Bringing My Father Back: A Father’s Day Love Story


img_6541

A very wise therapist told me to write about my father… for Mother’s Day. The fact I’ve thought about it nearly every day for weeks, but have not been able to put words to page, until now… probably means she’s wiser than I already believe. She understood what the challenge would mean, and why I should do it. However, writing it in time for Mother’s Day, while meaningful and symbolic, proved harder than I thought it would be. And, I realized, it would not be the truth.

I have not written much in nearly two years now. I’ve been struck–– paralyzed, by information about my parents, which I’d buried so deep, it came as a total shock when I heard it again. Even though I knew every word was true, as those words landed on my shaken self, it was as if I left my body, and watched from above, as my entire life was untwisted from a horrible knot of lies. I stood there listening, my body still, as the world around me fractured.

It left me shaken to the core. It left me unable to find the words… when words have always served me and been my security. It stripped me down, and yet despite all the pain… it set me free. Now, I’m taking all of the broken pieces, and putting myself back together again.

Two years ago, on an early spring day, on a beautiful beach walk, in one of my very happiest of places, my father’s two sisters–– my aunts, who I love so much–– unknowingly, broke me open. The moment is seared in my memory: the words; my stagger backwards and then paralyzed stance; their confused expressions as they realized I didn’t know what they were talking about. I can still feel the shock when they, and then I, realized I’d buried the truth so far down–– to forget the pain of being abandoned at age seven–– and that the truth they’d always lived with, was in fact raw, hard news to me.

As the truth came out, I felt all the pieces of my life fall–– like shards of glass–– around me. I floated above us, and screamed, as my body stood still before my aunts, dazed. Two years later, that day still washes over me, in unguarded moments. My chest constricts, and I try not to feel all the feelings the moment brought forth. I try to remember: I am stronger than the moment, and I believe in healing. Somedays, I feel like I’m in a giant hole of lies, and I’ll never dig my way out.

sc0679b87c01

I was a little older than this…

When I was between six and seven years old, my mother abandoned me, and my two younger siblings. My brother is two years younger, my sister five and a half; they were nearly five, and eighteen months old, at the time.  My parents were separated at the time; we were living with our mother. However, she couldn’t cope with parenting, and she vanished for a year and a half, leaving my father to find us, alone and scared, in the apartment. I’ve always had flashbacks that didn’t make sense. I remember feeling terrified because I didn’t know how to change my baby sister’s diaper. I remember not knowing what we should eat, or what I should do. I felt the weight of the world on my tiny shoulders.

I remember these things clearly, and always have. These memories, and flashes of memories, have haunted me my entire life, but they never fit my mother’s narrative of how things were. I have no idea how long it was before my father found us, or how long we were alone in the apartment. Nobody does. The people who knew are all dead now. Fear, anxiety, abandonment–– the images which replayed in my memories, never made sense, until my aunts uttered a truth, they’d long believed I knew, but chose to see differently.

Over the years, too afraid to really believe my mother could do something so hard to understand, I projected all of those scared and hurt feelings on to my memories of my father. I believed my mother’s words: Your father was a good daddy–– he loved to play, but he didn’t take care of us. He wasn’t a good father. I had no choice but to bring you back East, where I had support.

Lies, lies and more lies!

As a young child, I didn’t feel lovable enough to prevent my parents from leaving me: Mom abandoned us, and then returned to steal us away from our father. My mother suffered with her own demons, and I always felt like she might fall apart, or leave us, any time. I learned to work very hard to prevent that, at a high cost to my own emotional wellbeing. I learned to be a parent at eight–– long before I was ready–– and I felt the burden of my mother’s mental instability as a constant responsibility. Even her Huntington’s felt like something I should have seen coming, and should have prevented.

sc05823f7d copy

Months after my father’s death, I was grieving and wary. I see it in these eyes.

I adopted and carried my mother’s message–– your Dad wasn’t a good father–– with me to defend against a mother who left me, and who, I always feared would leave me again. I carried the message with me to make sense of the unthinkable: I wasn’t enough to keep my parents together. I wasn’t enough to make her happy, no matter how hard I tried. All the King’s horses and all the King’s men… I couldn’t bring my father back, and I felt immeasurable guilt for having left him–– regardless of the fact that I had no control over the decision. Ultimately, I believed my mother’s lies about my Dad, because if it was Dad’s inability to be a good parent, it wasn’t about what really hurt: I wasn’t lovable enough.

