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Feeling warm and fuzzy for Father’s Day? Um, not so much.

Somebody asked me today if Father’s Day was difficult for me since I don’t really have one. “Nah,” I replied, “Not really.”

After all, I wouldn’t be nearly the hard-ass that I am today if I’d had a Dad around who’d let me be a soft girlie-girl back in the day. In my book, being a hard-ass has come in a lot more handy in my life than being someone’s little princess would have.

Back story: When my parents split up, my Dad left and never looked back. Trying to get him to live up to his financial obligations to three children was a joke, and my brothers and I paid the price eventually, in one way or another, for his neglect.

My mom, like a lot of moms, worked and struggled to keep herself and her children fed, clothed, housed, and in a good school.

My brother Geoff worked paper routes to earn money. My brother Khris and I were too young to work, but many freezing, predawn mornings in Ohio, we were bundled up in fluffy white blankets and tucked into the back seat of the family car my Dad had graciously left behind, while my mother drove Geoff around to deliver the morning papers to our neighborhood.

I can’t imagine how tired my Mom was on those mornings. I can’t imagine how her heart must have hurt to see her oldest son jumping in and out of the car, busting his hump to earn a few dollars. Worrying if he was warm enough, worrying about how he’d do in school later in the day.

I’ve wondered what she thought about during those gray, miserable mornings, while two children slumbered in the back seat and the other made his way through snow drifts and icy front stoops. Stopping in front of homes with “real” families – fathers and mothers – and their children – everyone snug in their beds. What did she think about while the car was idling?

I remember one morning the papers were delivered late to our house and my brother Khris and I, as little as we were, had to stay awake in the back seat, stuffing the papers with sections that had to be added in, and then passing them off to our older brother through the half-open window. I watched him while he blew on his hands to try to keep them warm.

Some of those mornings before we headed out into the cold, Mom would turn the oven on and open its door and we’d stand close in front of it while she dropped homemade Bisquick donut holes into a pot of boiling oil.

My father never knew our struggles. Never knew the nights we didn’t have enough to eat or the times we had blisters on our feet from too-tight shoes. Never knew the terror my Mom must have felt when my brother Khris fell out of the bunk bed in the middle of the night and cracked his skull. Never knew about the time my brother Geoff stole Easter eggs from someone else’s yard so I could have some on Easter morning.

I never knew anything much about him either and I guess I like it that way. I think he must have been a pretty rotten son-of-a-bitch and my life has probably been infinitely better off without him.

I don’t blame a husband for leaving his wife. But I can find plenty of fault with a father who deserts his children. My Dad’s desertion did teach me one important lesson though: even the people who are supposed to love you and care for you the most will only do so as long as it doesn’t get in the way of what they want. The minute that happens, all bets are off.

Color my cynical, but I’m just a realist. I’ve seen this theory born out time and time again … even in the lives of children whose fathers stuck around. I’ve yet to see this theory disproved.

So, no, Father’s Day doesn’t mean a heckuva lot to me. You can’t miss what you never had.

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Posted on June 18th, 2009Comments RSS Feed
15 Responses to Feeling warm and fuzzy for Father’s Day? Um, not so much.
  1. Ah, the editors at CL have misread my column — I don’t say love is impossible … just variable.

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  2. real love is not variable. it might start with the love you have for yourself. then if you are lucky, you might find someone to love you unconditionally. maybe your mom loved you (loves you?) that way.

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  3. I don’t blame you for being angry Mary Catherine but it is never too late to have a relationship with your father or reach out.You can’t tell me that you don’t miss him in your life in the some small way???He certainly did wrong to your family for sure but again I have seen it so many times in my field where people in families always have a regret of missing out in a relationship with a father or mother and being hard ass in that philosophy makes losers of everyone.

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  4. GH — well, your comment made me think. it is true that my love for my cats is unvariable. they could literally bite my hand as i was feeding them (not that they would!) and i would still love them unconditionally. i’m pretty forgiving when it comes to humans too, but if they bite, i leave. i guess i might not believe in what you describe as “real love” then — because i do believe love, human love, is variable and varies according to the changing desires of the individuals involved. but, i will say this: i hope i’m wrong and perhaps i’ll prove it to myself or someone will prove it to me. thanks for reading and sharing your perspective.

