from Fatherhood.

I "heard" my Daddy's inner Being trying to be known and expressed, from a very young age. I sensed his desire to have that "Daddy" relationship with me. This is what made our eventual Unity possible.

When I met (7 or 8 years ago) a young woman who was single-parenting 3 small children and beginning a career in education of mentally and emotionally challenged children ... I heard (above the 'noises' of her immediate life-demands) her cry for a Daddy. Hr father had abandoned her, and her alcoholic mother, when she was born. She had reached out to him in many attempts to include him in all of her life's significant moments (graduations from high school & University, marriage, and birth of children.) But he has another life with other children ... in another place. And he wants no part in her life.

"You have a yearning for a Daddy. And I have a yearning place in my Heart for a Daughter. If you want ... I will forever be your Daddy." (Sound familiar?! [grin]) And she and I thrilled in yet another celebration of our loving Relationship, when she brought her new boyfriend by, to meet her Daddy ... just two days ago.

This is possible ONLY because of our mutual agreement between two willing and ready Hearts. Just as was true with my Daddy and me. This I point out to You, My Precious Silvia,(Pelagia, if you will) because you must be sensitive to measuring ... AND respectfully accepting ... your father's willingness to the intimate acceptance of the relationship that you long for, with him. I remind you of this to prepare your amazing Mind and beautiful Heart ... lest you cause injury and pain to either.

I have the words of the old song "I Bless the Day I Found You" singing in my Soul. I love you so!! ... my little Gift from Life.

Your adoring Daddy ...

John-Michael said...

Oh1 My Precious Lime, how I do pray that my shared thoughts and impressions can be of helpful or encouraging use to some Soul that is wanting. This is the Purpose on all that I do.

I love You ...

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