I watched a movie recently. It was called ‘On the Rocks’ and it starred Rashida Jones and Bill Murray. It’s about the relationship between a father and daughter and the gist of the movie is that the father’s continual interference and assumptions about his son-in-law’s behavior end up jeopardizing his daughter’s marriage. When it was over, a wave of sadness swept over me. Why? Even though the father’s character played by Bill Murray was flawed, he doted on his daughter and was completely devoted to her. And I envied that. I had it briefly as a child, when my biological father (Big Beluga) was in my life, but once he disappeared off the face of the planet, there was no more ‘doting’ or ‘devotion’. I cannot imagine what it must feel like to have a devoted dad that is ‘there’ through it all. To have someone to walk you down the aisle, to be that ‘shoulder to cry on’ when times are hard, to have that person that looks forward to your visits after you’ve grown up and moved across the country. What is it like?
I had that for a time before it abruptly ended (when my mother remarried when I was 8 and my biological father left without a trace). I had a father that loved me ‘to the moon and back’. But it was a strange affair, to be sure. How do I begin to explain? Well, imagine that there are 9 children, and of those 9, one is ‘singled out’. And when I say ‘singled out’, I mean in a ‘good’ way. After the divorce, when my father would stop by the house, most of the time he picked me up exclusively. We went to various places throughout the city. Our time together usually involved a trip to KFC or Skipper’s for lunch or dinner, the movies (where I could have as much candy as I wanted, as long as I didn’t tell my mom), bowling or swimming. There was no doubt that I was his ‘favorite’. He made it crystal clear through his actions, which included taping an enlarged photo of me (just me) to the dashboard in his car. Sounds lovely, right? Well, that’s the thing, it depends on the perspective you’re coming from. As a child, it felt really incredibly special. But as a parent? It seems so unbelievably twisted!
When I try to imagine how my other siblings must have felt, it depresses me to no end. Two of my brothers, Clover and Dapper Dan, like to remind me how it was ‘way back when’. Because even though my father usually just took me out exclusively, sometimes he invited two of my brothers along. What hurt and negative emotions they must have experienced when they climbed into my father’s car and had to look at my enlarged photograph taped to the dashboard! It had to be tremendously painful. And then whenever we arrived at wherever we were going that day, I got preferential treatment. It wasn’t subtle at all. If we went out for ice cream, my father would let me order a large milkshake and my brothers were only allowed a small ice cream cone. If we went out for burgers, I got to have a whole burger just to myself while my brothers had to split one. Basically, if there was food involved, they always got much less than I did. See what I mean? What’s wrong with this picture?!
To better help you understand, I should clarify our age difference. I’m the youngest and my brothers, Clover and Dapper Dan, are 5 and 3 years older (respectively). When I was 3, they were 8 and 6. When I was 5, they were 10 and 8. It didn’t matter how old we were, my father always gave me the most, whether it was attention, love or food. Of course, I was a kid, I didn’t know any better. I lapped it up. And my brothers tried to make the best out of the situation despite me getting the unfair advantage. Most people know that splitting a burger between two very active boys is never going to ‘fill them up’, but that’s what my brothers had to work with, so they learned how to make the most out of the condiment station. Nearly every time my father took all three of us out for a meal, he went to Herfy’s. Long ago, before people became more concerned with ‘health and safety practices’, Herfy’s used to have a giant condiment bar with ‘all the trimmings’. The burgers they served were plain and it was up to you to dress them up to your liking.
My brothers figured out how to ‘beef’ up their half-burgers by loading them up with stacks of pickles and lettuce and anything else they could get their hands on to ensure their stomachs were full. And when I think about it, I find it really upsetting how ‘wrong’ the whole thing was! If anyone should have had to ‘split a burger’, it should have been me. I was the smallest and the youngest. It was almost as if my father was deliberately trying to create sibling rivalry between us and I have to tell you, whether or not it was deliberate, it worked! My brother Clover was always my protector, he still is, and he never took out his frustrations on me, even when warranted. But my brother Dapper Dan? There was no denying it, he was angry! And anytime he got me all to himself, he liked to let me know how angry he was by using his fists. He saw the unfairness of it all and it enraged him. Even though all of this took place years ago, it still appears to affect him.
Years have gone by but we cannot seem to ‘bridge the gap’. There is too much anger, bitterness and resentment that stands in the way. We have never been close and I don’t think we ever will be. What makes all of this even more sad and bizarre is that my father was much worse with some of my older siblings. He always hated my oldest sister because he said she reminded him of his own sister. How do I know this? He said so. He told my mom many times over the years that when he was growing up, his parents spoiled his sister and treated her better than everyone else. How did he ‘even the score’? He made my oldest sister’s life a living Hell! He taunted her and hurt her and made every possible effort to destroy her and her spirit. Even worse, when he wanted to punish my sister, he’d enlist my brother The Kraken to trap her so she couldn’t get away. Why then, once I came along, would he turn around and do the very thing he resented his own parents for?
It makes absolutely no sense at all! I have tried to wrap my head around the whole thing in order to understand it, but I have yet to determine how anyone could behave that way. The only conclusion I can come to is that he wasn’t right in the head. And clearly, later in life that became quite apparent. It’s no wonder all of us kids have struggled throughout our lives. Of all of the kids, I probably had it the best, and even I struggle. I truly loved him and I enjoyed being ‘the apple of my father’s eye’ while it lasted, even though it came at a price. It caused my other siblings anguish and left scars that can never heal. And for me? Having had that adoration for a time and then for it to suddenly stop? It left a hole inside of me so vast that I don’t think anything can ever fill it. For the remainder of my childhood and well into my adulthood, I thought my father had left because of something I must have done. I blamed myself for years and years. To leave without saying ‘goodbye’? Not a single letter or a phone call. What had happened? Where was he? Even his own mother, my grandmother, denied knowing his whereabouts.
So I ask myself, would it have been better to have loved and lost, rather than never to have loved at all? Would it have made any difference to never have had my father’s love, rather than to have had it for a time and then have it suddenly and inexplicably torn away? My siblings and I probably would have been on more even footing if my father had never been part of the picture and I wouldn’t have had to experience the loss and grieved for someone as I did for many, many years. To have never experienced my father’s love? I guess it would be hard to miss something if I never had it to begin with. On one hand, I wouldn’t have felt the trauma from his abandonment. But on the other hand, I would have never felt the special bond that often develops between fathers and daughters. The ideal scenario would have been to have had a father that loved all of us and treated me and my siblings equitably but that’s not the hand I was dealt. And does that even happen? Are there even dads out there like that?
I think there are. When I was out walking the dog today, I saw a father walking his daughter to school. The love between them was palpable. Of course, she might be the ‘only child’ or she might be like me, the ‘favored child’. If that’s the case, that’s not a good example to use. I’m racking my brain trying to think of a family with several kids and I’m having a heck of a time! I know they’re out there somewhere but where? I might have to see if there are any large families at the nearby Mormon church. Do Mormons still have large families or is that a thing of the past? What about the Catholics? That’s what they used to be famous for, the bigger the family, the better! Anyway, I’ll get around to it someday. It’s not my greatest concern at the moment. My greatest concern at the moment is getting to bed at a decent hour and catching up on my sleep. This ‘staying up until 3 o’clock in the morning’ business is killing me!!
Thank you so much for stopping by. For the folks that are ‘following’ me, I am grateful for you and the continued interest you have in reading about the variety of things I talk about each day. I’m no poet laureate or anyone with significant credentials to speak of but I do enjoy the opportunity to share things about my life and family or to just make simple random observations. If all goes well and I haven’t run you off, I trust you will return tomorrow as will I.