Conflicted Father’s Day

Father's day ecard from American Greetings

Source: Father’s Day ecard from American Geeetings

I remember one time sharing a moment with my sister. We both discussed how difficult it was to purchase a Father’s Day card for our dad.

All those cards about dad being there when we needed him, his sacrifices for the family, and all that love!

Don’t get me wrong, my dad was an amazing person. He rose from a childhood of extreme poverty to become a Naval officer and fighter pilot.

He flew thousands of people safely across the country and even across oceans as captain of a major airline.

He had cool toys like sailboats, houseboats and ski boats as well as motorcycles and convertibles.

Being with my dad was an adventure. But it was his adventure in which we occasionally were allowed to participate, always on his terms.

When he finally divorced my mom, he left us in Miami far away from extended family because that’s where he had wanted to live after he got out of the Navy.

He didn’t leave Miami immediately. He stayed for a few years because that is where he met his second wife (my first stepmother of three).

We were able to spend some weekends and holidays with him. He was a fun dad for the most part.

He had an apartment on Key Biscayne for awhile after he sold his sailboat. After he bought a turquoise-colored houseboat, he lived there. He went through a brief ski boat phase (I think that was between sailboat and houseboat).

Eventually, though, he decided he liked California better than Miami. I don’t know if he offered to move my mom and us kids to Texas where my mom’s family lived. I don’t think so. I had no grandparents, aunts, uncles or cousins close by. I met them a few times on rare family vacations to Corpus Christi (which is near where my parents had met and been married).

I grew up  in a single-parent home with a completely committed mother who worked very hard and gave us all that she could. We didn’t really want for anything, but my friends’ families moved to larger homes as they grew older while we stayed in the tiny starter home my dad has chosen for us in 1967.

My dad almost always paid child support. I know there were a couple of pilots’ strikes where he had no income, but he was not a deadbeat dad at all. He was just not a very involved dad.

He paid for my  braces and auto insurance. He even helped me out after my first husband and I got married, even though he disapproved of the whole thing.

He never went to any of the football games where I performed at half-time with my school’s dance team. He never helped me with my homework. He wasn’t there to teach me how to drive (though he let us steer while he was driving on occasion). I couldn’t call him up and ask for his advice about anything. He called us when he was ready to see us.

Bottom line is that I didn’t have a daddy. I had a dad with a full life that on occasion involved his children.

I have thanked my dad for what he gave to me and my siblings. He did more than a lot of fathers do these days. Dads get a lot of credit for being part-time dads (moms who are ambiguous about their roles are judged much more harshly).

I spent years wondering why my dad didn’t really like being around us much. I rationalized his nontraditional fatherhood by remembering that his dad abandoned his family; he didn’t have a good role model.

As an adult, I chose to accept a tenuous relationship that continued to be on his terms.

One time my father called the day before he was planning to be in the Connecticut area (he often visited friends on Long Island without contacting my sister or myself). He wanted to meet me someplace at 1 p.m. the next day. This one time, however, I was several years into my struggle with chronic Lyme disease, and was in the middle of a flare-up. I didn’t have the strength to drive anyplace and sit through a couple of hours in a restaurant. I said no. That was the last time I saw my dad. He never called to see me again.

So, while I wish Happy Father’s Day to all of the dads who have chosen to embrace their roles and be there for their kids, I continue to be conflicted about this holiday.






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