Wednesday, June 24, 2009

A father's legacy

I spent all Sunday gathering up the nerve to make that phone call.



"Hi! Happy Father's Day! It's your youngest daughter calling to wish you a happy Father's Day." Cheerfulness is my best weapon, I think to myself.

"Uh huh. Gee, thanks." Huh. I can sense sarcasm as well as the next girl.

"Um. Yeah. No problem. How are you?" I will remain happy and upbeat. I will. I will do that. I can do that.

He spends the next twenty minutes complaining about how he was all alone on Father's Day, how his two daughters deserted him, how the rain flooded the basement, how screwed they got in the recent tax evaluation of their land, and how rude it was for me to call him at 3:00 in the afternoon, waking him up.

I apologized for abandoning him, commiserated with him about the weather, asking him to send some of it our way (we're a bit dry, actually), asked questions about taxes I don't understand the answers to, and begged forgiveness for interrupting nap time. With every passing second, my stomach became tighter and tighter.

I heard my husband in the other room, laughing with his father on the phone.

It's not that I don't love my father; I do. He and my mother gave up so much to make sure we sat down to family dinners a couple of times a week, spent at least one weekend day together as a family, learned right from wrong (we'll ignore sticky moral issues I now grapple with on a daily basis), and basic human respect. They were patient with a bright, inquisitive child who never stopped questioning. (Never. Stopped.) They knew I slept with a flashlight so I could read just one more chapter. They gave everything so that I would have an education anyone could be proud of.

But he also left me a legacy of fear. Fear of angry men, fear that the next fist will be aimed at my face, fear of the next phone call home. Fear that marriage means resentment and miscommunication. Fear that I am not good enough, nor are my actions ever going to be good enough.

I talked to my sister later that day. She asked me if our father had told me about the ER visit.

No, no. I guess it just didn't come up.

He stabbed himself. It was an accident. She's laughing.

I'm not.


  1. I wish I could tell you how much this post resonates with me. Thank you for writing it.

  2. wow. I'm so sorry.

    Sending you a great big virtual hug!

  3. Sigh. I'm sorry he disappointed you (again). Good of you to call. I have many friends who've opted for no contact because it's too hard, so you were (are) brave to do that.

    (reminded me I forgot to call my Dad! OOPS. I was with the in-laws all day and didn't have a chance.)

  4. From what you write, I wouldn't have guessed that your childhood would have been so rough.

    I hope you know that now, when (if) you decide to have children, they will have a better childhood than you had.

    I'm proud you had the nerve? charity? strength? to call him, knowing how hard it would be.

    Being an adult sucks sometimes, doesn't it?


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