Continued from The Fam
To really understand me, you must understand the relationship I had with my dad. They say, a girl’s relationship with their father is extremely important.
From infancy, girls draw conclusions about what men are like from the men in their life. If there is a father (or a male in her life who takes a father role), that man becomes her guidepost for what to expect of men and what to expect of men’s attitude toward women. (http://psychcentral.com/lib/daughters-need-fathers-too/)
My dad used to tell me that I could do anything in the world I wanted with one exception – I could never be a dad. Hahaha.
Yeah…. Dad was funny.
Dad was a dreamer. He was awesome at fantasizing about what to do with lottery winnings. From those discussions, I learned that Dad was generous. He wanted to do good things. Dad was handy. He could do anything!! Dad was a great thinker. He was creative. Our town had great Halloween parades and on more than one occasion, dad created amazing costumes. On one specific occasion he used chicken wire to fabricate 6 ft tall top hats that stole the show in the parade that year. He loved. He was a helper. He was the first in line to search for a missing child in the woods near Harvey’s Lake one year.
My dad was a great dad.
Why is this important? First and foremost, it is because it set the stage for how established expectations; not only for how a man treated me, but for how a man loved and interacted with my children.
I’m not sure that my dad was a great husband. Of course I wasn’t married to him but I know that he struggled as a provider. Being a dreamer created the potential for expectations that were unrealistic. He had a lot of BIG ideas that were simply unpractical under the circumstances. He may have used resources he didn’t have to chase dreams that were improbable at the time. He saw potential in EVERYTHING – including me.
Dad believed in me. He never questioned my intent – he simply helped me figure out how it may be possible. After watching Now You See Him, Now You Don’t, I was convinced that I could figure out how to become invisible. My dad and my 8th grade science teacher encouraged me to pursue my thoughts. Bravo to them for allowing me to believe!! Dad was a realist yet not too restrictive. He gave me room without allowing me to strangle myself. He guided gently with great wisdom.
Consequently, I expected the father of my children to be the same. I didn’t understand or realize that fatherhood could be anything else. I ultimately married with the idea that my children’s childhood and paternal experience would mimic mine. FAIL.
My husband failed. He was (without my awareness) held to a standard that he knew nothing about; that was impossible to achieve.
Without being aware – my dad had embedded a standard of fatherhood onto my psyche. He formatted an expectation that my consciousness simply expected. The stage was set for massive disappointment.
I mentioned in another post that my dad had inadvertently emotionally abandoned me while he was falling in love with my step-mother. Totally human. He didn’t realize it – it was unintentional. He was doing what people do when they are focused on falling in love. All of the other times that I can remember – he was there; present and ready to offer wisdom or support or whatever it was I needed at the time.
In early 1980 I was living alone in an apartment in Hayward, CA. I woke in the middle of the night – looked at the clock – and saw the red digital LED lights say 2:59. A few moments later I was aware of light – that sensation which occurs when you notice it is daylight. I open my eyes. There is a man standing at the end of my bed with his t-shirt pulled up over his nose and mouth so that only his eyes were visible. His pants were down and his penis was being stroked by his right hand.
As the scene before me registered in my brain, my mouth opened and a scream escaped. I had always wondered if it would really happen – if I could actually formulate sound when needed – and it did. A blood curdling, shrill escaped through my vocal cords and the man ran. I’ve always wondered how he ran, pulled up his pants, and grabbed my purse on the way out (it was missing when I took stock of the apartment).
I called my dad.
That would be normal except for the fact that my Dad was then living in Cincinnati and I was in California. He told me to call the police and he hung up. He was the one to whom I looked toward for safety and security. Hands Down.
I later realized that I transferred that expectation to my husband. I EXPECTED him – without understanding it – to be my protector in the way that my dad had (seemingly) protected me. Hmmm…. Mistake.
My dad fixed my problems – at least it felt that way. When I was first pregnant and growing out of my normal clothing with no money to buy maternity clothes – it was my dad who sent a $50 Sears card and $20 for fabric so I could make some. My husband at the time had taken all the money we had left after payday to rent a boat, buy bait and beer, and go fishing. I was heartbroken. I called Dad.
His message was this:
An afternoon of fishing may produce a month of happiness and so its value is priceless.
He knew that self care was of ultimate importance and he took ‘care’ of me in exchange. I’ve never forgotten the primary message.
One October day I was preparing for a conference in Orlando when he called and wanted to chat. Dad was great about calling and checking in with my busy life. I said I’d call him when I got back. We flew to Orlando, checked into the hotel, and got a message within the hour that Dad had died. The only thing that I could think of is that I would never be able to call back.
It was years before I truly grasped the notion that I couldn’t just call and share my life with him or ask for advice. He has been sorely missed….
Dad, I love you and thanks … For all the love and lessons.