Some paragraphs may be triggering to survivors of sexual abuse.
Please take care of you.
All mothers were daughters first, all fathers were sons initially. Hole upon merciless hole, wound upon primal wound. It’s difficult to be a fatherless daughter — more difficult (for me) than being a motherless mother.
I have come to think of fatherhood rather like a roof that you don’t notice it much unless it leaks or it’s blown off. Only after twenty-five years do you appreciate all the wear and tear it took from exposure to the elements that permitted you to safely sleep, be, and become. Good fathers make daily life safe, stable, comfortable, protected, and peaceable. Bad fathers are oft defined by the untenable elements that their fractures let in to assault their families. Bad fathers not only lack a roof, they ARE the elements.
Motherhood is less difficult for me on account of the fact that I am a mother. The hole that my mother left has been mended by the many years of mothering my own children. As I have comforted and collected them, so too have I slowly comforted and collected me. As I schooled them, I schooled me. As I disciplined them, listened to them, understood them, so too have I done the self same thing for me.
By degrees, I understood who my father was. Some Dad’s protected, mine pillaged. Some Dad’s fixed things, mine broke them. Some Dad’s told stories, mine told lies. Some Dad’s rubbed back, mine rubbed fronts. Some Dad’s fed and clothed their kids, mine fed himself and unclothed his kids. I never called him Daddy, though sometimes, when he rubbed, he called me Baby.
For years, when I would walk or drive by homes, I would imagine life within. I set up tables in my mind, assembled cosy living rooms, and created fictional relationships. Imaginations are very oft born of poverty. Natural fatherhood is roof on a home that I can walk by, sit beside, but never sit within. This is a strange and convoluted reality to be a fatherless daughter. There is (and there will always be) a thick glass between what was and what should have been.
As I look through the window of my own cozy living room, the view often reveals a tall hulking father with a tiny toddling tot. She wears bright pink bloomers and little matching shoes. Her hair is a mop of adorable curls that bounce as she walks. He, the greater, waits for her, permits her to set the direction of their stroll, looks where she points, and stoops in his strength, to her weakness.
Through the exact same window in the distance, is the rear of an upscale home. The roof is askew. That father took pictures of the children he sexually abused. He also took their innocence — then, he took his life.
Inside my own home, I see a father who works daily to love me, our kids, and make home a safe and stable place to be. Daily he coaches, cares, tends, provides, and protects. He fixes things we all break. He does the heavy lifting, so our load is lighter. We need his personhood and his presence. This is fatherhood up close and personal. Brad’s fatherhood is beautiful, I benefit from it, even as I cannot fully partake in it.