On my 4th birthday, my Aunt Carolyn came to visit. I lived with my great Aunt Gert since I was about a week old. Gert was old, arnery & dirt poor, but she did love me. She had never married or had children of her own. I would spend some Christmases with my Aunt Carolyn & her husband Lonnie who were not able to have children of their own. On this day, Aunt Carolyn was bringing me a cake & presents. My mother, Dianne was there with my baby brother to celebrate my 4th birthday and - as my Aunt Carolyn would find out - there to insure from that day forward that I had a better home.
Dianne pulled Carolyn aside and asked quite simply, "Do you want to take Renee home with you ?"
Aunt Carolyn (thinking my mother meant for a visit) answered, "Yes."
"I mean, will you adopt her ?" Dianne asked.
As my adoptive mother, Carolyn tells me, this was what she had been waiting to hear since my birth. So that day, Aunt Carolyn became "Mama". She has told me the story of how angry and hurt my Aunt Gert was that day. But the loving gift that I received from both my birth mother & adoptive mother are very clear to me now. Aunt Gert was already an old woman, my older cousins next door were very cruel to me.
My mother was only 18 with 2 children. My birth father (Mama's brother) was cruel & abusive to Dianne (seven years her senior). I have never resented my birth mother for the decisions she made. My adoptive mother was on the receiving end of so much of my teenage anger & rebellion & I regret the tattered relationship that we now have because of our past. We fought constantly - which I now see as normal mother/daughter problems.
This story is sad because it is so near Father's Day. I'm not trying to "bash" my adoptive father. It's more like I am trying to understand. From the very first day Mama brought me home to live with them, Daddy & I didn't get along. He took my shying away from him so deeply to heart that I don't think he has ever forgiven me for running from him that first day. The only man I had dealt with closely up until that day was my birth father and I had fresh, vivid memories of Dianne hiding in Aunt Gert's small trailer. She would show up battered & bruised. He would rush in, drag her out by her hair. Sometimes, he would show up at Aunt Gert's to drink in the barn with his friends. He would entertain himself, by forcing alcohol down my throat and watching me stumble around. The smell of Budweiser always brings that memory back more vividly than I care to remember. I also remember Gert catching him getting me drunk when I was about 3. She beat him with the broom all the way to his car.
So, maybe those reading this can see why, when my new adoptive father asked me to go sit in his lap, I ran like the wind towards Mama ! Daddy didn't see it that way. He got very angry, cursed me and walked away. I think, deep in his heart, my adoptive father wanted to be gentle, loving and understanding, but his hard upbringing just wouldn't let go of him. He was a decent father. He never exposed us to vulger or inappropriate things. He certainly never forced me to get drunk in front of his friends. But from a very early age, he cut my soul and broke my spirit. (Mama & Daddy also adopted my real brother six months after me and a foster child a few years after that. My adopted sister was actually the oldest, but adopted last.)
Daddy would say things to me like "No man will ever love you." "You got a pretty face, but you ain't worth marrying." "If you're smart, you'll marry the first one that ask you, 'cause he'll be the only one..."
I am honestly not saying this to hurt my Daddy or to envoke pitty from anyone. I am writing this because I was watching my husband Julian with our youngest child, Daisy a few days ago. As she came to sit beside him on the sofa, he said "Hello, beautiful girl." He brushed her hair behind her ear and wrapped his arms around her as they sat and talked so lovingly---just as a father should talk to his daughter.
Fathers are the man that influence a daughter's impression of all men. Fathers become the man we marry someday. My first husband was so very cruel to me - physically & mentally. The mental abuse was often worse than the physical. He would call me ugly. He would tell me how he could have done so much better than me. He was the complete opposite of Julian. Julian has always called me his "beautiful lady". But I love him so much for more than the way he makes me feel, but the way he makes our children feel. Daisy loves her "Papi". I see her glowing smile when her father calls her beautiful, when he strokes her hair, when she rushes in to kiss us both goodnight.
Julian isn't perfect, but he never lets his own frustrations influence the way he acts or reacts towards our children.
Being a father isn't a contest to be as hard or as cruel as you can be. It's a fashioning of your daughter's self-esteem and self-worth. By far, my Daddy's attitude towards me influenced my self-worth way more than any other adult in my life. I spent years in self-loathing. I thought I was nothing, nobody. Not worthy to be on this earth. I went from one self-destructive act to another.
I am so thankful for my husband, who changed my thinking. Julian makes me feel so very loved.
Happy Father's Day, Julian. You are the imperfect perfect example of a father !