What is it about fathers?
I’m having such a hard time writing these days. Writing about my father is worse. Writing about my lack of father is just about the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I don’t know how to put into writing what I missed by growing up without a father. I know that my relationships with men are affected by this. But how do you write this without sounding like a goddamn whiner?
Why did I go searching for him anyways? I remember being in Honduras and my heart desperately wanting to search him out and finding him and have this awesome reunion and developing a connection. But I was there with my mother. I knew she was going to somehow turn this into a reunion between her and my father. Her former lover, the love of her life and the man who helped her conceive her firstborn. She would make this reunion about her. At one point I remember actually telling her, “If I do look for him I don’t want you to come with me when I find him.” The pain on her face was excruciating. I liked seeing that on her face. Because it resembled my disappointment at the choices she made that kept me from growing up with a father. I wanted her to hurt.
I asked someone today why it was that I so craved this connection with a father. What is it that men are supposed to do for their children? It’s so foreign to me. All I have is this idealized version of father figures. I envision Atticus Finch from To Kill A Mockingbird or Pedro Infante in Los Ricos Tambien Lloran or Adam Trask in East of Eden. Fathers who are strong and wise men and would have taught me to think logically and to reduce my emotional reactions to everyday problems.
She said that fathers protect and provide and cherish and make you feel important. I asked her if this was not the same thing that mothers did and she explained how the connection was different. My mother was able to bond with me while I was in the womb and when she nursed me and raised me but that connection was never there with my father. He held me once when I was a newborn and never again. The time that we would have bonded was taken away. I didn’t see him again till I was 27. When I did meet him it was too late. I was resistant to a relationship and he was too pushy about it, almost trying to force me into a father/daughter dynamic. I resented it and pushed away. I spoke to him sporadically after that initial meeting. I saw him again a couple of years later and then never again. He died a couple of years ago and I cried tears of regret. I got to meet him but I didn’t get what I needed from it. I didn’t get the kumbaya ending that I craved. I had idealized the moment too much and disappointment set in again.
All my father figures are dead. John Steinbeck, Abraham Lincolm, Gregory Peck…all men with deep and rich voices, tall and lean and with compassionate faces. I even think of Edgar Allan Poe as a father figure. Even though he was a drunk and he was short I think. But his poems are so deep. I imagine he had a lot of pain. Pain makes you wise. It makes you drink yourself to death too but it toughens you up along the way. He would have been great to talk to when he was sober. Or maybe even when he was drunk…sometimes that’s when you’re the most honest.
I want to be able to have a conversation with a man without feeling like they want to bed me. Or that there’s an ulterior motive. Something they will take away from me, something dear and precious. I know that this is more my issue than it is theirs but why can’t I shake it? Just long enough that I can open up and have a conversation and not feel uncomfortable.
My biological father made me feel uncomfortable and I felt like he was trying to manipulate me into a relationship. My stepfather was abusive and mean and often a bully. My mother had many boyfriends when I was growing up and I resented them as well. She gave them so much attention but would often rebuff my requests for a hug or a kiss. She would squirm away from my reach and make an excuse about having to go to work. It’s only recently that she has started to be affectionate. Sometimes it’s a little too late. Like me searching for my father at 27, hoping that somehow I would instantly know how to deal with men. Instead I learned that he was a womanizer, a con artist and greedy. The reunion itself is a great story to tell. What came of the reunion is sad and disappointing but I should have known better. Fairy tale endings only happen in the pages of a good book or on the giant screen of a movie theater.