Father’s Day

Since this is Father’s Day, I’m a seeing a number of “Father’s Day Posts” happening.  You may have noticed on your FaceBook feed a number of pictures of people’s fathers.  Some are the, “I’m missing you” since you died. While some are pictures of guys holding babies and a lot of pictures of guys with new tools.

I suppose I should write some kind of father thing.  While I often quote my father, our relationship and my view of him was/is —

well, complicated…

Father was 36 when I was born.  I was that unplanned child who arrived when most men are dealing with teenagers and the first realizations that their bodies aren’t young anymore.  My father was in the midst of a career, budding alcoholism, and the slow disintegration of his marriage.  He wasn’t home much.

My older brothers taught me how to ride a bike, hammer a nail, and wash the dishes.  Father mostly came home late, watched TV and left the child stuff to mother.

I didn’t really get to know my father much until he started in AA when I was 12.  Suddenly he was home every night and interested in what I was doing in school and in boy scouts.  He even went on a father-son campout with the troop.  Just for the record, he was a horrible camper, but smart enough to let me put up the tent (after all mother had taught me how to camp).

Some time around 15 father seemed to decide that we needed do things together – you know quality father-son time – so he started to take me to AA meetings.  It was all he did, work, go to meetings, and sleep in front of the TV.  It was an interesting time in our lives and I did get involved with Al-anon for a few years.

While it might not seem like the best way to spend time with your son, it did teach me a lot about life, who I am, and how to live.  I also learned how to deal with drunks and other ‘problem’ people.  The lessons I learned then have been invaluable to my life.  It was also a time that deepened my spiritual life and where I came to my understanding of God.

Father was generous with me.  He was helpful, always there for me and the one person I could count on when I was in trouble.

However, he wasn’t that way with other members of the family.  He ignored my brothers and was horrible to my mother.  I was 18 when mother finally left and filed for divorce.  He was combative and fought every part of the divorce settlement that he could.  It was not his finest behavior.

At age 21, I moved away from home and father moved into a small apartment.  It was during this time that I realized how much he emotionally depended on me.  He called every day or two and was always buying me lunch or dinner.  From the outside most people thought we had a great relationship.

We did, to a certain extent.  He’d help me solve problems or give advice and I’d listen to him.  Then I’d mostly do whatever I wanted.  I never respected the way he ignored my brothers or his inability to live his life according to the lofty principles he espoused.

When I turned 28, there was a downturn in the computer business and I found myself without a job for a few months.  Resources started running out and I was concerned that I’d lose my apartment.  Father came to the rescue again and suggested we lease a house together for awhile so we could both save some money.

This worked for awhile and in time I got a new job.  Life seemed to be getting better.

Then one morning, he knocked on my bedroom door and with half his face said, “I think I’ve had a stroke.”

My response was, “Shit.”

That started a period of twelve years of physical and mental decline for him.  When he came back from the hospital, it was clear he couldn’t work anymore.  On his social security he could just barely afford his share of the rent and I ended up taking on all the other bills for the two of us.

In time he recovered enough to realize what a burden he was to me and one day announced to me that he’d called the VA and county housing authority.  Since he was a WWII veteran with a service connected disability, the VA accepted him as a patient.  The housing authority told him that he qualified for subsidized housing and since he was a veteran was on a priority list.  He wasn’t hopeful about the housing, thinking it might be years before he got in somewhere.

Turns out, just a few months later, they called him and an apartment in a senior housing project came up and it was his.

The day I moved him in, we sat on a bench and he said to me, “I like the place, but it feels like I’ve come here to die.”

How do you respond to words like that?

We both knew it was true and all I managed to say was, “Yeah, but that could be a long time.”

It twelve years of heart bypass surgery, strokes, gallbladder removal, more strokes, and complications from medications.  It was constantly checking on him, buying his groceries, clothes, and fixing his computer so he could play solitaire.  Then there was the home health care to arrange for, managing his money, and social workers to talk to.

He called every day and if he didn’t I would panic.  Twice I came to check why he didn’t call and didn’t answer the phone – both times I ended up calling 911 and spending days in the hospital chasing down doctors for news.

During this time he gave me everything he had – all his time, all his advice, all his jokes, and all his loyalty.  He even managed to soften towards my brothers and my mother.  He would come to family holidays, church, and would be polite, pleasant, humorous, and even a bit apologetic.

He died a month before my wedding  to Heather in a VA ward, in pain and having lost all of his memories and intelligence to the brain damage inflicted by stroke after stroke.

