Originally meant for Father’s Day, I’ve decided to publish this anyway. I think it still works.
For All My Fellow Fatherless Kids:
Twenty-seven years ago, on January 23rd, 1990, Roy Taylor Murray, Junior’s war with cancer ended. Cancer won, and he walked on to the next life.
I wasn’t there. I still don’t know why. I got the phone call that my dad was dead, and arrangements to get me to my hometown from two hundred miles away had been made. It was 10:30 in the evening.
As I understand, he was taken to the hospital around 11 that morning. I was passing notes in class. My dad was struggling to breathe. I was joking with my friends at lunch. My dad was in the kind of pain that I hope, so hard, I will never experience.
The next time I saw him, he was an urn in the middle of the church at which we were long time parishioners. I didn’t even get to see his body — to say goodbye.
The house I lived in with he and my step-family, all of his things in it, and even the beat-up Ford pickup truck he used to put our boat in the water all went to my step-family.
I got the stipend from what would have been his pension through the railroad union. It would pay monthly until I was 18 or I graduated high school, whichever came first. Unfortunately, because it had to go to my mother since I was a minor, it vaporized by the time I walked through my high school graduation.
My relationship with my father ended much like it was conducted from the time he divorced my mother. Heart-crushing.
I do focus on the positives I shared with him. One Christmas, as we drove to his house for my holiday time with him, he sang Christmas carols with me, ad nauseum.
He taught me how to swim in the breakers of our town’s beaches. He taught me how to fish, and how to cast a net for bait. I was learning how to operate our boat when he got sick.
For the sixteen years of my life, those are all the good memories I have.
The others were of an impatient, selfish, cowardly man who couldn’t separate his anger at my mother from his relationship with me.
He spent every dinner ridiculing my step-family and myself for his own entertainment. I don’t remember a single compliment from him. He started teaching me how to play softball, but quickly lost patience with me being a beginner and called my step-sister to take over.
He had the same problem with me learning to drive. He picked on me when I covered my ears at July 4th fireworks. I was 5 years old. When I was around 11 years old, he teased me for singing when I played outside.
I earned a trip to Disney World in Orlando for my excellent grades. He refused to pay for half. He refused to pay for half of my braces when I was 14. I had to wait until I was 29 years old to afford to get the braces myself.
And between 4 and 8 years old, sometimes he would show up on his scheduled weekends with me. Sometimes he wouldn’t show. His sisters tell me that was because my mom wouldn’t let me go. That may be true. It’s just as likely that he just didn’t want to come.
When he and my mother divorced, he allegedly said that he didn’t want to be like his father. He was only marginally better.
He was neglectful and abandoning before he died. Then he died and left me with little more than anger, hurt, and questions.
He was a bad father, but he was my bad father. I still miss the jerk every day.
His June 3rd birthday and father’s day are bittersweet. In truth, he’d likely be the same jerk had he survived.
I’ve been a fatherless child since I was 3 years old.
So, this one goes out to all my fellow kids and adult kids of dead, absentee, abusive, abandoning, disinterested, narcissistic, and any other flavor of very complicated paternal relationships.
You deserve to feel angry, hurt, and even conflicted about dad’s day. Your truth about him is valid. You don’t have forgive or forget. It is/was your relationship and you get to feel and act any way about it that you want.
May we all find a way to be better than them.
I hope, wherever my dad is, he wants that for me, too.