3 Things I learned from having a father who was there, but not present.
I grew up without a father.
Physically he was there, but he was not present in a real way. He was like a ghost, fading in and fading out of our lives.
His life was marked by loss. His own father died as a result of a workplace accident when he was six-years-old. This loss impacted him in ways that I will never understand because he never spoke of his loss or how he felt about it.
His family struggled to survive in a generation where single mothers were looked down upon. My grandmother was determined to raise her four children on her own and never remarried after her husband died. She was made of something fierce that gave her a raw determination.
Her determination was so strong that she lived to 104 years old!
It was difficult for him growing up without a father. He and his brothers learned to be men from anyone that could teach them.
My father succeeded despite having no post-secondary education and learned (without the help of Google or Youtube) how to frame bedrooms, how to install plumbing, how to do basic electrical work, how to finish a room, how to raise animals, and how to buy and sell cars for money.
Despite his close family upbringing, he was a man in pain. His pain snaked it’s way through his life and twisted his soul. He drank whiskey like it was his lifeblood but it didn’t help with his pain, his temper or his distance from himself, and from those who loved him.
A new story
When you are fatherless, understanding your father’s story can help you understand yourself. Learning about my father’s loss and his pain has helped me to have greater empathy. But knowing why does not replace the loss of connection.
Being fatherless does something to you. For me, it created a sense of living loss. Even though he was present, he was unable to be present. He was mentally and emotionally somewhere else and unable or unwilling to telling anyone about his pain.
When he died, the pain I felt only became different. The distance was now permanent and there would be no opportunity to change or rebuild what was never there.
For much of my life, I have sought for something to fill the gap that was left by not having a father. This was both unconscious and conscious. I joined a Venturer Troup, I embraced spirituality and a relationship with God, and I looked for various mentors to give me what I felt I was missing.
Pain can send you on a search. You want to find a way to resolve it. In my case, I sought for something to fill the gap. This search has led to an unhealthy and unhelpful pattern for me. I have been less present for my family because I have spent too much time thinking about what I lost and what I didn’t have (a father) rather than being present with the family that I have.
Not having a father makes you feel like you have no benchmark for what it means to be a man or a father. So you create the benchmark for yourself and it is difficult to get it right. Fatherlessness can do that, your footing becomes a little unstable.
Begin a father has also become an anchor for me. There is something healing that happens when you find a way to influence your own children to avoid the pain and the obstacles you faced growing up.
When you take on what it means to be there for your kids’ games, their homework, their conflicts, their medical appointments, their tears and your partner’s needs it becomes healing.
Being present is an ongoing challenge. Technology, stress, and pain give ready reasons to be pulled out of the present. It is easy to blame my unhealthy habits on a father who was not present, but it doesn’t help.
“Every generation blames the one before” Mike and the Mechanics
Each of us, each generation, is responsible for learning what we need to learn so that we can become as fully functioning as possible. We are each given a personal inheritance of strengths and deficits from our parents. It is part of our job on earth to take what we have been given and make it our own.
Are you without a father?
Fatherlessness can send you on a search for understanding and may leave you feeling lost. You may feel like you are losing your footing. You can find healing through your relationships with other people and through your own parenting journey. You can become the parent you never had.
I write articles about wellness, leadership, parenting and personal growth. My hope is to deliver the best content I can to inspire, to inform and to entertain.
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Keep it Real
Photo by David J.