What really came back to me with shocking impact, on the day my aunts told me the truth my father did take care of us. He did love us. We were his world. The instant the truth came out, and I hovered between reality and shock, I remembered being truly precious to someone I loved very deeply, and who I lost forever.

After our mother left, Dad found us in her apartment, all alone. When my mother called him and said she “didn’t want (us),” he moved in with his grandmother, my great-grandmother Nini, and loved us with everything he had. He and Nini tucked us in each night; he taught me to ride a bike; they helped us feel secure and happy. Meals were at a set time, and a family affair. We brushed our teeth with a timer, and went to school in clean clothes. We were taught to say please and thank you, to show respect to our elders, but to play without worries.

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

My father did everything he could to fill the hole my mother left. He filled our lives with childhood magic which came from: planting strawberries in Nini’s garden; teaching us to make a blade of grass shrill like a horn; swinging on the park swings, until my feet touched the clouds; watching a kite dance in the sky. We were surrounded by people who loved us and gave us constant security–– aunts and uncles, and great aunts and uncles, grandparents, great-grandparents, cousins, and life-long friends of my father. We had a village. I walked to school each day, happy in the knowledge there was a lunch packed for me. I knew I’d be welcomed home at the end of the day, with a hug and a kiss. My siblings and I were beloved, and I felt it. I felt safe and good for the eighteen months my mother was gone.

And then it was all taken away.

I’ve always held inside me, buried deep and tucked safely, the knowledge we were precious… I was precious to someone. But when our mother took us away from my father’s security and love, that knowledge was replaced with the childish belief that my father somehow gave up on us. I believed he didn’t care, and had grown tired of us. I didn’t understand that he didn’t know where we were, for nearly six months. I felt the tension when he did start phoning us, as my mother listened in. I knew not to say what I felt, every time I heard his voice: I want to go home, come get me. As children, we’re not able to understand the complicated world of parents, marriage, and dysfunction. Our tender hearts are broken easily, and often, they stay broken. Every time I heard his voice, I just wanted to be happy again. I wanted to feel safe and loved.

My mother did her best, in so many ways. Her family loved us very much, and embraced us in our new life. They have been there for all of these years… However, it was all new to us then, and my brother and I longed for the life we had been pulled from. My mother was an enormously damaged and broken person. Despite her humor and ability to charm and sparkle, she didn’t know how to be a parent.

She discussed it with me from an early age, but in addition, I felt her guilt, her struggle to be a mother, and her own brokenness, all of my life. I felt it as something I needed to fix, or cover for. I felt it as a missing piece which flew in the face of all the truths I learned to bury. I internalized it, and allowed it to determine my own paths. I adopted her view, and put the blame on my father, and held onto those lies most of my life.

It wasn’t until a sunny day on the beach, forty-two years after all the damage was done, that the truth wrapped itself around me and I began to really work on healing… and finding my father again.

My father was a remarkable man. He wasn’t remarkable because I remember him that way, or because my childhood memories have created something to believe in. He was remarkable because so many people have told me he was, and because I remember his enormous capacity for joy, adventure and love. He was a free spirit who kept his surroundings impeccably neat; who would rather spend any day in wild places, and who showed his children a world full of beauty. At a time when men did not routinely have custody of their children, Dad moved in with his grandmother and tried to help us forget our mother had left us behind. He did everything he could to take care of us, and help us feel loved and safe. He wasn’t just a good daddy, he was a good father.

In pushing all of these things down, and repeating an almost mantra-like revision of the truth: “my Dad was a good ‘daddy-‘ he liked to have fun, but he wasn’t a good father- he didn’t take care of us,” I changed the course of my own history, and the truth of my past. In repeating this revision to friends, who wanted to know about my Dad; to my own children, who never knew their grandfather; to myself, I not only denied all of the powerful memories I have of my father’s love and our life with him, but I stole from him the truth of his love, and the very things which made him remarkable. I allowed lies to strip him of the place in my heart, and the place in my life, he worked so hard to create.

My father never saw us again, after my mother took us. He grieved our loss until the day he died, in a motorcycle accident, June 9th, 1973, just weeks before he was to visit us. His best friend has shared pieces with me; his sisters have shared parts with me, and I know  the truth. He grieved the loss of his children, just as I grieved the loss of him.

I was ten and a half years old when he died. The hole his death left has never been filled. I’m not sure it can be. The day he died, I knew I could never go home again, and happiness would always mean something different. Of course, I grew up and learned that happiness is not determined by any one thing or event. But, I lost a world of happiness when I lost my father, and that is not easily replaced. The shift that came with his death changed so many things about the way I saw the world, the choices I made, and how I lived my life.

