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Photos of My Father

Popularity 21Viewed 3938 times 2014-6-11 14:37 |System category:Life| father

The man I love the most? That's debatable. Not all fathers are good fathers, and sometimes they even go away. This is about a girl who yearned for a father and then found him years later. 

I was 4 when he left. The farewell tableau is etched in my mind. He held me, the youngest, in his arms while all around him my siblings protested his departure and begged him to stay. He set me down in the middle of them, turned and walked away. I even remember what we were wearing. Some might question the accuracy of that early a memory but it was later proven to be correct.

I suppose I was lucky to not have had that much time with him. My older siblings missed him much more actively. I only felt a hole in my heart where he should have been. I spent a lot of time fantisizing about what type of man my father was, especially when I started school and everyone else had a father. In an effort to fit in I wove a father out of classmates' stories ("Yeah, my dad did that too!") and pure fantasy. I knew that my father served in the military so a lot of my tales sprang from hopeful combat heroism. As I grew older, more intellectual, I painted him as an erudite man, perhaps on intelligence missions. By the time I grew into my teens, divorce was more socially acceptable and nobody asked about my father anymore. Besides, as a teen it was just not cool to talk about parents, unless the parents themselves were cool.  

I had twenty-one years to create the father of my dreams. In all that time we never heard from him and Mother never talked about him, so I had nothing to contradict the intellectual hero I conjured up. 

In my 25th summer my father reappeared. Talk about a fraught event! I still clung to my childish need for him to be some great man, but as it turns out he was neither great nor abysmal. He was just a man, with feelings, strengths and failings, just like every other man. He regretted leaving us and never having the chance to visit (my mother had taken us back to France once their divorce was final). He was happy that, for whatever time was left to us we could cultivate our relationship. 

It didn't quite happen that way. I discovered I was angry with him and coldly reasonend that, if he could turn his back on us all these years I could certainly do the same to him. I didn't realize at the time that I was cutting off my nose to spite my face. I went to his memorial service not to honor him but to put paid to all of those conflicting feelings. While mingling with the family I never knew I made my peace with him... something I should have done years earlier.   

Mine is not a tale of pity or sorrow - unless you count my childishness in spurning him. It is a tale too often told, where parents - too often fathers are not a part of their childen's lives. When Fathers' Day rolls around we tend to idolize the one we created rather than the mundane, or possibly infuriating one that exists. For me, I chuckle at myself for my necessary hero worship and how lucky I was that my 'hero' and that regular, everyday guy who was my father were not the same man. I didn't have to suffer disillusionment at seeing my hero crumble. Of course I've long since put away the fantasical father, too. It seems I've outgrown my need for a father figure, finally. 

This picture is of him and my mother, impossibly young in 1949, walking around the French countryside. I wonder what dreams he held, what magic he had, what he was like at that age. At any age. How sad that I'll never know. 

(Opinions of the writer in this blog don't represent those of China Daily.)


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  • 2014-04-01 2017-9-24 17:21

    wonderful depiction

  • The 'Face' Effect 2017-8-17 16:51

    In the USA blacks demand all people of other races to call them "African American" Yet they call each other the"N" word everyday.Maybe they should folllow the law. Respect is earned and can not be foreced on you by any law.

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