This daily blogging challenge has landed on a topic I don't mind talking about... my parents. I was going to talk about both of them but I started with my dad and kept going and going and going so mom's going to get her own separate post.
My parents separated when I was 13 after years of arguing and bad behavior. I was sad that he was leaving, but happy that my mother was finally taking a stand. They were terrible together. Their divorce became final when I was 17 but my mom didn't tell us for about 6 months because she was afraid of how we would react. I was always on her side so I really didn't understand this. But it really had to do with my sister. She always wanted our parents to get back together. I guess she didn't realize how unhappy they were as a unit. They are much better apart. Their divorce has been amicable and they are almost friends. He still gets on her nerves but now she can escape. Click! But he still calls her his only wife. He never wants to remarry.
We saw him whenever we wanted and his home was our second home. He'd come home after traveling for weeks and have nothing but beer & mustard in his refrigerator & peanut butter in the pantry, the only things that would keep for those long periods away. We loved going to the grocery store with him to pick out what we wanted to eat. He would push us on the end of the cart long after we should've been doing it. I know I had to be 17. LOLOL!!
My dad traveled a lot for work when we were younger, sometimes to exotic places like Mexico, Brazil or Sweden for weeks or months at a time. So we didn't know him very well growing up. In the summer, though, their off-season, he would be off for weeks at a time. He would cook us breakfast or lunch or dinner and be our toy. It was like having a fun visitor during the summer. A strange thing to say about your dad, but it was true. He made an effort to be there for our major events and even some minor ones, band concerts, choir solos. He once told me he had co-workers who missed their childrens' graduations and one man missed his daughter's wedding. I told him this is unacceptable and not allowed. Between us, my sister and I have graduated 5 times and he's been present for every one.
My dad is a middle child... OF NINE!!! He was the baby of his family for less than 2 years i.e. not long enough to remember it. The day I realized all of this was the day I had a moment of clarity about why he is the way he is. He is such a middle child, lost in the shuffle. He is constantly picking at people TO GET ATTENTION. If he realizes there is something that gets you riled up, that's the topic he will bring up at regular or semi-regular intervals. It can be maddening. But my mom taught me a trick for dealing with this: never let him see you sweat. If he doesn't know he's irritating you, he'll stop and say, "You're no fun." The first time I saw that in action, I was so overjoyed at beating him at his own game, I started cracking up! I was out of college and living with him when this happened. Another middle child trait he possesses: his loner ways. I cannot name a single friend of my father's from my childhood. I hear some names now when we talk but he's never had a lot of friends. (Sounds like someone else I know... (Ahem. Rashan.))
When my sister and I were younger, he would help with our math homework. He was in the military for several years, went to college for a year but never finished. His parents never encouraged him to go to college. It wasn't really something that males did where he was raised. He's from Robeson County, the poorest county in North Carolina. His father was a farmer, his mother a housewife. Most of his five sisters went to college. None of his 4 brothers did. But my father was huge on education. He wanted his girls to have the best. We grew up with everything we needed and a lot of what we wanted within reason. He's very proud that two of his daughters are college graduates.
He has two other children from a relationship before my mother who have not done as well. He was often a bad father to them. It really hurt me to see the difference in how he treated us. I used to be very angry with him and let him know it frequently until I talked to my brother about it. He said, "You can't hold on to those things." It was an epiphany for me. How can I be mad when the one I feel he mistreated has forgiven him and has a good relationship with him. So now my father and I have a lot more peace in our relationship.
I'm very glad that I moved to Pittsburgh for 3 years and lived with him after college. Because he traveled so much when I was growing up, it really was our first time living together full-time. I chronicled our relationship many times on this blog including our ups and downs. I was able to talk to him like I thought fathers and daughters should and I think help him become a better father. I think he would agree and so would my sister. We had daddy-daughter days where we'd go out, just the two of us, for dinner and/or a movie. We had a great time. So my dad is not perfect but we've always known that he was there for us and I'm glad to say he still is. And it's also HIS birthday month! His birthday is August 21st, two days before mine! :)