First Father’s Day without a Father

My father died last month.
He was 94 and lived a long life doing what he knew he was called to do in the world.

This is the first time in my 65 years that on this day there is no one living to honour, no one alive to celebrate. I do hold his memory, imperfections and all, in a sacred place today. But also the other man who was a father figure for me, who died a decade ago.

I admit to ambivalent feelings about my male parent. He was excessively devoted to his male god and this god’s son. I am not devoted at all to either any longer. He admitted that his love for his deity overrode any love for any human person. A twisted theology – ‘I love God so I can’t love anyone else.’

It is a challenge to understand the place where one should put such complex memories and convoluted understandings where the human and the divine tangle and knot in the mind and had tied up the soul for far too many years.

I freed myself from all of that tangle several decades ago. It made it possible to see my father as a fallible human, a talented artist and an inadequate parent. But that was my life, my history, the reality that shaped me. I am who I am for having grown up in his studio. What I learned there had the most profound impact upon me, matched only by what I discovered about myself and the world when I attended university as an adult.

My mother died 26 years ago, do now my brother and I are adult orphans. We make our ways in the world shaped by our parents’ actions and by our reactions to them as we moved into the world on our own, and we continue to do so.

This is the first Father’s Day I have not had a father alive. For the rest of my life, this will be the case.

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