Like him, I have always been a nature-loving, free spirit. However, I didn’t feel like those things fit into the life I lived with my mother. I learned to adapt to situations and play whatever role I needed to play. Like him, I am happiest in wild places, especially when I am alone and quiet and I can feel the Earth. I’m impulsive, adventurous and playful. The first trait I get from my father, the latter ones from both my parents. When people who knew my father talk about him, they always mention how readily he just stopped in to visit, or how happy he was in the wilderness. Family was important to him, but he could also be quiet and disappear. My father was impeccably neat. My surroundings are rarely uncluttered; in that, the apple fell far from the tree. I love fully, and hold on to connections, like my father did–– and because so many important connections were broken, when I was too young to understand it wasn’t my fault. I cling. I grieve ties that break… even when they should. I hope to fix, even the unfixable.

Everything felt like it was my fault, from the time I was eight until just recently. That’s a hard load to put down, after carrying it for forty-five years. I trip on it all the time: with my husband, my children, friends, and anywhere life throws me a curve ball. I feel the pressure to fix and assuage.

I’m working on changing the damage that was done so long ago. I’m working on healing. Some days it’s like being in a very dark, unfamiliar room and feeling around for the light switch–– you know it’s there, but it can be so disorienting to try and trace walls you don’t recognize, in order to find a small switch that will illuminate your way.

Part of me: a space where my magical child’s brain still lives, and was traumatically frozen in time, just wants her Dad back. I want to undo all the times I repeated the lies. I want to say I’m sorry Dad–– I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry! I’m sorry for burying the love that you gave so fully. I want to be picking strawberries and flying a kite again. I want to go back and change the course of so many things that were forged in the knot of lies which became my life.

An equally big part of me knows I need to grieve these “new” truths; come to terms with the realities, and let them go. I’m grieving my father in a new context. I’m processing the rage and disillusionment I feel, in learning the truth. I’m trying to forgive my mother. I’m trying to heal, and move forward into a lit room.

Time did not stop. If my father were still alive, he would be seventy-six years old now, not the thirty-two year old father who died, in 1973, a year after we left him. I believe we would be close. Life has a way of making things hard, but I want to believe that he would eventually have found a way to be with us again. I believe the truth would have come out at some point, and all of my memories of being precious, would have filled the other dark places with something better. In learning the truth, I am seeking to rediscover his light. I’m working to embrace the love my father gave me, and finally feel whole again. I couldn’t write this for Mother’s Day; it would have felt like a further twisting of truth. I wanted this one story to be as true as true can be.

When we are children, we are often helpless to exert any control over our own lives. The adults we trust to care for us, and do what is best for us, are not always capable of that. And our brains do what’s needed to make sense of painful things. Sadly, parents do not always consider the long-term impact of their decisions on their children. As an adult, I now have the ability to choose for myself how to live my life, and determine what’s important in that life. Piece by piece, I’m restoring my father. I’m restoring the love that was given to me and is still there. I’m healing. Piece by piece. (*a must listen)

I’m writing this for Father’s day, but posting it on June 9th, the forty-forth anniversary of my father’s death. I’m writing this because I had a father who loved me. I lost him, but now I have him back. I’m writing this to heal and feel his love again.

Oh, to have this day back.

My brother and I on Dad’s lap.

Thank you Dad. Thank you for being there, and for loving me completely.

I remember.

To all the fathers who love their children and are there for them, Happy Father’s Day! 

To Cokie and Pat, who changed everything. I love you. 

I played this song over and over again, the year my father died. Time In A Bottle, by Jim Croce, who also died in 1973.  

Also read:

Check out The Daily Post prompt, Tender, and read other bloggers’ response to the prompt “Tender”
New Relationships, Old Trauma (Acupuncture Today)

On My Father’s Birthday,  A Letter To The Man Who Killed Him:  it was Fresh Pressed 2x

*     *     *

GIPYKAPOW!  I didn’t meet the 2016 goal for Likes on the Tales From the Motherland Facebook page; missed it by 14! So this year, I’m not setting a goal. I’m grateful for each Like I get. Have you stopped by to spread some fairy dust? Follow me on Twitter, LeBron James does (yes, for real)! Most importantly, if you like a post I’ve written, hit Like and leave a comment. Honest, constructive feedback is always appreciated. Click Follow; you’ll get each new post delivered by email,  no spam.

