Oh Fathers Day, that joyous Sunday in June when social media is populated with photos and stories of dads and their silly, embarrassing and endearing “dadisms”. Even with that knot in my stomach and the noticeable pressure on my heart, I always liked Fathers Day as it conjures up dreams of the good, the caring, the present father.
What a force a good dad can be in the life of a child, what happiness and strength flows from knowing dad has got your back. The absence of dad-the absence of all of that love, care and protection-is something too many people are forced to experience, to feel and to learn to live with throughout their lives. Dad might be physically there but not emotionally. Dad might have passed on from this earth, really truly gone. Or dad might be someone who made that fateful decision to exit from the lives of the children they brought into this world, unwilling or unable to be a light in their little lives. The consequences of this decision are so wide and deep, and after nearly 30 years on this earth I am only beginning to understand the effects.
When dad leaves, he dumps the burden of childcare onto mom. And mom, because she is some kind of everyday superhero, works herself to the bone to care for her precious little ones. She does it out of love and does not see it as a burden. Because of her, the children are happy, healthy kids who enjoy life and believe in the good of people. But as they develop, they start to wonder why they are more sad than their friends, why they cant see the world in a positive light, why they don’t believe in their own inner light and infinite power…and does any of this have to do with that guy who left all those years ago?
Scientific studies on childhood trauma and abandonment have come up with all sorts of effects on the body and mind including lower self-esteem, proclivity for addiction, problems with intimate relationships and sex, and even a lowered immune system. The memory of trauma and abandonment etches itself into the mind and body of a child and it takes the life of that child to unravel and cast off that memory. This is not a blame game and not a Freudian obsession session, not everything that goes wrong in ones life can be blamed on the gaping absence of a father figure. And if any deadbeat dads are reading this you best believe we “the fatherless” are rising up and kicking ass in life-no excuses.
But as life progresses and the impulsive 20s turn into the contemplative 30s, it becomes more difficult to ignore that indescribable feeling that something is wrong. Even though people around you tell you all the amazing things that you are, you still cannot believe them. You feel small, shameful, powerless-that negative soundtrack you keep replaying in your mind reminding you of how terrible and undeserving of good things you are. Somehow you manage to listen to this voice, to begin believe it, your brain creating neural pathways wiring your mind to keep recreating and spreading negativity.
Then something finally says stop. And a new road opens itself to you, one of incremental steps of positivity, self-love and realizing your true potential. Lots of bumps along this road, detours and frequent returns to negativity and self-hate. It is a journey I am excited to be on, one I hope those who need it also are bumping along on. Yes we are all affected by this experience but it does not define us. And the most amazing thing is it gives us the chance to grow and become better people.
So on this beautiful Sunday in June, lifting up my heavy heart and forgiving my little four year old self for taking on the shame and sadness of abandonment, I rejoice and celebrate Fathers Day. I celebrate those who were not biologically or officially “dad” yet filled our little lives with love and kindness and made us who we are today. To the sisters I have met who went through a life without dad with strength and light. And to the men I know who really are the good ones.
Little do they know, they mean the entire world to us.
Family. My uncles who grew up to be amazing fathers to their hordes of children. Grandma who smiles down on us from her perch in the sky. Sister, my protector and confidante throughout the story of dad. And mama, the only superhero I have ever known.
My kinda sorta stepdad but so much more, the one and only Bill. And the man in my life Goga. These guys light up my world.