Father’s Day brings mixed emotions. It reminds me of all the gray areas when I wish things could be just black and white, cut and dried with clear distinctions . I have a lot of great memories with my Dad; camping trips that were spent at the washateria because our tent had flooded again in the rain, buying sweatshirts at a discount store when the weather during travel was colder than expected. Dad was my hero, it seemed like he never got cold and could always explain how things worked. He was a man of integrity, acting the same in public and at home.
Yet, my hero had feet of lead. In his last year of life, he shared how he knew at least one of his sisters was molested by my grandfather. He shared how grateful he was that cycle was broken – my father never molested me. I wanted to ask about that other relative, the one who raped me. The one I tried to tell him about twenty years before. The one he encouraged me to just stay silent about because the abuse had ended. Did the cycle really change? He was right, in a way, the perpetrator changed, but abuse and silence remained.
I was stunned that day. Caught off guard and speechless. It was one of those gray areas. I mean, what do you say to a dying man? To your father who only has weeks to live? Do you really share the shortcomings, the regrets? I wanted his protection. Yet, I also want to live without regrets. How could I be the one to hold past failures up to a dying man? My father who I loved, who I was also so angry at. I chose that day to focus on the good, the memories that made me smile. Like how Dad coached my soccer team and said I was the best goalie ever – even when I couldn’t score a point to save my life.
This is the first Father’s Day without my Dad. I’m still finding my way in understanding how who he was shaped who I am today. Sorting the advice into good and bad, trying to find black and white. I can’t fathom that silence about abuse is right. Yet, remaining silent the last six months of his life seemed best to me. Really, all I’ve found is that life is mostly full of gray. Seldom are things all good or all bad. We recognize beauty more after seeing the horrors that can exist. Joy is even greater when it breaks through the storm clouds that surround us.