March 2020 | Connections — HW Week 1 : Day 2 — Connection w/ Father

I’m not sure if I’m understanding the March 2020 Connections Homework right or not… so this is what I have so far —

My dad and I didn’t have a deep relationship.

The only memories I really have with him as a child include fishing and going to his family practice office. I remember fondly when he would bring home pens and papers for us. I loved those gifts so much. I would draw and draw to my heart’s content.

When he started to transition to emergency medicine, he travelled more and had more swing shifts, and I saw less of him. Even on his off days, he would leave to go golfing for hours on end. He wouldn’t mention what he was doing or where he was going to my mom, which frustrated her.

But we basically hardly ever saw him.

And even when he was home for dinner, he was disconnected. He would stare only at his dinner plate. He wouldn’t ask us how our day was. He wouldn’t look us in the eye. When we would try to engage with him, he wouldn’t look up right away or even talk to us, which we quickly learned was because of his impaired hearing (which he never fixed, despite modern medicine), but even when he did respond, it was short-answered. We thought that was normal and would just laugh and chalk it up to Dad being Dad. That he was just tired from working so hard, etc.

If we ever heard of any “deep” story about his childhood or upbringing, we never really heard about the painful parts. We only heard those stories through my mom. He never really showed his sad feelings.

I just remember seeing his anger one time, and, even then, that was rare. He was, otherwise, quiet and acted passive-aggressively mostly towards my mother.

But, otherwise, he honestly didn’t yell at us, kids, at all. He didn’t say much to us at all really.
He said few words, but they were more of “surface” words — like “Study”… “No boys.” Etc.

He was, otherwise, quite disengaged.

My dad tended to “white lie” about things. He was never really straightforward with us. I remember how when he was “teaching” us to swim… he would back away slowly as I was swimming to him. I hated that.
So, over time, I didn’t trust him.

He was like a kid in some ways — not in the goofy kinda way — but in the way that he wanted his way. He could be pretty hard-headed and selfish.

I’m not sure what I learned exactly from my dad…

I guess I thought that it was normal for a man or dad to be disconnected and disengaged and emotionally unavailable, so I accepted him for who he was.

As I grew older, I learned that there were other options, and I didn’t want that in a father for my own children.

But I never wished for another dad.
I just wished that my *own* dad was more involved, attended more recitals, and listened to my stories more at the dinner table.
I do notice now that in hindsight, when my other friends’ fathers would ask me about stuff or talk to me… I always felt suspicious and weirded out… probably a combination of my own construct and beliefs of how a father should act.

But I will say that as a grown adult, when I met a co-worker who is the same age as my dad — I had an epiphany as I was talking to him — he had his hearing aids in. He was engaged in talking with me, as if I was his own daughter. He has a daughter (same age as me), and he talks about her and his grandkids and shows me pictures of them… something my Dad would never do. That’s when I realized that my Dad wasn’t exactly “normal” or “mentally healthy”.

I especially see that now as some information has come to light with my parents’ divorce and my father’s apparent “other” life.

He’s apparently not as frugal as we had all thought. He has a whole other life that we didn’t know of (and still don’t know fully) about. It’s unfolding as the year has gone on.

The weird thing is that I’m not angry at him about it. It actually just makes his past behavior make more sense in terms of why he behaved the way that he did.
He’s stuck in emotional childhood because of his own upbringing or own personality disorder.. who knows.
Either way.. I don’t demonize him for it.
It makes me sad for him, if anything.

I actually have some good memories of him.
I think he was happy at some moments in his life with us. But it’s apparent that he felt a pull for something else that we may never fully understand.

What I did learn from our relationship though…
I learned how to show up to work, to work hard, and how to be self-sufficient and power through. I will say that he was a hard worker. He may have been a workaholic, but I will say that he never ever complained about work when he was home. And his co-workers loved working with him. And honestly, he rarely complained about anything. He just did the work.

I also learned what *not* to do or what I didn’t want —

In terms of connection, I learned the qualities that I wanted in a future husband and a future father of my child(ren). I learned that I wanted a husband who was open and communicated well with me. I wanted a future father who was involved and communicated well with his children. I wanted a husband/future father who was present in our daily family life and showed up to recitals and took the kids out. I wanted a partner who could read with me and exchange ideas with me.

I also learned how I, myself, wanted to show up. I learned that I didn’t want to work into my 70’s doing 80 hour work weeks and swing shifts and overnight calls. Though I felt the pull for Medicine, from his example, I learned that I never wanted to sacrifice my family time for more money. I wanted to be able to make the time to cultivate a connection with my children and my spouse that my Dad never did for his own family.