I think perhaps the shittiest thing about Father’s Day is having to pick out a card for untitledhusband’s dad. He left his family and the state when untitledhusband was 8, so he could shack up with his girlfriend. Since he paid his child support, his parental responsibilities were fulfilled.
untitledhusband has been cleaning up the mess ever since. After the divorce, he watched on as his already-thin mother lost 10, 20, 30 pounds seemingly overnight. She’d melt into her bed and quietly cry and pray, cry and pray. It wasn’t quiet enough, for he’d always hear, doing whatever he could to keep his younger brother from hearing. He’d listen on and wish that he could superglue her back together. She’d bake cookies, fold laundry and pour cherry Kool-Aid into the Flintstones jelly glasses for him and all his friends, as if this whole mess had never happened.
The meager paycheck of a single mother couldn’t support a mortgage, so they moved around from rental house to rental house. For a short time, they lived with Grandma and Grandpa. They’d settle in, and soon find themselves displaced when a whole family who could make a house payment moved in. Every box that was packed and unpacked was a crude reminder of everything his father took with him when he left.
He had a nervous breakdown after his dad split. Being man of the house before you’ve even hit puberty will do that to you. He’d lose his shit every time his mother left the house or deviated from her daily routine. His mother stopped at the grocery store for a few mintues after work one evening, and came home to find her oldest son hysterical, thinking she had been in a car accident. During his next visit, his father grabbed him by the shoulders, confronted him about the child psychologist bills and declared that he was perfectly fine. And so that was that.
Now, I watch on as untitlehusband takes his father’s phone calls on holidays and yes, Father’s Day. It’s always less like a conversation, and more like a job interview. The dialogue is punctuated with nervous laughter and obligatory ice breakers. “So how is the pond coming along?” “I hear you’ve had no rain down there.” As much as he says that he couldn’t care less about his father, I can see just how much he does.
No matter how old he gets, untitledhusband will always be this nervous, unsteady boy around strong older men like his father, whether it’s his boss or the waiter at Friday’s. When we go to untitledson’s soccer games, I can feel his apprehension when he realizes that he knows nothing about sports. I see how he avoids getting oil changes on his car. Talking to the mechanic reminds him just how little he knows about things that a father teaches a son. When he says that he is so over his dad, I nod and smile, knowing that being fatherless has damaged him in ways he can neither comprehend nor admit.
Deep down, I think untitlehusband feels that if only his father had loved him more, he might have stayed. And so he will forever and always be trying to prove himself to a man who didn’t deserve his love in the first place. Unfortunately, Hallmark just doesn’t have a Father’s Day card for that.