A fatherless Father's Day: reflections on an absent dad
Every year at this time, fathers across the country bask in the affection of their beloved children. Gifts of ties, barbecue accessories and the like fill the den as families recognize the importance of The Father.
For me, June 16 is nothing more than a yearly reminder of what I don't have. That is to say, a dad. A pop. A padre, papa or pater. You see, for the last 11 years of my life, I have not seen my father, and not until as recently as a month ago, has he made any effort to contact me or to be a a part of my life.
Having grown up in the '80s and '90s, divorce has never been a really big subject. Many of my friends came from homes where their parents had split. Usually their fathers stayed in the picture. I had one friend whose dad actually bought a condo in the same complex as his ex-wife so he could be close to his sons. Weekends with dad meant walking a few doors down.
My folks ended their union when I was six-years-old. My older brother was eight. Our dad moved to Vancouver after that, while we stayed with our mother in Calgary. For the first few years we would see our pop once or twice a year, usually around Christmas, Easter or for a few weeks in the summer. By the time I was ten, I had been on more plane rides than most adults.
But eventually the visits became few and far between, and then my father met and married his new wife, a lady from Mexico City. My brother and I did not attend the wedding.
Together they had a child, a girl named Stephanie. She was named after me. After spending a summer in Mexico City with my new step family when I was eleven, my father dropped a bomb on us: He was moving to Mexico to be close to his in-laws.
My father would now live a country away from us.
The last time I saw the old man was when I was 14, visiting cousins in Vancouver. He was there with his family and tried to get me to babysit my then three-year-old sister every night while he and his wife went out. After a series of refusals to comply, I had it out with him.
"Did you come to Vancouver to see me or your cousins?" he asked. I told him both.
After that trip, I didn't hear from him again for seven years. We knew he was in Mexico, but we didn't know where exactly or what he was doing. His siblings in Vancouver, my aunts and uncles, said they were as much in the dark as we were. We had no contact information and had no idea where to start.
So it was left at that. My father dumped us. He had a new family.
Growing up in a single parent family was hard. Money was always tight and we had no family in the country to help us. All of my mom's family lived in Ecuador and she received no support from my father. Along with being a full-time teacher, my mother took on a variety of odd jobs, teaching Spanish, selling products from the home and the like.
I'm not going to detail the hardships we had to endure due to the absence of my father, but they were many. Had my mother been any other woman, I don't think my brother and I would have had the happy and fulfilling childhood we had. She had the strength to endure and the courage to take on all adversities that came her way, and for that I am a better person.
Thanks to the example she set and the hard work she put into raising two boys on her own, my brother and I have completed our post secondary education and are out making our mark on the world.
All without the help of a father.
I was watching Barack Obama's Father's Day address the other day. He made a variety of points dealing with the importance of men to be fathers in the lives of their children.
In the African American community, over half of all children grow up without a father. And like me, Barack did not have a dad in the home growing up.
Barack went on to say the men who don't take responsibility in the lives of their children are not acting like men. They're acting like scared boys. Obama pointed out that children who grow up without a father are five times more likely to live in poverty. They are more likely to have behavioral problems, or run away from home, or become teenage parents.
He asked fathers to realize that responsibility does not end at conception.
Now my Father is coming back to Canada with his family for a visit at the end of the month.One of my uncles, against my wishes, gave him my phone number and now he's calling me once every few weeks. I let the calls go to voice-mail.
With his thick accent, he leaves short messages. My half-sister wants to see me, he says. He would like to spend some time with me when he's in town. He would like to meet my girlfriend. He ends all of his messages with: "Be good."
Now I'm twenty-five-years old. I haven't seen the man over 11 years. I don't know what I have to say to him. I don't even know him. He's not my father.
A father is a man who spends time with his children. He is a man to takes responsibility and sets an example. A father is a man in the archetypal sense of the word. He provides. He protects.
The man leaving messages on my phone is not my father. I can't even be sure to call him a man.
He is a stranger.
What do you talk to a stranger about?
(The photo above is a picture of Tom Selleck put through some filters so that "it's just a fuzzy picture of a mustached man," which is how the author says he remembers his father.)