©2011-2017  All content and images on this site are copyrighted to Dawn Quyle Landau and Tales From the Motherland, unless specifically noted otherwise. If you want to share my work, I’m grateful, but please give proper credit and Link back to my work; plagiarism sucks!

About Dawn Quyle Landau

Mother, Writer, treasure hunter, aging red head, and sushi lover. This is my view on life, "Straight up, with a twist––" because life is too short to be subtle! Featured blogger for Huffington Post, and followed on Twitter by LeBron James– for reasons beyond my comprehension.
Aside | This entry was posted in Awareness, Death of parent, Grief, Healing, Honest observations on many things, Life, Love, My world, Tales From the Motherland, Writing and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

33 Responses to Bringing My Father Back: A Father’s Day Love Story

  1. So strong of you to share this. It’s reeling but hopeful healing as well. Keep writing, my friend.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Daryl Madill says:

    Raw & poignant…brave of you to share your story. Hope it brings light and healing. What a wonderful tribute to your dad.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. 143coaching says:

    Beautiful piece, Dawn. Thank you for sharing your journey this way–you are a wonderful woman. XO

    Liked by 1 person

  4. noahezra says:

    Beautifully written description of powerful influences that gave you the strength you have today. A lot to think about as a parent in terms of the repercussions of my actions and choices for my kids way down the road. I love you and wish you had not been robbed of the time with your father that you deserved and he deserved with his precious children.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Cathy Ulrich says:

    Dawn,
    I’m so glad you’re writing and choosing to share. In knowing you and reading your description of your Dad, I can say with great confidence that you are so very much like him. And I’m also glad that you’re walking through this path of healing. You so deserve to have the peace that understanding brings.
    Cathy

    Liked by 2 people

  6. ksbeth says:

    this is absolutely beautiful in all its pain and moments of joy, as well. some of this hit very close to home with me, for a variety of reasons. with your lovely tribute to the father you now know him to have been, you have honored him and i’m sure he somehow knows. reading this has helped me, and i’m sure others, who you may never know that you have impacted.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Wow, that is so meaningful, Beth! I have been so deep in a hole lately, I’ve missed reading other blogs and writing has been challenging. It’s reassuring and touching that you stop by, and share such thoughtful words and connections. Thanks for making that effort; it’s much appreciated. xo

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Dear Dawn, what an amazing story. More than that, what strikes me is what a powerful woman you are in the face of such profound challenge, so full of love and compassion. I have no doubt there is much more beautiful healing and writing ahead. As my Dad would say to me, you done good…. carry on! xoxo

    Liked by 1 person

    • Brenda, I love the stories about your dad, and I think it has a lot to do with harnessing and wishing for that kind of father presence. That you chose to share your Dad’s words, in salute, means that much more. Thanks so much! xo

      Like

  8. This is beautiful. I can hardly find words to describe how this touched me. I’ve been blocked in my writing lately as well, for similar reasons. Thank you for sharing such a special tribute. I hope it brings some much-deserved peace.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks so much Viv. I think there are so many of us out there, who are “blocked” not just in our writing, but stuck in trauma that is hard to heal. It means a lot to me that this touched you; your feedback is much appreciated.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. sara says:

    Dawn, I’m not sure what prompted me to come to my WordPress feed today, but I’m so glad I did. The pain and struggle, the fear and bewilderment come through so clearly in your writing. We are all a work in progress, and we must somehow incorporate the chosen and unchosen narratives of our life, weaving them into a coherent strand. This is far more difficult than it sounds, but so important for understanding and comprehension. Love to you Dawn ❤️

    Like

  10. Laila says:

    Tears blocking my view, but it’s okey because I don’t find the words I want to say in English. So I just ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  11. mumsthewordblog1 says:

    Wow. That was a really emotional post. I hope you have some peace and cathartic healing from sharing your feelings. Life can be so complicated and congratulations for working your way through some ough, tough times. It is a beautiful tribute to your Dad and I’m sure he is watching over you, terribly proud of his little girl. Sending you hugs 😘😘😘🦉

    Like

  12. Carrie Rubin says:

    Oh Dawn, what a heartbreaking story. Sorry you had to experience such pain and turmoil. Situations like that are so difficult for young minds to understand (old minds too). Both Mother’s Day and Father’s Day must come with confusion for you. But you’ve written about it beautifully and I imagine just writing the words down helps unload some of the feelings.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, yes, and yes. It’s been a bit unnerving knowing that it’s all out there now. It’s been a hard and painful story to process, but there is some healing in releasing it. I don’t hate my mother, but I have really been struggling with my anger and disappointment. I spent so many years trying to reconcile memories that she denied or sugar-coated, and now I just wish she were here to address them. She suffered horribly with her HD, and that makes it hard for me to justify my anger… ugh. I’m writing a whole other post here! Thanks Carrie. I always love seeing you in the comments, and appreciate your balanced feedback. xo

      Liked by 1 person

    • and PS) since I cant comment on your blog… I’m SO glad you put a killer in Eating Bull. Loved it!!

