It would be nice if I could fill an entire blog space with all of the wonderful ways my father helped me grow into the woman I am now. It would also be nice if I could stop feeling that tinge of jealousy every time a friend or colleague talks about her wonderful father. Yes, it’s true. I have daddy issues.
Not every father is perfect. My father was physically and mentally abusive. One of my earliest memories is being beaten by a barber’s strap he stored in his closet. I realize the extent of my scars when I hear the rattling sound of a belt buckle being quickly undone. This was what I heard before any beating if the barber’s strap was out of reach. It was not only physical but mental abuse also. It was nothing for him to call me every terrible name in the book when he was angry.
The sad reality is that he only stopped hitting me when I was twelve years old because he slapped me so hard in the face that he thought he broke my nose. He stood back in horror as the blood trickled down my face. He hugged me and apologized. He swore it would not happen again.
My father was not a drunk. He is a hard working, blue collar man, who had no clue how to raise children and he had four. Don’t get me wrong. My father did not leave me in the cold. He gave me many material comforts and worked overtime to put me through college. He is by far not a bad man, but he was a terrible father.
So why do I share this on the holiday that is meant to revere father’s for their hard work? It is certainly not to discredit the myriad fathers who are deserving of such credit. It is more to reach a loving hand out to those women and men who have to look to the card section labeled “Dad-Humor” because the other cards just don’t speak the truth. There is a deep and solid pain in the hearts of so many of us when we are raised by men who should never have been fathers. I cringe whenever shows or people poke fun at sexually taking advantage of women who have “daddy issues” because these things are very real. Many adult women are still working through damaging issues and just trying to find out what their own emotional limitations are. It is very difficult to have a sense of self when the relationship that was supposed to teach that lesson that is irrevocably tarnished. Oprah has devoted entire seasons to this issue. She had a guest who had an intelligent point. Her guest speaker said that a father is supposed to show his daughter a healthy male/female relationship that does not involve a sexual component, so a woman can know that she can have this type of relationship with a man. A woman may then believe that a truly loving relationship with a man can only exist if there is a sexual component because the next step in the maturation process brings young girls before men who sometimes only view her that way. Teenage girls then confuse a boy’s sexual longing for love because it becomes this powerful attractive force. I have to say that I have been guilty of that time and time again, though my growing empathic abilities are making it easier to discern real love.
So where does that leave me? Well, my father is still in my life. We don’t talk about the abuse except for him to say, “Yeah, I was definitely no Ward Cleaver.” I smile nervously. I also think I owe my empathic abilities to his abuse. From some of the research I’ve read about Empaths, abuse can often be cited as a reason for this ability. The skill of being able to read an abusers’ emotional cues help the abused to stay safer. I always had to think about would could possibly make him angry. I had to learn to be extremely politic to have any type of existence under his roof. I think it also enhanced my verbal ability. It made me strong and weak all at the same time, a dichotomy that I try and balance on a daily basis.
So if you have the same mixed emotions about Father’s Day or even your own father, know that you are not alone. Many of us struggle with the reality that our fathers will never be represented by the prettiest Hallmark cards, and all of that is okay. It has hopefully helped you to grow into the wonderful person you are today.