When Father is a Wound

The Playgrounds of War IOn Sunday, my children and I celebrated my husband on Father’s Day. It seems natural to celebrate the father of my children but as a child, there was too much hurt and damage to even pronounce the word “Papa” to talk about and address my father. When I was able to utter it, my throat was swollen with pain and my eyes were wet with tears.

How do you wish an abusive father a Happy Father’s Day?

Not a feeling allowed in that home.
Having children in a married relationship doesn’t make one a father.
Every single day was about him and his pleasure to dominate and break other people.

My father passed away a year ago. Do I miss him? I sure don’t miss the poverty he blamed on us children, the cigarettes he blew in my little face, the drunkenness, the constant yelling, the words and blows that break a child beyond repair. Nor do I miss his incomprehensible hatred of my mother’s “filthy race” and mine and of the entire human family, his hatred of women and the daily reminders that he wished he had had sons instead of daughters, or the people who bullied me and my sisters just because we were related to him.

Echoing the wisdom of the “Kleenex Generation” (people can be used and thrown away at will), some say that women in my mother’s situation should have abortions so they don’t bring miserable children into this world. What an insult! My mother loved us and never has she said “I wish you were not here”. I love my life too and no, I don’t wish I had been aborted.

It’s natural to be angry at people who hurt us, but maybe the father I had made me more compassionate to others. He was a sick man, and under the macho-man mask, there was fear and suffering. I choose to always give people the benefit of the doubt because I gave it to the man who broke me instead of building me. And certainly, his misogyny made me a feminist.

When I was in my twenties, my father went to counseling and took a medication for his paranoid disorder (which was part of the problem) for a few months and he was a different man. He even candidly asked my mother why his daughters never embraced him; had he done something wrong? He was either in denial or it was part of his symptoms to forget his actions. Unfortunately, he stopped going to counseling and went back to his old abusive ways when his psychiatrist retired. Untreated mental illness can do a lot of damage.

My mother never wanted to separate us, and chose to remain with my father until the end. While I think separation would have been salutary for us all, I admire her forty-one years of dedication to her family. I believe reconciliation and healing can sometimes happen and should be encouraged when possible. I don’t hate my father and I don’t mourn the man he was. But sometimes I do mourn the man I wish he had been.

Sometimes a father is a blessing, sometimes a father is a wound. Despite what happened, I don’t pray for God’s judgment on my father’s soul; I pray for mercy. He was never happy on this Earth, and I hope he is at peace now. I know that people can change even if I didn’t see it happen fully in him.

I wish my childhood had been different, but I want to move forward. I want to be the best spouse and mother I can, even though I struggle with some of my father’s traits. I pray that my sons and daughters know what parental love is and are willing and able to love their children in turn. May we never dread Father’s Day or Mother’s Day and may we have many reasons to celebrate life together.

Beatrice Fedor blogs at 400 Words for Women

Filed under: » »