Sunday, June 20, 2010

Sunday Scribblings: Birth and Father's Day

With my days more open during the summer, I'm going to make an effort to write in response to the weekly Sunday Scribbling prompts again. This week's topic is birth, and you can see what others wrote by going here.

The Old Man and the Sea

I've going back and forth this morning between writing online and mowing our lawns and watering our lawns and gardens.

It's Father's Day and Dad is on my mind.

I've been thinking about when he first became a father, when I was born (since I am the oldest of us three kids), what my father was born into.

To begin with, I have to believe he was born into a wilderness without a compass or a map. I don't know this. Dad never told me it felt this way. But, Dad didn't have a father in his life. His father was a drunk, a dead beat, and a scoundrel who eventually abandoned his family. Dad was five years old when he last saw his father.

The subject of his father, Lance Woolum, was forbidden to be talked about in our home.

That means that my dad did not have a father to coach his baseball team, instruct him how to swing a baseball bat, play catch in the yard, teach him how to shoot a basketball, take him to the ball yard to see the local guys play baseball, bring him into the fold of his adult friends; he did not have a father to teach him how to work, help him get jobs, be an example of never missing a day of work, talk to him about swimming in the river; he never heard his father speak with admiration of his mother, heard his father sing "By the Light of the Silvery Moon", let alone "God Bless America"; he never had a father show him how to lay nicknames on people, give those he loved as much shit as possible, encourage him to play music, speak reverently of John Wayne and Jack Benny; he never had a father get up at the crack of dawn to drive him to 7th grade baskeball practice or drive him around his Sunday newspaper route when the papers were too heavy to carry by himself.

No one taught my dad how to do any of those things. He was born into fatherhood without a pattern to follow, and, yet, he did all of the above for me.

I went through a period of time about twenty-five years ago when all I could think of was how my dad drank too much and was angry because I told myself I had missed out on so much.

During those years, I didn't think about my dad as a fatherless child. I was thinking mostly about myself, feeling like I'd been cheated out of all kinds of good times with my father because he was often drunk.

And he was.

But then things changed inside me and luckily this happened a few years before he died.

I put myself in this shoes. I began to imagine what he'd been born into, especially the poverty and his being without a father and I began to realize all that he'd done for me, all he'd given me of his heart and soul, all he taught me. Those feelings of anger and being cheated began to feel childish. They dissolved.

No father can be perfect. Mine had deep flaws.

But Dad never followed the example of his own father. He never abandoned his family. As he would say about other hard things in life, "he stuck his nose in there" and without the help of his own father and without any books by Bill Cosby or any workshops about being a father and maybe with a little instruction from Dick Costa up at his favorite watering hole, Dick and Floyd's, he learned, he figured it out, and by the end matured into a father with a deep sense of responsibility and a love that went far beyond sentimentality.

He was born into a wilderness without a map and compass and ended up building a sure trail and finding his way.


Understanding Alice said...

what a thoughtfull post - sounds like forgiveness and understanding were born in your life

Desert Diva said...

Compassionate, loving, and extremely reflective.

oldegg said...

Sometimes it takes a long time for a child to realize his father is not perfect, yet despite or because of this we grow up and hopefully establish our own standards for behavior.

I like your analogy to be being born in a wilderness without a compass or a map. On reflection many would choose that way rather than be scarred irreparably in their childhood.

This is a post that has really struck home and I thank you for that.