Saturday, September 29, 2007

Three significant men

A tired mother of ten tried to make her home warm and cozy, but an overwhelming tension hung in the air.
After chores were done in the early morning hours , this family gathers in the warm kitchen for breakfast. If father is absent on that morning the feeling of joviality and love rises in the room. Otherwise the room is quiet and the only sound heard might be the dropping of a spoon from a nervous hand.

Pap ruled that family with the infamous iron fist. Add alcohol, there was no question that the man was dangerous to anyone that might cross his path and with ten children, sometimes they did. Many times one of the children had to lie there until the chance of a knotted fist or a rough boot was gone. Mother would also freeze knowing full well that rescue came in the form of standing back because rushing to the injured made Pap all the more furious.

Pap must have come from a hateful family. At least that is what we have to think of him.
I was speaking to a friend that was concerned that her son wanted to reach out to a dad that had not been there for him for many years. While I would never give advice on an issue so personal, I have formed a few opinions myself about men and their fathers. Her fear of him becoming like his dad might be unfounded.

The psychology of men and their fathers is not something that I studied in school. But it is something that I have had the opportunity to observe. I have had three significant men in my life. Out of those three men not a one of them had a decent father figure. All of these men showed their resentment throughout adulthood in one form or another.

Even though their lives were different there are some notable similarities.
None of them attended their fathers funeral.
In each case the mother was also abused and when the children were adults, took her out of the home and set her up somewhere else.
One tried to reach out to his dad when he was older and was rebuffed.
Two had fathers that tried to reach out and were rebuffed.
Alcohol was key in the violence that surrounded them but it only played a part.

None of the issues were resolved in this life.

It was believed that he would not live past his 18Th birthday. A toxic diagnosis came which would cause him to worry about dying most of his young life. The old doctor had made a diagnosis based on ignorance rather that knowledge. This question of health caused strife where there should have been none. Of course he did live and is still living.

His father contributed to his strife by letting the little guy be the one that was safe from the beatings that he inflicted on his four siblings because he did’t want to be responsible for the boy’s death. But striking him was the only thing he held back. He had no problem sweeping the table clean with his arms if it wasn’t perfectly placed so the man of the house could have his dinner, or screaming and shouting while everyone scattered. Late afternoons, the children would have that deep feeling of dread. Upon arrival he usually lived up to their worst expectations.
Their beloved mother was not immune from his cruelty, and several times after being thrown out of the house into the cold, she ran to the church for shelter.
This is how they lived their lives

And so it would seem that fathers that abuse would have grown children that would abuse. I have these three men with which to form an opinion and I find that this, in my case at least, has not happened at all. These men found, somewhere in themselves, that well of kindness and wealth of knowledge to be good fathers. Oh, I am sure that the abuse and unholy tension that they were exposed to had much to do with some wanton reactions in their lives. But of the three not one has ever lifted a hand toward children or women in anger.
Since one of them is the father of my children, I can say that he has passed that test where I have failed. I have not been able to hold back the hand when the cheek deserved the slap. And I came from one of those abused men that hardly ever gave me a hard look and never a strike of any kind.

It was a tiny sidewalk, grown over with grass and weeds and an occasional wild guinea pig running through. The boy had a ball. The rule was to be followed and that was to make sure the ball did not roll off that sidewalk into the prize weeds. Of course this was a rule set up to fail. A fourteen year old could not keep that ball on the sidewalk, this boy is four. It probably didn’t take very long. The first bounce of the ball. Out of the house came the one man that should have been the defender, the protector. The kick was swift. The cries went on and on, until it was decided something must be done. A taxi trip to the hospital revealed that this boy had a ruptured kidney. This was the beginning of a long life of abuse, a little boy sitting at the school desk, after the bell, not wanting to go home.

This man battled the strong army of alcoholism and drug abuse for years. Despite this being a family inheritance he left it behind and became a strong and dependable man. A gentle man that saw abuse as something he would never be a part of. He has knocked out the teeth of an opponent in the ring, but he can’t stand to see a child and parent in confrontation. He is a shelter in the storm to me and to his step children. He has physical problems but can be as strong as a warrior.

Obviously, these men are, well… real men. We talk of real men in a joking way and I feel and fear that this is because maybe it isn‘t easy to find a “real man.” One that has walked through the fire. One that stood up against all the odds, in spite of what his young life was like, regardless of what he could have been.
I am grateful that I knew them. All three had a part in making me who I am. Ironically, all three of these men had only daughters, and we know what good they could have done their sons. But it will have to be that it’s enough to know, those daughters just couldn’t possibly love their fathers more.