Friday, June 13, 2008

Father's Day

"Kid's see through you," he said. ( Mother or father, you should know this--kid's see through you.) I have heard this said about Tim Russert, in the shocking aftermath of his sudden death Friday. Tim Russert will be remembered by so many of his colleagues as a man who encouraged them to be good fathers, good mother's, since it is that job that matters most. That job that will have the most lasting legacy, that will change the world, that will pass love into the future. That job is the one that will change a life, and then the lives that flow out from that life.

I am frightened about what the loss of Tim Russert might mean for the political season to come. Could one man matter so much? How will we know?

But what moves me most right now, are the stories his colleagues tell of Tim Russert the son, and Tim Russert the father. And it is this aspect of Tim Russert, the man, both father and son, that has moved me most.

Father's Day was always a difficult day for me. I had not one bad father, but two. Abandoned by both. With never a backward look as far as I knew. No birthday gift, or card, or call for an abandoned daughter. A silence so profound for me, it was deafening. It made me sad, and lonely at first. It made me feel unloved. And finally it made me angry. It wounded me, and so profoundly, it damaged every relationship with every man to come later in my life. The little girl who got left by her daddies, left every man to come after. I became the woman who leaves.

I left my first love, just when I knew I loved him. I married men I didn't love and left them, too. I made love without loving. What did I know of love? What did I know of men? That no matter how much you loved them, they'd leave you? I knew that no matter how much you needed them, they would leave and never look back. And this is the woman I became.

I got pregnant once in my mid twenties. Pregnant by a man I feared. How can you love a man you fear? A better question might be, how can you make love to a man you fear? But that's a longer story. For now, I'll simply say, I knew I did not want this man to be my child's father. I did not want to be tied to this man for the rest of my life, trying to force him to be a good father. What did I know of good fathers? And I worried that I would not be able to protect a child of mine from the wound that broke and hardened my heart. And so (pre Roe v Wade), I chose to have an abortion. I can't really say I regretted the choice I made. Because, late in life, grown up daughters have found me.

Now one of my daughters is having nightmares that there are tanks in the streets, a knock at the door, a gun to her head. Apocalyptic nightmares, recurring. And in the last few days she said in passing, that her father has been calling her. Her father, the man who walked out on her and her little brother when they were small, leaving her mother to raise them alone. He fathered other children. Left them, too. Now that she is almost thirty, this fatally flawed father wants to talk to his daughter. There is desperation in his plea. She does not answer the phone. She does not return the calls. He texts her, he pleads. He wants to bring her back to God, he says. She listens but doesn't hear. And now I believe I understand the nature of her dreams. The unwanted invader at the door, forcing in his way. The gun in the face.

A father's abandonment leaves a wound that might not heal. It might leave you childless, alone. It might hold you hostage a lifetime. Fathers, your kids see through you.


Bernice said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Je ne regrette rien said...

okay, let's consider ME the first comment. Hello, my sister ... I, too, having been profoundly left behind, am a leaver. If you leave first, they can't leave you! as I get older, I question my reasoning on that one. hmmmm.... well, one can't get them ALL right! *smile* some mothers are good fathers, too! so I'm celebrating me on Father's day. fuck'em if they can't take a joke.

Petrosexual said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Randal Graves said...

Kids aren't stupid, they certainly do see through, so you better be worth seeing. I'm far from a perfect dad I'm sure, but I try. Our kids may not be us, think and act exactly like us, but they sure can use us as a starting point of they so wish.

K McKiernan said...


I see more and more similarities between us and hope someday you want to focus on those.

I, too, have been left my whole life or abused by a string of "fathers." It was not until my last stepfather that a decent man entered my mother and my life--by then, however, I was already 15 and making bad choices based on the hole left in me by "bad" fathers.

I will share one memory. I don't usually do this... but as good faith to you and maybe to heal over old wounds, I will share. When I was about 8 years old, my mother called my dad and said she was about to be on her way to take me there. He said, "ok" and 20 minutes later there I stood, little blonde haired girl knocking and no one answering. I stood, little brown square suitcase in hand, clasping too tight to the beige handle, praying he would answer.

I knocked and knocked. He was not there. He never was ever really there. You know? Even when he did decide to spend time with me, he was not really there. But that day, at age 8, I knew I would never be anyone's daddy's girl.

In a way... I am glad I did not have a cake life... did not have a glorious father figure, for it has made me one firecracker of a bitch, and the world needs way way more of those. So in that way, I am glad your life led you to who you are today, too.

Someone needs to hold the world accountable... I say we... you and me... people like us... tell it like it is... no matter how ugly that truth is.

