Blogs Are Stupid

Doesn't anyone believe in Dear Diary anymore? What happened to the joy of putting actual pen to paper? And why does every ordinary Jane and John think they can write well enough to burden the world with their scribblings? It’s a mystery that badly needs solving. My first entry contains my thoughts about blogging and will set your expectations. The rest will probably be stream of consciousness garbage, much like you’ll find on any other blog. Perhaps we will both come away enlightened.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Sins Of The Father

Look at these beautiful little boys.

Just look at them. Don't they make your heart ache?

I didn't know this photograph existed until recently. It had been hidden away for many years along with the very few momentos that survive from that time. I found it in a box under a 70 year old newspaper dated August 14th, 1945 which was emblazoned with a  bold black headline.....


Looking at the photo always causes me a rush of conflicting emotions.

It makes me smile and evokes feelings of tenderness, though they are not my children. It makes me wistful for childhood and all its gifts. For how could these towheaded little imps make a person think of anything else? They personify innocence and insouciance. They conjure up images of grass stained knees, of sunshine and mud and cops and robbers and pajamas with chaps clad cowboys on them.

Can't you just imagine them facing one another with guns drawn, sneering..."Whatsa matta copper? Aincha got the noive to shoot me?" And then one of them falls, clutching his chest, gasping, retching and flailing dramatically. The other blows on the barrell of his gun and replaces it in the stiff plastic holster on his hip.

So I think of that when I look at this photograph. And it makes me happy. Because I believe there was some of that in their lives. Enough that none of them became criminals or drug addicts or suicide statistics.

But it also makes me sad and angry. Because I know that they were denied the one thing that would have made a real difference.

A father.

65 years ago, when they were too young to understand why or how, their father disappeared from their lives.

He didn't die. He didn't go missing in action behind enemy lines. He didn't suffer from amnesia and forget that he had a wife and children. He just decided that he didn't want them anymore.

Think about that for a moment.

How could a father simply turn his back and never wonder if they cried for him at night? How could a father never wonder if they were doing alright in school or if they had enough to eat or whether they made the football team? Most fathers couldn't.

But he did.

He left them behind when he went to war, never realizing he would not return to reclaim his place in their lives; never guessing he would break their mother's heart and turn her into a cold, emotionally distant woman. Never understanding that he shamed her with his abandonment; made her a pariah in the Catholic church which would not condone or recognize divorce, and set her apart from the 9 brothers and sisters that were her support system and from the God that she had obeyed without question all her life.

He did heroic things and saved many lives. And then, on a cold European morning, while looking out over a vista of pain and suffering; wondering how such atrocities happen, he met a tiny birdlike woman with a tattoo on her arm. She was more dead than alive, but something in her could not be extinguished. She was a bright light in the bleakness of human misery that was all about him.

And for her, he forsook his sons.

He replaced them with two other strong strapping sons, and gave them everything his forgotten boys longed for. They thrived, as boys will do when they have a positive, nurturing male role model in their lives. They prospered, as boys will do when given the priviliges of a middle class upbringing and college education.

One thing about getting older that is difficult to reconcile, is the ability to see our parents as they really are, instead of infallable beings who will never die, never hurt, never falter. In recent years, I have struggled a lot with that. The love is still there, still incredibly deep, but overshadowed by the judgment and doubt that comes from an adult perspective. I don't like it, but I can't seem to help it. More than anything, I want to go back to the days when I thought they were perfect.

But I know and understand things now that I didn't before. I have become privvy to long hidden truths; hurts and heartaches buried ages ago.

Throughout my childhood, my paternal grandfather was an infrequent guest in our home. We saw him once a year when he visited from his home in Virginia. When he came, he brought his birdlike wife, who seemed softspoken and kind and always dressed so nicely. She wore cat's eye glasses and spoke with an accent that was both guttural and mellifluous. She fascinated me.

But I felt the tension and recognized the tentative manner in which the adults spoke to one another. There were pleasantries and niceties, but no real substance to their conversations. It was all very polite and careful.

I didn't know then that they had once gone twenty years without speaking. I didn't know that for twenty years, the forgotten boys had struggled to find their way in the world with no means of navigation; no paternal compass.

But I know now. It explains a lot. It has helped me understand and forgive a little. And it has made me sorry. Sorry for those little boys and sorry for the men who became fathers without knowing what exactly a father is. I still struggle with anger sometimes. But more often than not, it's a dead man who bears the brunt, and that's just as well, since his sins have no place in this life anymore.

I've realized that I don't need to have perfection.

Because I have a father.


  • At 3:53 PM, Blogger the only daughter said…

    Because I have a father. . . . and for that I know you are grateful. Of course, I wish I could say the same. I often wondered what it was about me (and /or my brothers) that made our dad drop out of our lives. That wonder haunts me still...though I try to ignore it.

    Peace to families

  • At 5:53 PM, Blogger Tracey - Just Another Mommy Blog said…

    I cannot imagine losing my father now, let alone as a child, and ESPECIALLY Not him walking away from us to start new with someone else.

    That his sons turned out to be even remotely good men is astounding.

  • At 7:08 PM, Blogger Maureen @ Wisconsin Mommy said…

    I always felt the same sort of sorrow for my mom and her six siblings. While their father did return from WW2, he did not return the same man who left. Whatever he saw and experienced there affected him until the day he died. I always try to think of that before judging too harshly the actions of someone who has seen combat.

  • At 9:37 PM, Blogger Lara said…

    That was beautifully and wonderfully shared. Thank you.

  • At 6:47 AM, Blogger Rachel said…

    Wow, girl. That was intense! Thanks for sharing this history with us.

  • At 6:55 AM, Blogger Amy Sue Nathan said…

    You know, I do worry a lot about my kids who are growing up without a father - although he didn't leave by choice. Your story is another example of why it makes me so angry when divorced friends of mine complain about their ex-husbands - men who are very involved with their children. Yes, I do understand the perils of having an ex because I had one - but belittling the role of a present and loving father makes my heart ache and my blood boil.

  • At 7:27 AM, Blogger Avalon said…

    I think I could find more forgiveness for my own father had he left to fight a war or do something for the betterment of society.

    Nope, he just walked out on his wife and 2 year old. Took the pittance that remained in the checkbook, left the mounds of unpaid bills and empty cabinets and walked away.

    That was 41 years ago and he has never tried to reconnect.

  • At 8:33 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    what beautiful babies... I could just eat 'em up!! There's no end to the consequences of our decisions... they change the world forever.

    I cannot imagine how anyone could walk away from those little boys. Or any child for that matter.

    I sure hope your father and uncles found love in their lives to fill the void left by their father when he left them.

  • At 8:42 PM, Anonymous Tracy (t-gardens) said…

    THIS is why you should never give up writing.... ever.

    I'm speechless... so profound.

  • At 7:56 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    That was a moving post. Those little boys in that picture deserved a better father. I'm sorry they had to do without. I'm sorry so many have to do without.

  • At 1:35 PM, Blogger mamatulip said…

    Wow. This post moved me in ways I don't think I can describe accurately.

  • At 4:39 PM, Blogger Trenches of Mommyhood said…

    As the mother of 3 little boyz, this broke my heart. I can't imagine my life, or my sons', without my husband in it.

    (Catching up with you - can't read your blog at my work - for some strange reason, it's blocked!)

  • At 11:59 AM, Blogger Wendy P said…

    Wow! This could have been my dad and his two brothers in your story. Or my maternal grandmother and her 3 siblings.

    Thank you for sharing the story. It sounds like your dad turned out as wonderfully as mine did.

    And God bless the strong women who lived through that horrible experience and raised their kids the best they could.


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