Sunday, June 19, 2011

This Father's Day

Today is Father's Day. If I'm being honest, it's a day when I usually feel grateful that my dad died nine years ago, setting me free from the many dips and valleys in our challenging relationship. This year, because I'm working on my memoir about being his daughter, I feel differently about Father's Day.

I think about him and most of the bitterness and anger has gone away, leaked out after years of wearing it like a coat, clutched tightly around me. I don't need it anymore. I have come to terms with the kind of childhood I lived through, and I can remove that particular backpack full of rocks and set it down by the side of the road.

We can't change what happened to us, especially as kids. I had to reconcile with my experiences, and stop running from them or whitewashing them to make them more acceptable to me. Much of what happened wasn't good or healthy, and a lot of it was beautiful and worth celebrating. I think it's probably that way for everyone.

I have come to a place where I wouldn't want to change my childhood, because it made me who I am today, in this exact moment. I love who I am, but it was a long road to get from childhood to here. Most of my adulthood I didn't know who I really was. I faked my way through it, taking the temperature of every other person in the room to decide how I should act and feel. That was the kind of benchmark I believed was normal, but now I know it's deadly to your own identity and sense of purpose.

My dad taught me a lot of things which reside in my soul to this day. He gave me a sense of order and neatness, and helped me develop a logical mind. He was wickedly funny, and any humour I have developed I first learned from him. He was resourceful and economical (read: cheap) and I like now that I inherited that gene, even if it means learning to enjoy spending money sometimes.

I recently re-read a number of his final letters to me, and through my tears, I realized anew that he never stopped trying to be better. He had a lot of old scars from his childhood, and overcoming them was not an easy process, but he worked hard at it. Like me, he also came to believe in the power of grace over rules, and he understood that forgiveness was the answer. Living up to these ideals was hard for him, as it is for all of us, but he believed them in his heart, and that alone has healed many of the rifts between us in our father-daughter relationship, even after he has left this world.

On this Father's Day, I'm grateful for the changes deep inside of me. I can view my dad differently now, and I can see Jason for the dad that he is to our children, and I thank God that he led me to Jason as a marriage partner. For all of the mistakes I've made, my choice of who to marry was the best thing I've ever done. I gave my kids the gift of a loving and capable father, and you cannot place a value on that because it is worth more than anything you could ever buy.

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