Saturday, 4 February 2012

Ode To The Men In My Life

(I have been saving this blog for a long time, trying to work up the courage to hit 'publish'. I have realized that there is no time like the present, which is why I have (shockingly) published my second blog of the day. Please forgive any spelling errors. Blame my blurred vision.)

I am going to be serious today.

Just today, I promise.

But there is a small, select group of people I need to thank, and as the years go by, I have started to lose some of them to age or illness, and the thought that I did not thank them while they were with us eats away at me every day. So I want to make sure that I express my gratitude to the rest of them while I still have the time. If you feel like this is not the type of blog you want to read, by all means, skip this one. It's not funny, or lighthearted, or amusing. But it needs to be written.

I have a hard time saying thank you to the people I really need to say thank you to from my childhood. I have a huge sense of shame (that I will never quite get past) for needing the help as much as I do, and it is so hard for me to tell these people to their faces. For years, I had a hard time even admitting it- it's hard for me just to think about. I am getting there, but it's taking time.

It's not that I am not grateful. Far from it. I am actually so grateful to these people that there are not enough words in all the languages of the world to make them understand how important they were. I need to say thank you in a very loud, very permanent way, and this is the best avenue I have.

Let me begin.

Some people, for whatever reason, because of outside factors, addiction, psychological makeup, personality, or mental illness, should not become parents. These may do well with smaller children, who are fairly pliable and easy to deal with, but when faced with pre-teens who argue, ignore, talk back and dismiss their opinions, are unable to make the adjustment. The caring, loving, attentive parent of a four year old may become the raging, angry, vindictive, unkind enemy of that same child at fourteen.

I had this type of father. I am past the anger now, and have come to terms with a horrible, horrible relationship. I have forgiven him (although I have not forgotten, nor do I choose to have a relationship with him), and I am doing my best to avoid the same pitfalls with my own children.

While my father emotionally (and, years later, physically) separated himself from his children, a group of wonderful, caring friends and neighbours stepped in. These surrogate fathers (and to no lesser degree, their families) are the sole reason I trust men today. They saved my sister and I when our mother was unable to do it all by herself, and they are the people who kept me from becoming an angry, bitter recluse.

In the last few years, three of these wonderful men have passed away. I wish to God I could say to their faces what I am about to say now.

Thank you. From the bottom of my heart and with every fibre of my soul, I thank you.

Grandpa. I can only remember once in my life that you ever raised your voice to me (and I REALLY deserved it!). You were the man who taught me that not all fathers scream. You taught me that an argument can be held without nastiness and unkind words. You stepped in when you knew I needed it, without being asked. You gave me away at my wedding. You WERE my father. I love you and I miss you. When you died, customers who hadn't seen you in fifty years wrote to tell us what a great guy you were. That's the kind of impression you made.

Joe White. You were the father of my best friend. You joked with me like I was a grownup, and actually listened seriously to my ideas. You picked up on the words I WASN'T saying, and you and Linda rescued me more times than I can remember. When my whole world was shattering (because, even with the misery of having him around, I preferred the 'normalcy' of knowing my father would be there in the morning when I woke up), and my mom was trying to hold herself together, your wife came to our house, brought me home with her (knowing that my mom was unable to help me herself just then), and you held me for hours as I sobbed. You taught me that recovery is possible, and that great men can surmount less-than-stellar pasts, and be wonderful people. I miss you every day.

Lorne Shields. You opened your home to my sister and I. When our space got just too horrible, middle of the night or not, you took us in. You heard the hideousness, and in a day and age where not a lot of people stepped up, you did your best to calm the storm. You and Maryanne fed us peanut butter and banana sandwiches (on WHITE BREAD!!!!!), let us sleep on the floor, and made us feel a little more powerful under powerless circumstances. You taught us to stand tall, and appreciate the tiny things. The hole you left behind is bigger than you ever could have guessed.

Chuck Faas. Your home was an oasis of calm in a world that sometimes seemed like it was spinning out of control. Although your children were older than my sister and I, you never lost your ability to relate to kids. You and Sandy took us in and told us the truth when our father didn't care enough and our mother was too heartbroken to do it themselves. You taught us to trust our guts and our intuition, and you taught us that safety was only 55 feet away. You taught me that chaos and eggshells were not the gold standard for fatherhood. I am grateful that I am able to tell you today how incredibly much you mean to me.

Uncle Dennis. When my father managed to alienate his entire family, and  left my mother, sister and myself drowning in a pool of loneliness, you made the first move to reconnect. You knew how important our relationship was, and how sorry we were to lose it. You inherently recognised how painful and embarrassing it was for us to come crawling back to a family so shamefully treated by my father, and you gave us time, and you opened your arms (and your heart), and welcomed us back in. You will always be my favourite. Although we don't see each other as regularly as we should, you have taught me that family is forever, and that anger and resentment doesn't matter. You are my only remaining connection to that side of the family, and I am deeply, deeply grateful for you.

Although other friends and neighbors, and the families of all these men, played a part in rescuing me, it is these few who hold a special place in my heart, because that was the role I so badly needed filled. When I am proud of my accomplishments, it is their opinions and respect that I crave. When I look at my family and think "Huh. I done good.", it is they that I picture standing behind me, smiling at my offspring.

I don't visit my old neighbourhood as much as I should, nor did I visit these men as much as they have deserved. It's still painful for me, and I tend to avoid these memories except on rare occasions, even though I live mere moments away. Sometimes I am lost for words, and sound silly and unimportant, and can't convey the depth of my feelings. To all of you, please know that it is not forgetfullness or uncaring that keeps me away, but the depth of my love and appreciation (as incredibly odd as that may sound).

But when I think of 'home' and 'childhood', your faces are the prominent ones in my mind's eye. You made me who I am today. All my successes are due in equal part to each of you. I am thankful for all of you every day. God knew what he was doing when he sent me to you.

Thank you.

Thank you.

Thank you.


  1. This is beautifully written and brought tears to my eyes. I have such good memories of babysitting you and your sister when you were very young. I ache for the painful years you had to endure as a teenager. I am SO PROUD of the beautiful woman, wife and mother you have become. I know that although your father made some really horrible choices, your Heavenly Father has never let you go!!

  2. Love you, Joey!