Sunday, June 19, 2011

Happy Father's Day

I have decided to put  by blogging on hold to start writing greeting cards. I am going to start writing cards for Father's Day for the dad  who we once had a restraining order against, who I didn't have any contact with for 15 years of my life and is now in a mental institution.

To say that my relationship with my dad is atypical is a gross understatement.  My parents split up when I was 10 years old after several years of inappropriate behavior on my dad's part.  He acted recklessly, was abusive, unreliable and down-right crazy.  I could go into greater detail, but once I complete my greeting card line, I plan on writing a memoir chronicling my childhood and I certainly wouldn't want to spoil that.  For a long time, I didn't realize my dad wasn't like all the other dad's.  I thought his behavior was normal until I got older and got to know some of my friend's dads.  They all had jobs, dressed nicely, didn't take them to homes for the mentally retarded and nursing homes "for fun." 

My mom worked weekends, so we spent a large portion of our time with him.  Not everything we did was bizarre.  He worked for a travel agency for awhile and was responsible for delivering airline tickets at the airport back before e-Tickets and computerized check-in.  It was also at a time when we could go to the terminals without having to be frisked by the TSA.  We spent hours looking at planes and I used to pretend that I was taking a flight somewhere fun like Disney World.  Of course after our field trip my dad would claim his blood pressure was really high and as most professionals will tell you, the best remedy for that is to go have a beer.  I spent many a Saturday afternoon at a bar with my dad while he treated his acute blood pressure problem.

Due to my dad's lack of "focus," he had a hard time holding down a steady job, which meant we had to live with my grandparents from the time I was 2-years old.  My mom's parents were a godsend and made sure we were taken care of.  It was my grandpa's ultimate way of taking care of us when he told my mom that my dad needed to move out.  We had suffered through so much turbulence between my dad's crazy antics and the fighting that went on, it was almost a relief when he left. However, just because he didn't physically live with us, the abuse and erratic behavior continued.  When my parents first divorced my middle brother Mark and I had a choice of whether or not we wanted to continue to see my dad, but it always had to be in the presence of my mom.  These meetings were usually torture and ended in someone crying.  We finally decided that it wasn't worth it to see him anymore.

My dad made several efforts to try and "track us down," but that usually involved stalking us and had laws been stronger then, we would have had a real case against him.  As time went on, we never saw him unless he showed up somewhere uninvited.

Like I said, I could go on and on with the details of what we went through growing up, but it literally will take a book to accomplish this.  The bottom line is that it took me a really long time and for my dad to be officially put into a facility for both his physical and mental illness where I could forgive him and have some sort of relationship with him.  I decided to finally see him when I was 25-years old and working through a lot in my life.  Seeing him made me realize that regardless of his past, he was ill and was still my dad.

 I continue to struggle with my relationship with him and at have visited him about half a dozen times over the last several years.  I feel guilty when  don't visit him more or call him more, but I can only feel so much for him especially after having my own children.  I also think about how much my mom took on and how much she struggled to make a good life for us.  It is hard to make my dad a priority when I have so many other people in my life who have given me so much more than he has.

I also try to explain him to Maddie, who now understands that her grandparents are her parents' mommy and daddy. She sometimes gets confused about my dad as to whether or not he is heaven or not.  She has never met him and I honestly don't know when that day will come.  He is not exactly grandpa material in his current state and seeing as how she is scared of pretty much everything right now, I don't think taking her to a coo-coo's nest of crazy people is the best idea.

Father's Day is a tough day for me.  I'm not gonna lie.  I see people posting pictures of their dad's on Facebook and I know full well I could never do that.  I still send my dad a Father's Day card, but it is hard to read all the cards with jokes about all the things kids learned from their dad or pictures of a dad lifting his little girl in the air, etc., etc.  I have to find a non-discript, sometimes the one's labeled "For Anyone" or "Simply Stated," because I can't thank him for being a good role model or always being there when I needed him.  I can't say he supported us or laugh about funny jokes.  What I did learn was to be a stronger person.  I learned that every family is not perfect and there are a lot of people out there who don't fit the Hallmark vision of a family.

What I have learned is that while I lost the presence of one dad, I gained a bunch more.  So, today I am thankful for all the "stand-in dads" that I had in my life.  First and foremost is my grandfather.  He was my rock.  He supported us.  He was strict, but loving and kind.  He taught us about hard work and discipline.  The second person is my mom.  I try to remember to wish her a "Happy Father's Day" each year because she was both mom and dad to my brothers and I.  Then there are my brothers who were the one's who walked me down the isle at my wedding.  They were my protectors and my friends.  They explained what life was about and made me suck it up and not be weak.  They made sure I was O.K. no matter what.

Then there are the countless men in my life who have taken me under their wing when they knew I needed a father figure.  Those people know who they are and I am eternally grateful for them.  And finally, last but certainly not least is my husband.  He is the dad to my kids that I never had.  He truly is was Hallmark cards are made of.  They say that women marry men just like their dad's.  Well, in this case this couldn't be farther from the case unless Tom snaps and contracts a nasty case of Schizophrenia.  All joking aside, he is rock and support that I always longed for.  He is the person who holds a mirror up to me and shows me who I truly am.  When I really think about it, he is most like my grandpa.  I guess I took the closest thing to my dad and found a guy just like him.  For that, I can truly say, "Happy Father's Day."

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