Stella said...

A sad but necessary article from Ending Violence Against Women and Girls

I was one of those typical American males: hyper-masculine, overly competitive, and drenched in the belief system that I could talk to women any way I felt, treat women any way I felt, with no repercussions whatsoever. As I sought therapy during and especially after that period, I came to realize that I and other males in this country treated women and girls in this dehumanizing way because somewhere along our journey we were told we could.

Reading K's and Utah's experience makes me realize how little men listen to women. (Although I must exclude K's J and my husband.) However, the years, and years, and years, that women suffer being ignored at the hands of men because they "were told" they could by society enrages me.

I know this post is about Fathers' Day, but we much recognize our experiences are borne out of a society that allows women to be ignored—silenced into ignorance and fear. Our fathers, too, were brainwashed victims of society in learning to keep women "in their place."

My path out of invisibility led to an unwavering devotion to education. We moved forward, slowly, but remain invisible. In this, I'm with K. Although I didn't support her platform, I do believe one of the reasons Clinton lost the election is society's antipathy and accepted misogyny against, particularly, intelligent women.

As a child, I cannot adequately write about the pain this causes our gender. K and Utah have done such a good job, that I can only agree.

One comment I must make, though. I'm one proud bitch. (BITCH="Being in total control of herself.") Given the bloggers here, I feel I am in excellent company. Most importantly, K states a fundamental truth: Someone needs to hold the world accountable... I say we... you and me... people like us... tell it like it is... no matter how ugly that truth is.

One ugly truth that I want to put out there is, as women, we need to support each other and help our sisters become empowered. I've seen too many women tear down others trying to achieve their goals because women, for example, in "powerful positions" don't want to give up their power.

Power is not a limited resource: it's limitless. There's enough to go around for all of us and to help each other realize our goals.

The emotional, sexual, and psychological stereotyping of females begins when the doctor says, "It's a girl." ~Shirley Chisholm

Women are the only oppressed group in our society that lives in intimate association with their opressors. ~Evelyn Cunningham

Utah Savage said...

Stella, you wow me with your comment. It really deserves it's own own place here.

K, so glad to hear your voice. Why was there so much bad fathering in our generations? I do appreciate the ferocity of your voice. The truth you're sharing. Thanks for bringing it to the table.

Randal, once again you really get to me. There's nothing sexier in all the world than a man who loves his children and is really present for them. It doesn't hurt that he writes poetry and loves his wife, too. You're such a heart throb in you little boy cap and all.

K McKiernan said...


Posted some poems I wrote, um, maybe 16 years ago... seemed fitting with your post and then my response.

Check it out at The iKonoclast... my other blog.

Let me know what you think. I was young... my writing was earnest, well intentioned, but a bit rough.

Interested in your opinion.

The Future Was Yesterday said...

Children see thru parents period. Thru the fear, thru the games, thru the prejudices , thru it all.

But they also absorb all those traits as their own if the traits aren't removed. Children are this huge, blank slate upon which we write our future....many times, so poorly.

Je ne regrette rien said...

I hope tomorrow all of us walking wounded can take a moment and celebrate the multitude of absolutely incredible fathers that DO exist in the world. They have a huge role to play in the changing of society and the world at large.

K McKiernan said...

Je ne regrette rien,

You are very very right. We do focus on the negative here a bit because frankly, we were dealt some pretty shitty parents. However, there are miraculous fathers... my two husbands (one an ex of course) are really truly spectacular with our kids.

Its funny though... how if men just ante up... just do the job, people see them as amazing... while mothers toil and dote and get blamed for everything.....hahahahaahah.

And some of our mothers... well, they should! But that is another story for another time.

Je ne regrette rien said...

I too received a big old helping of shitty parents and seconds on an even shittier childhood (not that its a contest). mostly these days I think good parents, of any gender, are the unsung heroes of the world.

Dusty said...

I never lied to my son..even if telling him the truth was a detriment to our relationship.

My parent rarely if ever told me the always had their 'spin' on it.

D.K. Raed said...

Such excellent writing, post & comments. You all make me see things, understand things, and realize the human capacity for living on your own terms.

FranIAm said...

This is a most compelling post Utah.

I have had no shortage of father and abandonment issues myself. The wound heals, but never completely - at least that is what I think.

This is why I left the man I am married to now... at 21, when he so deeply loved me, I found his tenderness and fidelity repugnant.

So I did the only thing that had ever been done to me... I ran.

Fate had other plans for us and that is why at 49 I married him at last.

