I was a sulky, sad kid, for many reasons, both of the nature and nurture variety. My grandmother often accused me of enjoying my misery. She said I wanted everyone to be as miserable as I was. Perhaps because of that constant accusation, I feel guilty stepping on the happiness of others. As such, I started writing this post a year ago. And then I stopped. I didn’t want harsh on anyone’s happy.
A lot of people love parent-appreciation holidays. They get joy out of crafting odes to their awesome parents and they should. A good parent is a blessing and they deserve praise, because I’m sure it’s not easy. For me, Mothers’ Day fills me with a melancholy so profound that I can barely get out of bed. As for Father’s Day, I have a carefully crafted indifference to it that veils a childish outrage over people lucking out with one awesome dad, when I had three fathers, and didn’t get a decent one in the bunch.
This year I decided I was going to say something. I was going to write in-depth about Mother’s Day and how painful it is for me. I crafted my thoughts and started the post. Then, I read Anne Lamott’s excellent essay on why she hates Mother’s Day. Most of the comments were from people who also feel like “killjoys” for talking about how difficult these kinds of days are and who appreciated Anne saying what they can’t or won’t. I should have felt affirmed by that, but maybe, because I like misery, I got trapped in the negative comments, where people were either missing the point and asserting, I’LL CELEBRATE MOTHERS DAY IF I WANT, THANKYOUVERYMUCH, or giving a dismissive, OH MY GOD WHAT A BUNCH OF BITTER WHINERS! IT’S JUST ONE DAY!
I didn’t want to take the day away from anyone. I didn’t want to be a bitter whiner. So that post still sits in my draft folder, gathering digital dust. Maybe I’ll shake it off and work on it again next year. For now, I’m brushing this dust off of this one, that has been in my draft folder for just as long, about Father’s Day.
What is the internet for, if not to spill the intimate details of one’s life to everyone you’ve never met? Let’s meet the dads.
Dad One. He’s either a scumbag with a billion kids, or a violent criminal. It’s a mystery! Enough said about him, either way.
Dad 2: The Daddening. Then there was the other violent criminal who was there the first few years of my life, until he went to prison for armed robbery. Before I was even in kindergarten, I remember often hearing him beat my mother to the ground. I also have a distinct memory of watching him beat a trans woman half-to-death in the hallway of our rental house, because she showed up to tell him she had a crush on him. This guy views himself as my father, and still doesn’t get why, as an adult, I am not interested in reconnecting with him.
To this day, movie scenes of people getting beat down, particularly with regards to gay or trans characters, make me shake and cry. I really enjoyed the terrible (and terribly fun) movie, Camp. But this scene…ugh. It’s not even graphic, but it makes me cry so hard I get sick to my stomach. So I have to fast-forward through it. I couldn’t even bring myself to watch it to share it here. PTSD is real.
Dad Three: Dad with a Vengeance. Then there was Irv. My grandfather was a loving rage monster. He could hold me on his lap and call me his “brown-eyed chickadee” and then a minute later, flip over the dinner table and call my grandmother a “useless, stupid spic,” because she forgot to bring him the salt.
My grandfather often told me that if I loved my mother, it was proof that I didn’t love him. He had frequent temper-tantrums, throwing things when he was displeased. I saw him assault and choke my (adult) mother for laughing at a joke at his expense. I used to record myself (on cassette) watching TV shows, because I was a blogger because blogs existed–take that, hipsters–and I have tapes of my grandfather saying awful things to me. On one, I told him that I loved him and he responded to me by saying, “Yeah, yeah. You love me like your fucking mother loves me.” I was six-years-old. And with a weariness and snark of someone much older, I responded, “Geeeez. Go to bed.”
The worst part is knowing that he actually did love me, as much as he was capable of loving anyone. Which is a phrase I’ve had to say far too often, about too many members of my family. I was the “favorite,” so I got the best treatment out of everyone, if you can believe that. I even have a few good memories. He encouraged me to read voraciously, and was so proud of my intellect. He made a little cart that he attached to the back of his riding mower so I could ride along and read while he mowed. He loved music and would play the records of Engelbert Humperdink and Perry Como, teaching me his favorite songs. I still remember the sound of his voice, the raspy, wheezing way he would tunelessly sing, “Please Release Me,” getting so caught in the emotion that his voice would break. And I’d cry too, because I catch emotions like other people catch colds.
But then, if I sassed or misbehaved, his favorite method of behavior correction was threatening to call Social Services to come take me away. Sometimes, he actually picked up the phone, pretended to dial, and had a conversation with the “social worker” about what a bad kid I was. He demanded they pick me up immediately. It filled me with so much terror that I would sob hysterically, begging him not to send me away and he would smile and tell the phone, “Never mind, Christie’s decided to be a good girl.” Great parenting, Irv. That didn’t fuck me up or wreck my sense of self-worth or anything. Thanks for the love of reading AND the low self-esteem, dickhead.
I always think it’s funny when people get obsessed with those DNA tests. They want to know their history. Where they come from. Since I don’t know my exact race (See “Dad One”) I’m often asked, “Don’t you wanna do a DNA test and find out?” No. Not at all. Knowing whether or not he’s a more generalized piece of shit or specializing as a rapist piece of shit, makes no difference. I know who I am. I know where I come from. I come from broken men. I come from angry men. I come from men who wanted everyone around them to feel as miserable as they felt.
Do we forgive our Fathers in our age or in theirs
or in their deaths?
Saying it to them or not saying it-
If we forgive our Fathers what is left?
I don’t know yet. I’ll let you know when I get there.