      Liked by 1 person

  13. Pingback: Can Watching Ellen DeGeneres Cure Depression | TALES FROM THE MOTHERLAND

  14. Reblogged this on TALES FROM THE MOTHERLAND and commented:

    Some of you JUST read this, but I’m sharing it again, for Father’s Day, in honor of my father Robert Melville Quyle. He wasn’t here long enough, but he left a wealth of love.

    Like

  15. Lori Mohr says:

    A very powerful and beautifully written piece. We grew up in an era where nobody talked about feelings .Our parents had no idea the impact that divorce, death or any type of abandonment has on children and the shared feelings of not being good enough. Glad that you have a great therapist to help you heal that part of the narrative. I share loosing a Dad to death at a young age. My story has some differences but the feeling of not being good enough was a feeling that I had after my Dad’s death. I was fortunate to find a great therapist who helped me deal with that. Thanks for writing this piece. It is helpful to all of us who went through similar situations in our youth and to know we are not the only ones to feel this way. Today, I woke up and felt the gratitude for having my Father’s love during my life and gratitude that his death taught me that family is everything. XO

    Liked by 1 person

    • Lori, thanks so much for this meaningful, heart-felt response. Your honesty and compassion mean so much; thanks for sharing your own experience! I think there are so many kids out there with little or no support in these situations. I felt very alone, though clearly others were experiencing similar things. It’s a long journey… I’m still on it, but grateful for the support, and the lessons I’m processing. Thanks! xo

      Like

  16. Nancy A Adair says:

    Very moving. I am always interested to read parenting stories from my generation. Ironically, my story is the opposite of yours. After my younger brother got his hand broken trying to protect himself from punishment (he was 4–what could he have done so bad?), the ER doctor was suspicious and warned my parents that he didn’t want to see them bring an injured child to the hospital again. Unlike you, I hoped to be removed from my home, and I knew an injury would do it. And I was sadly disappointed that my father always stopped short of broken bones. I showed our neighbors the welts and bruises, but they would not help me. Instead, the parents sent me right home! Imagine.
    Our stories intersect at the junction where staying with an ill parent has life-long consequences for kids. I believe in adoption.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Our stories intersect in more ways than may have been clear in this piece. The time I had with my father was truly special, and filled with safety and love. The time with mother was much harder. My extended family didn’t know how to deal with things they knew were not ideal, and friends and neighbors only told me much later they had known things were not good. I have left a lot out here, as there are so many people to consider, but our stories intersect in several ways, Nancy.

      I’m so sorry you suffered these things as a child. I know you to be a strong and accomplished woman, but some things remain painful, no matter how long they’ve had to heal. Thanks for sharing your own story, and supporting me in mine. xo

      Like

  17. rgayer55 says:

    Wow, that shook me to the core. My wife’s dad & mom split when she was just a baby. She had two older siblings and they were living in California. Her grandparents wired enough money for bus fare back to Arkansas and a kindly bus driver bought milk for baby Connie. Her mother remarried a couple years later to a man who was verbally, physically, and sexually abusive to Connie and her sister. When your childhood has been stolen there’s no way to get it back.

    Thanks for sharing your story. I’m confident it will touch someone out there who has been suffering similar pain and help them to cope with their feelings and come to understand that they are indeed precious. God Bless You. – Russell

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ray, thanks so much for this very meaningful, thoughtful, and personal response. This is a hard story to share, and has really taken the wind from my sails for the past long while. When I first learned all of the details, I was shocked. But now that I’ve digested it, the implications and impact have been very hard to process.

      I’m so glad Connie found someone like you, to help her heal. You’re so right: we can never get that time back; we can never have the safe, happy childhood we each deserved, but we can create our own strong families. I really appreciate your support. xo

      Liked by 1 person

PLEASE LEAVE A COMMENT; I'M LISTENING.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s