A Childhood Denied

Dad wasn’t perfect, not by a long shot. For years, we’d had a relationship that was difficult at best, combative at its worst. Though we were in a good place when he died, there were still a lot of unresolved issues between us, many things that had been left unsaid. Questions to which I would never have answers.

Dad was, in an odd way, the reason I had succeeded as an author. He, unlike Mom, did not encourage me. He thought a career as a novelist was a long shot at best. He had advised me to get a job that offered some security. He didn’t realize that the “sure thing” didn’t exist. There are no sure things in this world. Every job has its own risks, and nothing lasts forever. He taught me that money was security. Money was power.

Dad 1914Dad loved Mom and me, though he didn’t have an easy time showing it. Whatever shortcomings he had as a father were the result of his lack of a role model to learn from. Unlike Mom, who had two good, loving parents, Dad’s father was a heavy drinker. His mother committed suicide when he was a baby, and his stepmother was abusive.  He didn’t have any warm, happy memories of his childhood, no recollections of Christmas or his birthday–until he had to get his birth certificate to apply for Social Security, he didn’t even know his correct birthdate. He’d always thought it was November 11th. It was actually November 14th.

Dad didn’t know the truth about his mother until he was fourteen. One day, he had remarked to one of his older brothers that their mother sure didn’t act like a mother. “She’s not our mother,” his brother told him. “Our mother’s dead.”

He ran away that same day. He slept in barns, sheds, anywhere he could find a place to lie down and escape the elements. He eventually ended up at his maternal grandmother’s home. When his father showed up to take him back, his grandmother stepped onto her front porch with a shotgun. She made it clear if he opened the gate, she’d shoot. She blamed him for her daughter’s death.

Dad's GrandmotherDad stayed with her until her death. He loved her dearly, and it was mutual. As she took care of him when he was young, he took care of her in her twilight years.

My father was sixteen at the start of the Great Depression. His troubled childhood, combined with the struggle to survive in that time, made him very controlling financially. But he would buy me just about anything I wanted–Mom liked to tell the story of the two of them Christmas shopping when I was five. They couldn’t decide which doll I’d like best, so they bought one of each.

“Your little girls are going to love these,” the woman at the checkout remarked.

“Girls?” Mom laughed. “We only have one.”

She said the woman was amazed. “All of this is for one child?”

I think that was the Christmas they discovered their little girl was a tomboy who loved horses and didn’t really care for dolls.

I was definitely a Daddy’s girl when I was young. He couldn’t leave the house, except to go to work, without me. It was when I grew up that problems arose. Mom said it was because we were so much alike that we always butted heads. While he’d indulged me as a child, as I grew older, I began to feel he was using money to control me…and I resented it. I got tired of hearing “Who paid for it?”

I decided that I would make so much money that the answer to that question would be ME. No one was going to control me. And that, I believe, was the beginning of my journey to my eventual downfall.

 

6 responses

  1. Beautifully written. Most daughters are “Daddy’s little Princess.” I know I was and our daughter was her father’s. My husband, like your father, did not have a decent role-model as a father and did try to control her as she grew older. She, however, had me and she was (still is) very much like him in personality. His grandmother sounds like a terrific lady.

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