We were buddies.  We depended on each other, but I always called him, “father” and never “dad.”

Father always introduced me as, “This is Andy, of me and Andy.”

Fathers and sons — it’s complicated.

About Andrew Reynolds

Born in California Did the school thing studying electronics, computers, release engineering and literary criticism. I work in the high tech world doing software release engineering Then I got prostate cancer Now I am a blogger and work in my wood shop doing scroll saw work and marquetry.
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35 Responses to Father’s Day

  1. inese says:

    You just made me cry, Andrew. Your relationship with your father was not that complicated. You did what was pretty much straightforward – you chose the right thing. Bless you.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Wow. What a story. He was certainly lucky to have had you.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I agree with your other readers – this is an honest look at a complicated relationship, but we could sense your heartfelt thoughts about your father so well in it. Often difficult relationships with parents teach us well on what not to do with our own children, don’t they?

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Complicated, indeed, and heart-wrenching. He made you his caregiver for most of your life, one way or another. I’m glad you were able to find his ‘good’ side, and glad that he treated you well and mellowed a bit toward the rest of your family in the end.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. CJ Hartwell says:

    This may very well be the best Father’s day post I’ve ever read. Completely honest and heartfelt. Thank you for sharing your memories with us.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Debra says:

    Very complicated, Andrew. Nice to know more about your family, and to in kind, know more of you. I had a very good “father-daughter” relationship, and Father’s Day isn’t a tough time for me, even though my dad is now gone. My husband’s father died in an accident when my husband was 10 years old. Father’s Day, this many years later, brings up feelings and loss. I have often thought that both Mother’s Day and Father’s Day is a mixed bag for so many people, and there’s a certain insensitivity to it. I tend to not post much or say too much because compared to so many of my friends who have real holes in their hearts, I have been fortunate. It always makes me a little sad. I think from your story what I glean is your forgiveness and kindness. I really see that as a blessing to your father, but also to you. I’m glad you shared, Andrew.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for you kind words and thoughtful comment. There is a social pressure to react to both Mother’s and Father’s day in basic stereotypical ways. The “Hallmark Holiday” tends to deny the real emotional complexity of a parent/child relationship. If I was to state my core beliefs – kindness and forgiveness are on that list. So are creativity and embracing change. Then there’s the whole power tool angle that I’ll skip for the moment…

      Like

  7. George says:

    You’re a good son, Andrew. Parent children relationships are sometimes complicated and hurtful. But you should rest easy knowing you did everything you could. Taking care of aging parents is not easy. You loved each other in ways only the two of you understood.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Flojo says:

    Beautiful, beautiful, Andrew. A reminder that fathers and sons are complicated. What a blessing that you and your dad coped and that you helped salvage his life.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. mitchteemley says:

    Complicated indeed. I like how you coped, Andrew. And how you turned out.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I’ve found that service to others is a two-way street. It’s great that both of you could give-and-take to, and from, each other. Happy Father’s Day, Andrew.
    Ω

    Liked by 1 person

  11. What a poignant story. “This is Andy, of me and Andy.” That kind of says it all.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Ray V. says:

    It is a well-stated story and the best part is you remember your father accurately as he was in life. None of us are all “good” or al “bad”. Unfortunately, all too often, we go to one extreme or the other. I commend you for taking the healthy approach. I too, refer to my father as “father”.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you. I didn’t want to do the typical, “father was a great guy” that that is rarely the full truth, nor did I want to go the other way and do the, “he was horrible.” The truth is most often in the middle and it is the truth we seek.

      Like

  13. schoen55 says:

    Thank you for sharing what must have been difficult to share. Amazing how you took care of him at his most difficult and even nurtured him as you yourself needing nurturing. You are a kind and generous man and you will be the husband and father your dad tried and failed to be. May God bless you and bring your much happiness and peace in your love with those you cherish.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for your kind words. I rarely write about my father. In life I was closer to him than my mother, but I’ve written far more about her than him. I’ve always found that strange.

      Like

  14. jfwknifton says:

    Well done! It must have been very difficult to tell the world the story of the different relationships in your family. It was a very moving story and well worth the telling.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. What an honest look at the complicated father/son relationship. I appreciate your rounded view of your life with your father….

    Liked by 1 person

  16. dorannrule says:

    A beautiful honest look at your father and your relationship. You obviously came up to be a good man in spite of many stumbling blocks. You took care of him when he needed the most care…no easy task. You are a very good man.

    Liked by 1 person

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