It completely snuck up behind me, and stabbed me in the back.
I remember saying on Mother’s Day that I felt like the bitterly-single person on St. Valentine’s Day (something I never experienced, since I really don’t mind being single). Today though…surprisingly way worse.
I went to church, it being a Sunday. My priest friend had the Mass today, and said a homily that made my “father wound” hurt a little less (sorta). He took time to address how the world sees fatherhood through commercials and TV shows. Dad used to do that too, obviously to passive-aggressively gather some “respect” from me. The words were almost the same, but they somehow sounded different coming from my friend’s mouth; less like he wanted something from us, and more like he wanted to give us something.
He also talked about what the Holy Father recently said about most sacramental marriages today being invalid. That’s been causing a stir in and out of the Church, mostly of married couples feeling super indignant. I don’t see why; sounded right to me. I firmly believe my parents’ marriage is invalid, for a million reasons already stated. They’re still together, still in the same house, but those rings are just dulled gold and cold rock.
He mentioned that in his homily, about the absent fathers, and also the ones who are “physically present, but still absent somehow”. He explained, as the Holy Father did, that the reason marriage is in so much trouble today was so because we live in a time and culture where permanence is a lost concept, and fatherhood is likewise a largely lost concept. To hit the nail on its head further, he bid all the married couples stand and renew their wedding vows instead of the typical father’s day blessing.
It was a beautiful sight, but to be honest, looking around as some couples looked into each other’s eyes while others just held hands and bowed their heads to say their “I do”s…I felt like there was a ring on my finger, one that I wanted to yank off, and throw as far away from me as possible. I was married to my family, after all; in dad’s own words, I “divorced” them. I’m the woman at the well with seven husbands, and they’re the perfect family. I felt very dirty, and disgraceful.
“Fatherhood” means a lot of things to me that doesn’t mean the same as what I hear in church. Using my father and uncle as my main examples, “fatherhood” means to betray, to trick, to manipulate, to shame and guilt, to drink problems away, to rape and murder. Even before I saw my dad for who he was, I would want to ask him, “Where are you? Where were you? Why didn’t you protect me? Why didn’t you love mommy? Why did you beat me down with guilt instead of building me up with dignity? I thought a dad was supposed to make his daughter feel like a lady, not a thing to own and use.” Even that one father-figure…he used to refer to me as a “young lady,” but then he called me “that woman over there.”
Like for mothers, I just don’t understand why Father’s Day is anything to feel happy or loved about.
Yet, this tiny, truly tiny prayer took seed in my heart. I have absolutely no idea where it came from. I think it came out of the loneliness from isolation, though just before this tiny prayer appeared, I realized that if I truly want to convert away from the abusive “little church” (that whimsical term for one’s Catholic parents and family by blood/adoption) to God’s family, I have to accept what God teaches about fatherhood.
Anyways, wherever it came from, I asked, “God, if it wouldn’t hurt me too much, or make me cry…if I could have a father-daughter moment with someone today, maybe that’d help me to better understand what You say about fatherhood.”
Sure enough, guess what?
I was sitting in parish hall, writing the beginning paragraphs of this entry, and my priest friend came over. Now, he’s only a handful of years my elder, like a big brother if anything else, but he does sometimes have these unmistakably paternal moments, what I like to call “big-brothering.” My own big brother did that too before that last falling out, assuming a lot of dad-roles at home those last couple of years.
He just started chatting with me, asking in all sincerity how I am. He even made me laugh. It was about pretty simple things, but I had that solid feeling that he cared. He made sure I had a donut before I left, half-teasing me about “low blood sugar” (You’re never gonna let me live that down, are you, Father? Probably not, ha).
It was such a short interaction with a priest young enough to be my brother, but it changed the mood of today almost completely. Following his advice, I wrote a note to someone I thought I lost a friendship with forever, saying I was sorry on my part and that I wanted to try again. I remembered a movie about fatherhood I had called Courageous, and I’m now watching it while the laundry’s going.
About this movie…it’s about these men who make a vow to be the best fathers they could be after not being the most shining examples of dads. Some of these men are policemen, and they witness so much crime from these fatherless guys (as absent fathers is a statistically common trait in a lot of criminals, prostitutes, mentally/emotionally afflicted, addicts, etc.); this further drives them forward towards true fatherhood. It’s a very masculine and strong movie, even if low-budget.
There’s one scene though, that makes me have mixed feelings, and that’s where one dad takes his teen daughter out for dinner, and presents her with a ring. It would make me think of my own purity ring (haha, I know right?) and my “marriage” to my dad for a split second…but then, as the dad tells his daughter why he was doing this, that ghost just vanishes. From what he says to that girl, the ring he was putting on her finger was not a shackle. It’s a gift, something for her to remember to hold fast, wait for the right person to replace that ring with a wedding ring, because she deserves it, because she’s a lady, and that she actually can trust his judgment, because he loves her.
I still don’t get it completely, but hey…at least Father’s Day isn’t as horrible as it was earlier.