When I was about 11 years old I remember sitting in the “galeria” (porch) in DR waiting for my dad to come home from New York. Excited, impatient, happy. I hadn’t seen my dad in months. He arrived, greeted everyone, said hello to his kids and went on to talk to a neighbour. I followed him to the backyard where he was standing talking and hugged him by his waist. He kept talking, made no reference to me, no eye contact with me.
I will never forget that day. It’s one of the few memories I have about my dad. This was him. This was the type of dad he was. There, but not there. Paid the bills, but really didn’t “pay” attention.
Today, as Father’s Day approaches, I couldn’t help but think about him. He past away in 2016. He was an alcoholic most of his adult life and died of heart complications. We were there for him. As his kids, we did what needed to be done, but let me just tell you how my 11 years old experience affected me at the time and probably has throughout my whole life.
As a child I felt the distance between my dad and I. Yes, he was an alcoholic but that was not the problem. When he was drunk he was calm, laid back, never abusive to any of us. The problem was there was no bonding, no affection, no sincere love emotions (at least none were shown), no good father-daughter moments or memories. So, I remember looking to fill this void of a loving father and found that in my grandfather (my mother’s dad) I would see/feel the closest to what that would be. My grandfather who I called papa, was a man of morals. Cared about his community. Cared about all his children until the day he died at 92, even though they were all adults (except for his last daughter that was 12). He was funny, attentive, and very loving. He would tell me stories about his Mayor days and always whisper in my ear I was his favourite grandkid, but I shouldn’t tell anyone lol. He knew how to make me smile and he enjoyed it. He would receive all his kids and grandkids with open arms in his home. He would always say his home was our home no matter what age we were. The most loving man I’ve ever met.
Love, affection and bonding are necessary.
When I was a teenager whenever I was asked about my father I would reference my dad but always say “but who I consider my dad is my grandfather”. At this point, it was all about him, my grandfather. When I thought about a career and being successful in life, I thought about making “papa” proud one day. I thought about buying him a house so he could live more comfortably. He was my look-up-to person. As the years went by, I was respectful to my dad, loved him in some way, but never really felt for him what I felt for my granddad. The love I had for my grandfather was a Father-Daughter love.
As I grew older I understood the importance of affection, of bonding, or nourishing relationships. Not only in a parent-child relationship but any relationship. These modern days want to show us how to detach, “be strong”, and not pay attention to emotions. But we are not wired that way. We are, in the most part, energy, positive energy, and what has more positive energy than love? A hug, a kind word and listening goes such a long way.
To all the dads out there, love your kids unconditionally, but most importantly show them.