By Mark David Blum, Esq.
For most Dads, today, Fathers Day, is most likely a day of joy and pleasure. Slaved and pined over by adoring and grateful spawn, choked by a new tie, a delicious meal, and Hallmark’s finest, male parents throughout the nation are recognized today for their contributions. My own two beautiful daughters give me every reason to get up in the morning and remind me constantly of both my own mortality and my success.
In this moment of mournful reflection, I turn my attention not forward; but to the arrears. Today is my annual “feel sorry and abandoned and alone” day. Despite folks thinking I was either hatched or fell from a spaceship, in reality I too had a mother and father; at least in a biological sense. By the time I had my sixth birthday, I was without a father and by the time I had my tenth, my mom too had gone her own way without me.
So many times over the years, on this day I would engage in my normal wallowing and bemoaning all that I did not have in life. Unless you have lived it, you have no idea how empty and vacuous a life can be without a father. Lacking a role model, someone to tell you how to be a man or a parent or a lover or how to make a double play at 3rd leaves a mark on you that extends well beyond your childhood. Nobody is there to get your back, lead you forward, or stand beside you.
Make no mistake, even in their absence, fathers do teach their children. Mine abandoned me and left me to grow up without him. It only took me 22 years to learn that lesson when in context of my first marriage/divorce, fate too took me away from my eldest daughter and left her to grow up without me. I will never be able to recoup all that I lost. It will take decades for my eldest and I to heal and rebuild a relationship. In her and through her eyes, I have watched her endure and suffer from a lot of the same pains and mistakes as I made.
I have tried to do better the second time around. Whether it be guilt or love or a sense of duty, my youngest has had the benefit of me being around. Though it has been close a few times and on many occasions, she too almost found herself with me, luck and fate have held us close and I have been able to complete my mission and obligation to her. She ate when I could not. I made sure she had a bed when I slept on the floor. Though I may never know if I succeeded or not, at least I know that I did all I could to protect her and be her ‘Dad’.
But this diatribe is not about my girls. Rather, it is about my Dad.
It has been a year and a month since he died and was buried in an undisclosed grave. He died as he lived; with his finger in the air at his children. Once again, his offspring have forgotten him and the circumstances of his death; each of us having again gone about our separate ways. I maintain my oath that I will let him know exactly how we all feel when I see him in Hell.
It was not my choice to have lived a life never having the chance to celebrate my father on Fathers Day. The loneliness never goes away but maturation gets you past that. I had the misfortune of getting to know the man when I aged into an adult. Seeing the person he was and how he treated those around him is what I hang onto when another Fathers Day rolls around. A lifelong raging alcoholic, 3 pack a day smoker, seven time divorcee, and a smattering of children and ripped off partners scattered about the State of California is his legacy. Still, it is difficult to explain to folks that despite being a prick and a dick, he was nevertheless my father and there is some connection on some level that never let me let go of him. With his death, the finality and absoluteness of him never coming back is the new reality.
“Thankful” would be the word I use when I think of how my life would have turned out had he not abandoned me as a child. My life on the streets, the homelessness, the world traveling, my knack for epic and catastrophic bad decision making … all this pain and suffering helped me grow and mature and had a more significant and positive impact on me than anything my father could have done. Had he raised me, I probably would have turned out just like him. I give thanks I did not. Being twenty years my senior, the day he died started the 20 year clock running on me. Eighteen years and eleven months left.
The English language lacks words sufficient to describe the ache of a young boy to be held by his Dad or, as a father myself, the ache to hold my own estranged daughter. Though I tried to fill the emptiness of my soul with the love and attention of others, that void remains forever unsatisfied.
I have tried to carry this experience into my practice when dealing with divorcing parents or custodial issues. Especially with fathers, I work hard to steer them into being good fathers at all costs. Sometimes I have to counsel them that IMHO, the best way to be a good father is to step aside and wait for your child to come back home. Unlike my own father, I tell these guys that when their kids do come back, to welcome them with open arms. What every child needs, at any age, is just to know that somewhere out there, someone will love them and protect them unconditionally. Every client is made to promise me, when the case is over, that they will be good parents to their children. Parents may use the legal system to beat the crap out of each other; and sometimes with good reason. At no time, however, should children be involved in the fight. I refuse to take a case where the client insists on following that tact because every day, I live the toll that such a fight takes upon a heart.
As I sit here this morning, I do not know if I made a difference in the life of a child; even my own. I cannot tell you which of my two daughters is happier; the one with a father or the one without. My love for them has never faltered; despite the pain and hurt I have brought upon them. I have no idea if any client or case I have worked has resulted in happier and more stable children. It will always be a mystery to me. The goal is that the moment before I draw my last breath, I will be able to declare that I was the best father and role model I knew how to be. Whether it was enough or done right will be for those who write my obituary.
Today is my 26th Fathers Day as a parent and my 48th as a son. Despite all that experience, I have never felt more alone and empty than I do this morning. But that is OK as without that pain, I could not be the parent that I am today; whatever that means.