Sunday, June 21, 2009
What Father's Day Means to Me
As I was sending a couple of Father's Day cards this morning, reality forced it's way into my thoughts (as it always seems to do). I sent two cards: one to my Mother's third husband, my stepfather for the last 20 years, or so, and one to an ex-boyfriend (now, just a friend) of mine.
My mother and I went to Reno last year. We were on a trip planned by one of the casinos, so we could not leave until the chartered flight the next day. We were out of gambling money so we spent that last night in the hotel room just talking. When Mom and I talk it can, and most times does, cover many landmine-type subjects. For some reason, that night, the conversation turned to fathers.
My mother had the traditional-type family, one mother, one father, one brother. She was extremely close to her father. When her father passed away, it was hands-down the most upset I've ever seen her.
My situation, on the other hand, is much different. My mother was married when I was conceived, however, her husband was not my birth father. My Biodad was another man whom she met while she was married and loved very much. Because of her love for my Biodad, her husband gave her the requested divorce. Then good ole' Biodad split and left her unmarried, pregnant, and alone. She tells me she was very scared and ashamed, remember, this was the 50's.
Soon after I was born she met a man while waitressing in the only restaurant in a small town in rural Tennessee. He was willing to marry her, even though she had a 6-month old baby in tow. He turned out to be extremely jealous, volatile, verbally and physically abusive. Also, he and made her burn every letter (or anything else) relating to Biodad.
Their entire 20-year relationship was tumultuous. His anger and abuse only got worse through the years. I do believe he loved her very much and, to his credit, he worked every day (even a 2nd job on weekends some of that time) to take care of us. Mom always worked, too, and I believe I had a relatively normal childhood, to the outside world.
Inside our home, though, there were nearly-daily explosions. "Daddy" would blow up at me, or mom, and often she was forced to protect me from him, literally putting her body between us and taking blows meant for me. You see, I was a living, breathing reminder of the 'man my mother really loved' in Daddy's mind. Funny thing is, I didn't know Biodad existed.
Until the second grade I carried the last name of Mom's first husband. I was TOLD, and most people assumed, that although my mother got divorced during her pregnancy, I was fathered by her ex-husband. During the second grade, 'Daddy' legally adopted me and I took his last name. I remember sitting on the ground by our mailbox, reading the spelling of Daddy's last name emblazoned there, then writing it over and over on a notebook of paper.
FOR THOSE OF YOU KEEPING SCORE...THAT'S THREE 'FATHERS' AND TWO LAST NAMES BY THE AGE OF 8.
Right around the time I graduated high school, they finally ended the misery and got divorced. Mom was thrilled to have her 'freedom at last' but Daddy was not happy about the divorce. He continued to try to hold onto Mom while Daddy's mother refused to talk to Mom and was barely civil to me. This was MY Granny since I was a baby and it was extremely confusing. However, my Pappy loved me always. He passed away soon thereafter.
My Granny was a hateful old woman and she stayed hateful to the day she died in 2003...even cutting me out of her will completely. (I am adopted into the family: the ONLY child of their ONLY child, my Daddy, was already deceased by the time Granny died.) Granny signed every penny of my inheritance to a fallen minister and his greedy wife. They had taken Granny from the retirement home without telling me. They convinced her that in order for them to take her into their home she had to change her will from ME to THEM. She died at their home within a few months of moving in with them and signing the money over to them. They even tried to have her funeral and bury her without letting me know she had died. *sneaky sneaky* God will get them, I have NO doubt.
**When you are adopted you can't be disowned.**
After the divorce, Daddy and I had a sometimes-good, sometimes-awful relationship. In 1998, when he died, I was meeting with the lawyer in charge of his estate. His widow made a point of pulling out a piece of paper that she found in Daddy's wallet. It had my name, and the name of my children, with "$1" written beside each of our names. She was admonished by the lawyer for being cruel and told to put that paper away! She accomplished what she wanted, which was to show me up in front of people. In the end, I did receive a small amount of money from the sale of the house that I'd grown up in. Also, his widow returned a silver collection that was MINE anyway (Daddy and I had together collected Kennedy half-dollars, silver dimes and wheathead pennies for years). She handed it over, during the gathering after his funeral, as if she was being SO generous....ugh!
Back to the story: Around the time of Mom and Daddy's divorce, I became extremely curious about my Biodad (whom I still believed was Mom's first husband). So one day Mom sat me down and told me this twisted tale of how she was married, then fell in love with someone else, then got pregnant, then divorced, then abandoned, then remarried. NOW I wonder why I never asked about this ex-husband/dad..WHY he didn't he pay child support...why there was no visitation, etc. I guess it was because my home life was so tumultuous that it never came to mind that there could be even more upset, confusion, and pain surrounded my male parentage.
After Mom spilled all the beans, I was introduced to Biodad (a local DJ) first over the phone, then there were some shout-outs to me on the radio. There was one face-to-face lunch: Biodad, Mom and me, at Dennys (I don't remember his face, but I remember he gave me a $20 bill). He said he was so proud of me and so glad to finally have met me. He promised to introduce me to his side of the family (the Trumphour's) which never came to fruition. Then nothing, no calls, no invitations, no letters, no nothing...until I heard he died (early 1980s'). A while later Mom told me that she had gone to his funeral and that it was alot like the situation described in George Jones' biggest hit "He Stopped Loving Her Today"...ehh whatever.
Sometime in the 80's I met Mom's first husband at a funeral of someone unrelated. There were no words, no sparks, no interest, nothing. Eventhough for years I had believed him to be my REAL dad, by the time I met him I had known the truth for quite a while.
My mother met her now-husband sometime in the year after divorcing 'Daddy'. They were together for several years and finally married about 25 years ago, or so.
"Daddy's" last name is my maiden name to this day. The only male-parental-unit alive is my Mom's present husband. He has been "Dad", at this point, as long as "Daddy" was.
He is extremely good to my mother and good to me and my children, as well. His ex-wife is an absolute bitch though. (Violent and crazy...I won't go into her antics now, maybe another blog.) He has two grown children, several years younger than me. He has grandchildren from both of his kids and even a great-granchild. He is close to me and my kids and I am happy, and grateful, that my mother has him.
...AND THAT BRINGS THE COUNT TO FOUR
As you can see, 'Fathers Day' sure can encompass more than the traditional meaning. What does it mean to you?
HAPPY FATHER'S DAY
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