This is my Papa. I met my Papa when I was thirteen years old. I was already taller than him. And he still had some color in his hair. Since then we have both grown quite a crop of steely gray hair.
According to legend, he fell in love with Momma over homemade spaghetti. She didn’t cook it mind you. He did and he had forgotten to stock up on red pepper flakes. When he mentioned it, Momma pulled a large container of them out of her purse. .
I am not sure how a large container of pepper flakes made it into her purse. Maybe she was using them as a cheap version of pepper spray? Throwing the whole container at would be assailants and hoping that her aim was true to hit them in the eye or at least the shock of seeing a flying pepper flake container would slow them down.
A few weeks or months later, Momma came by to pick me up for an outing with Denny. After Denny came into her life I saw Momma more and more. If he did nothing else he brought my mother back into my life. (But, he did do more)
You see a year earlier, we lost our house. Momma went to stay with friends and I returned from my annual stay at my grandmothers house to live with my father. The separation would last nearly a year. It wasn’t by choice on either of our parts. In the meantime, life became a serious of events where I tried and failed to win the approval of my birth father and stepmother. Every decision I made questioned and denounced as immature and lacking thought. My interests were weird and I was disrespectful. I didn’t know how to please them and eventually just retreated to my books and imagination.
My father and mother had divorced when I was six. He told my mother that he didn’t love her anymore. And she told him to leave. I don’t know what it cost her to do it; to go against everything that she had been taught about life and marriage. She came from the work it out generation. Her parents were married for over fifty years. The only way out of marriage was death. And she let my father go alive. She could have killed him for cheating on him. She could have raged against him. She never did at least not in front of us kids. She told him to go. Told him that he had to go that they weren’t just going to go through a divorce sleeping in the same bed or living in the same roof . She told him to go and where the boundaries were. I love her for that and everything she did that followed to do right by us. We never made it easy.
Sadly in the months following the divorce I blamed my mother and tried to fight her. She rocked and held me close until I calmed down. She didn’t understand that my father had just told me he was going on a business trip not that he was leaving permanently.
My father is not a man known for his sense of humor or love of literature. Actually, I don’t know why people like my father. I do know that he hated my nose was always in a book and wanted me to get out and do things. I wanted to do things. The things in the books I was reading. The characters had horrible lives to be sure (I was a huge VC Andrews fan), but their lives were filled with excitement and love.
Love is something my father still has difficultly communicating to his nearly forty-year old daughter. He rarely says it and every time I hear it, I question whether he is sick or not. Dying being the event that would induce an out pouring of emotion from his tight lips.
Papa has never had trouble communicating his love, frustration or anger with me. It hasn’t always been smooth and he has been so angry at me that I am sure he was seeing cross eyed. I was never the rebellious teen. No, I did all my stupid, worry the parents stuff in my mid to late twenties after I came home to live with them. When I was a pain in the butt, he let me know. And while we will never agree on politics completely (so far we both hate Trump), we always agree on the fact that I am his daughter.
Maybe he didn’t provide half my genetic sequence, but he did provide all the love and support a child could wish for. He showed me what it was like to have two loving and strong parents in the home. He gave me what I missed as a child of divorce the feeling of a strong family unit.
Father’s day is hard on a lot of people. Some people like my Papa didn’t know their fathers or have fathers like mine who won’t accept them for who they are. Papa doesn’t always understand me, but he loves and accepts me. All of me. It is what a father does.