A tender and kind man, devoted to his daughter and to me. Yet it is still hard to receive that sometimes and now is one of those times.

Blueberry said...

My father was not around much. It was his job that caused that, but it was no secret to me that he was a reluctant father and didn't really want kids. My love of my life in late teens and my 20s abused me. I still fear him to this day. I am so grateful he did not spawn any kids through me. I am grateful every day of my life that I have none of his offspring around me. Maybe not wanting kids is a trait I took after my dad.

My own dad had something in common with Tim Russert -- he died too young of a heart attack.

Naj said...

My dad gave me narcissism!
And only 1/5th of his good looks!

Because of him, I always think ANYTHING and EVERYTHING in this world is doable ... he raised me delusional?1

Utah Savage said...

To you strong, interesting women who have been so honest here, on a day when it's so often all about "making nice for Dad," whether he was a loving or good dad or not, I greatly appreciate your honesty, your courage, your strength in telling your story of loss and abandonment. That isn't an easy thing to do in a public forum. I know there are so many loving, kind, supportive fathers out there--maybe most fathers are such men. In part it is because there are such men, that not having had one in my life when I was young is what makes father's day so hard for me. It's a day about honoring those men. So, Randal I do honor you. Mathman, J, I honor you. I know there are others who write blogs but not about being fathers, who qualify as good fathers. To all you good father's out there, I wish you a happy father's day. I wrote this piece in part to warn fathers of the damage done to daughters, especially, by their absence, abuse, their abandonment.

Anita said...

My father was never abusive. Actually, my mother was far more abusive than my father ever was. Her abuse was creating emotional cognitive dissonance with her children. She would be violently angry, but SAY she wasn't angry, SAY she wasn't yelling and screaming at me.

My father was/is totally narcissistic. So I guess one could say his "abuse" was his benign neglect of his six kids. I was 5th of 6th children and he seemed to find it quite funny that he could never remember my name. Now he's in a nursing home with alzheimer's so of course he still gets away with not remembering my name, despite the fact that he remember everyone else's.

You ask how can one love a man we fear. Even though my father wasn't overtly abusive, I ended up in a 10-year relationship with a man who was verbally, physically, and even more, emotionally cruel and abusive, perhaps more like my mother than my father. I think in a way I chose an abusive "father image" who would punish me when I did wrong or didn't behave. I guess I felt like that was the treatment I deserved. Even though that relationship ended six years ago, I am still feeling the emotional ramifications. Actually, I'm feeling them even more powerfully than before because for the first time I am allowing myself to ackowledge what happened rather than make believe it never happened.

Someday, I might forgive myself. Someday I might allow myself to be happy.

Until then, life sucks.

Distributorcap said...

there are all kinds of abuse --- and somehow i found a way to forgive my parents for their abuse -- it wasnt physical or mental --- it was just emotional neglect.

i hear ya

DivaJood said...

I adored my father and his lasting gift to me was alcoholism. For me the best way I could honor him was to become a sober alcoholic myself. Did wonders for my ability to forgive him his shortcomings, because they were the same as my own.

It was not my father who abused me, it was an uncle. The man who my Aunt Jo has been with for over 70 years - no, they never married. He's a pedophile, and he abused all the girls in the family. I'm unable to spend anytime around him; he's rarely at family gatherings, but when he is there, I wind up unable to speak to anyone for about 3 months. I just go silent.

My ex-husband liked to use me as a punching bag on occassion, and blamed me (you walked into my fist was his favorite excuse). Yet he is a loving father, and both my kids adore him. He was a shitty husband, but then I was drunk for most of my marriage. I'm sure I contributed to the dung heap.

The point is, it is all so freaking complicated. Just complicated.

Anonymous said...

I can't add anything that hasn't already been said, but I can say that I'm glad for the chance to see my kids have a good father. We may not be able to take them places or buy them lots of things, but they have him in ways I never had my dad who would have much rather worked than be at home.

Utah Savage said...

I want you all to know how moved I am by your stories. I am writing this tribute to you with tears streaming down my face. I do feel your pain--it is my own.

Anita, I hope you can forgive yourself for having chosen a man to treat you like your mother. it is almost inevitable that we will try to "get it right" by chosing a mate who resembles the won who wounded us so that we can try again to "get it right. It is "repetition compulsion." If ones childhood was full of neglect and abuse, the adult keeps trying to get it right in the same old way over and over. The only way out of this trap I know of is years of therapy. I also found writing it all down and making it my story. Now it is done. And now it is outside me and in the world to stand as a cautionary tale for others. I recommend both methods of healing.