Maybe it was his upbringing. His alcoholic dad. His parent’s divorce. Maybe it was WWII. Maybe it was the so-called friend who sold his cabinet shop while he was fighting the war. Maybe, maybe, maybe. Whatever it was, I’ve spent a lifetime trying to figure it all out. Like: why did he just sit and stare? What was he thinking about? What did he see? Why didn’t he want to talk to me? Why did he move so slowly and always look so sad?
He was a good man. Didn’t drink. Didn’t cuss. Didn’t scream and yell and never, ever lost his cool. He was gentle and quiet and patient and sometimes extremely humorous. Yet, I was afraid of him. Afraid of doing something wrong. Afraid of his scornful frown. Afraid of making too much noise, asking too many questions, sitting on his lap, hugging his neck. Afraid of his cold, stark, overpowering, confusing, excessive silence.
I concluded that my dad didn’t love me; that I was stupid and ugly. So, to protect my sensitive, fragile emotions, I decided that I didn’t need him and gradually built a wall between us. By the time I became a teen, I terribly resented and rebelled against my dad. That, along with my dad not bringing much, if any money into the house, my mother working three jobs and flying off the handle every other day, our house became a war zone.
Sadly, between the wall I built, and my misguided conclusions, I blamed it all on my dad.
If I had the chance to do it over again, I would sit on his lap, hug his neck and tell him how much I love him. I would understand that the war shattered his soul and that silence was his haven. I would encourage him to talk to me, to share his thoughts with me, and tell me what he’s feeling. I’d see my dad as a pillar of strength instead of the weakling I made him out to be. I would hold his hand and tell him how proud I am of him and that I love him just the way he is.
What I’ve learned over the years is that not everyone can love us the way we want to be loved. Not everyone can meet all our needs. We are all human, and we are all a product of the environment in which we were raised. I thank God for opening my eyes, healing my shattered heart, and helping me to forgive and move on with my life.