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  5. Steve — I’m not angry actually. Of course, it’s never too late to have a relationship with someone. But I think it’s a fallacy of our culture that we think we should have relationships with people who do not deserve them. I resist the notion that we must love people simply because they share our DNA. Thanks so much for reading and for sharing your thoughts!

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  6. I see your point MC and I agree that just because someone shares DNA that they have to love them,but leave the door open(even the smallest bit) and who knows……This blog made me read your column and responses from Dec 2,08.

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  7. Hi Mary Catherine,

    I maybe a bit stubborn, but I feel that Father’s Day, Mother’s Day, etc., are just a bit too contrived for this camper. Aren’t we supposed to love and respect our Fathers, Mothers, etc. all year? Or will a nice card and some flowers on a dsignated day make up for the all the time we treat those we are supposed to love in a less than stellar way? Puhlease!!

    I can understand how you feel toward your biological father. But perhaps you might be fortunate enough to encounter a “substitue father” along your travels who will show you what a good daughter/father relationship is all about.

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  8. HG — well, I like Fathers and Mothers days a whole lot more than Valentine’s Day or Christmas (from the material perspective). But, yes, love and respect should be the norm all year ’round!

    I’ve observed some good “fatherly types” in my lifetime … in fact, I think I’m going to post a poem I wrote about one of them on my blog today!

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  9. MC, I guess I was responding to this:

    “Even the people who are supposed to love you and care for you the most will only do so as long as it doesn’t get in the way of what they want. The minute that happens, all bets are off.”

    If that’s true, then how is any love — a definition of which would probably include the ability to put the beloved’s interests above your own — possible?

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  10. Well, grasshopper. Love is absolutely possible — and delicious — in all its forms. It’s just that the form is mutable and love changes.
    I believe it is definitely possible to put someone else’s interests above one’s own. You don’t even have to love someone to do that, and I think there’s a lot of evidence of people doing just that — often at great risk and sacrifice to their own selves.
    I just don’t think it’s very common. And I think it’s exceedingly uncommon in relationships where familiarity breeds, for the most part, and sadly to my mind, a fair amount of contempt or at the lesser, then a whole lot of taking for granted. I personally have not known or experienced any love from friends, family, husbands or lovers where, on important issues, when push came to shove, those who proclaimed unending, unconditional love, yada, yada, yada, did not ultimately — always — absolutely — put their own needs, wants, desires ahead of mine. I’m not necessarily faulting that. What I fault is the disconnect between what people say and how they ultimately act. What I fault is the conception — a misconception in my mind — that we ever actually know someone and that we can ever actually truly rely on someone if a situation arises where they have to choose between meeting their own needs and meeting the needs of the one they say they love. I’ve never once seen or heard of it happening. Does love exist, Cooper? I’d probably come down on the side that proclaims that it does not … not any more than hate does … that the only thing that exists is our instinctive drives toward self-preservation and the fulfillment, as advanced creatures, of a certain amount of desire to have our needs and wants met. Oftentimes, that desire takes the guise of romantic love, for example.
    It’s an interesting philosophical question and you and your wife should come to my salon sometime and we can talk about it … or you can come on your own. We’ll all get drunk like writers are supposed to and we’ll wax philosophical. I’ll be the cynic and you can be the romantic.

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  11. Sadly enough, Mary Catherine, I agree with you. And it is sad…

    Sometimes it is better if the father doesn’t stick around. I left my oldest son’s father because of excessive alcohol and guns. He never physically abused me, but I didn’t want my son grow up in an environment where that kind of behavior was ok. Unfortunately, I couldn’t convince the courts that the father was a danger to my son, so he spent everyother weekend with his father. Sometimes my son would call me to come get him because his father had “fallen asleep” and he couldn’t be awakened. Much of the time he was with his father, my son was frightened and neglected. As an adult, he chooses not to be in touch with his father, who thinks it is all my fault for turning his son against him. I see how it has marked him.

    Any man who could walk away from his children is probably the kind of man you don’t want in those children’s life anyhow.

    Happy Solstice!

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  12. Susan — thanks for reading the column and commenting. I’m sorry for what you went through in your marriage — but definitely happy you moved on. Hope you are continuing to be happy in BeanTown!!

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  13. Susan M. Kinsella
    June 29, 2009 at 12:27 pm

    Truly happier than I have ever been in my life!

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  14. Wow. very happy to hear that, Susan!

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