Monday, June 22, 2009

The Father Of All Posts

Father's Day on the longest day of the year? Awesome.

All that extra time to reflect on the notion of Fathers. My biological father disappeared from my life when I was around seven, giving me barely enough time to love him, miss him, but never know him. It took me years to accept my step-father. Of course now that I'm adult and realize what a difficult and thankless role step-parenting is, I am flooded with gratitude that not only do I have a step-father who is loving, supportive, and kind but he was always there. Know how they say just showing up is half the work? Ain't that the sad truth with parenting, at its most basic level? Kids will forgive all sorts of transgressions as long as they are secure in knowing that their parents will always be there for them. Take that away at a young age and you get an adult with all sorts of trust and intimacy issues (oh, hi). I could be pretty awful when I was little, "You're not my REAL dad!," as a tame example. Now, I can say with certainty, "...and thank goodness, because he couldn't handle the job...and you could."

So, Papa (Richard) - thank you. I love you.

Don't you love family legacies of self-inflicted pain, secrets, and history repeating itself? I know I don't. But here I am with a daughter who does not know her father (by his choice). And here I am, for the first time, dealing with parenting with a partner who is not my daughter's father. Stella is much older than I was when I was put in this situation. She's had a long time (uhh, her whole life) to come to terms with the fact that she does not have a father who tries to be in her life. She doesn't have that little-girl craving for a father's affection and support. She has a teenager's tendency to not trust adults, to be cynical, and to dislike abrupt change. However, I must say, we have a peaceful and harmonious household...usually.

I have massive appreciation and admiration for men who raise children they didn't conceive. It takes an open heart, dedication, and plain ol' decency. You are the men who should have your own holiday.

Oh well...no matter how badly all this troubles, angers, and haunts me (don't mind me; I might be going through early menopause, or craving another baby, or just displaying early symptoms of an undiagnosed mental illness), I can rest easy knowing that I'll never reach the depths of Sylvia Plath. Any other English Majors remember this gem?

Daddy

You do not do, you do not do
Any more, black shoe
In which I have lived like a foot
For thirty years, poor and white,
Barely daring to breathe or Achoo.

Daddy, I have had to kill you.
You died before I had time--
Marble-heavy, a bag full of God,
Ghastly statue with one gray toe
Big as a Frisco seal

And a head in the freakish Atlantic
Where it pours bean green over blue
In the waters off beautiful Nauset.
I used to pray to recover you.
Ach, du.

In the German tongue, in the Polish town
Scraped flat by the roller
Of wars, wars, wars.
But the name of the town is common.
My Polack friend

Says there are a dozen or two.
So I never could tell where you
Put your foot, your root,
I never could talk to you.
The tongue stuck in my jaw.

It stuck in a barb wire snare.
Ich, ich, ich, ich,
I could hardly speak.
I thought every German was you.
And the language obscene

An engine, an engine
Chuffing me off like a Jew.
A Jew to Dachau, Auschwitz, Belsen.
I began to talk like a Jew.
I think I may well be a Jew.

The snows of the Tyrol, the clear beer of Vienna
Are not very pure or true.
With my gipsy ancestress and my weird luck
And my Taroc pack and my Taroc pack
I may be a bit of a Jew.

I have always been scared of you,
With your Luftwaffe, your gobbledygoo.
And your neat mustache
And your Aryan eye, bright blue.
Panzer-man, panzer-man, O You--

Not God but a swastika
So black no sky could squeak through.
Every woman adores a Fascist,
The boot in the face, the brute
Brute heart of a brute like you.

You stand at the blackboard, daddy,
In the picture I have of you,
A cleft in your chin instead of your foot
But no less a devil for that, no not
Any less the black man who

Bit my pretty red heart in two.
I was ten when they buried you.
At twenty I tried to die
And get back, back, back to you.
I thought even the bones would do.

But they pulled me out of the sack,
And they stuck me together with glue.
And then I knew what to do.
I made a model of you,
A man in black with a Meinkampf look

And a love of the rack and the screw.
And I said I do, I do.
So daddy, I'm finally through.
The black telephone's off at the root,
The voices just can't worm through.

If I've killed one man, I've killed two--
The vampire who said he was you
And drank my blood for a year,
Seven years, if you want to know.
Daddy, you can lie back now.

There's a stake in your fat black heart
And the villagers never liked you.
They are dancing and stamping on you.
They always knew it was you.
Daddy, daddy, you bastard, I'm through.


Hey! Still with me? Can't you just feel a snake of anger and hatred coiling out from that poem and suffocating you with its icy strength? I can only read that poem every five years or so.

Good times.

But I don't want to spread my darkness to other people, especially since it's often fleeting. It's important to note that there is an abundance of good in my life. I have so much to be thankful for. And I never, ever want to take a bit of it for granted. Love is all around us, if we choose to see it.

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