My father was a great man

(and still is…)

After my mother divorced my dad when I was 2 years old, she spent most of her energy trying to destroy my father, both financially and emotionally. She tried to sever the relationship my two older sisters and I had with him.  She finally managed to move us away from my dad when I was almost 12.

My dad apparently was a feminist, because this was a ‘bring your daughters to work day’ about 20 years before it was established by Gloria Steinem.

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My dad worked in a train yard in the suburbs of Chicago.

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My dad, my stepmother, and my sisters.

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Mmmm, we were stylin’ in those polyester pants…

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Love…

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I don’t think I was ever held like this by my mother.  I have very few pictures of me at her house, and none of them like these.

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Still, to this day, I love holding hands and being held.  It’s pretty evident that I adored my dad and he loved us dearly, no matter what my mother said about him.

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My dad never had a lot of material things, but he gave me the only thing I ever needed and wanted the most:

Love.

If I learned to bond to another human at all, if I learned to Love at all, it was because of my FATHER, not my mother.

The thing I think that hurt me the most about moving from New Mexico back to Illinois when I was 11 was the loss of this loving connection to my father.   It was another 29 years before I was able to see my dad again.

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About Casey

“the only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars and in the middle you see the blue centerlight pop and everybody goes ‘Awww!’ ~ Jack Kerouac, On The Road Again
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12 Responses to My father was a great man

  1. ptero9 says:

    Great photos Casey! Your dad clearly loved you and your sisters. You can see how happy you and your sisters were in these photos. They are wonderful.

    I can relate…I am to this day, in spite of divorce and geographical separation, very close to my dad who will turn 83 in August.
    xxx
    Debra

    • Casey says:

      Thank you so much, Debra.

      I took a picture of a letter my oldest sister typed on one of the visits with my dad. In it, she expresses something quite poignant and beautiful. And the thing about it, was that later, as she grew, she adopted the same harshly negative view of him my mother had. She would criticism him to me just like my mother did. It was mind-boggling to read that letter expressing so much love and gratitude for my stepmother and father. It also validates something I forget: Life must have been extremely emotionally barren in my home with my mother and stepfather for her to have written what she wrote.

      I’m so glad you are still close with your father. I know, without a doubt, that daughters need to be loved, accepted and valued by their Fathers. It sets the stage for how they will allow themselves to be treated by their husbands. I didn’t get that kind of reinforcement through my adolescence and young adulthood. I got a lot of other kind of negative reinforcement from my family (mother, older sister and step-father). It was a hard transition to adulthood and there was really no appropriate modeling on how to handle conflict or my husband’s escalating drinking problem (he’s much better now…).

      When I reached my late 20s, laughter was one of the first things to go. I’m going to post something about that in my next post, I think.

      It’s been a long road, but I’m going to reclaim that childhood joy and spontaneity I once had as a child. These pictures are part of the process. I’ve printed them out and will be using them in my healing work – to remember there WAS sunshine in that dark time of my life.

      • ptero9 says:

        “It’s been a long road, but I’m going to reclaim that childhood joy and spontaneity I once had as a child.”

        Casey,
        I can so relate to this reclaiming. The first time I experienced this remembering, I took the pictures of myself that reminded me of that kid I was who could be happy (at least some of the time), and kept them out where I could see them.

        I never understood why people keep pictures out, until going through this phase of reuniting with my own past in a more positive way.

        What a blessing it is to reclaim and redeem something that was lost to us!
        xxx
        Debra

        • Casey says:

          So, so glad you relate.

          I’m glad to share my process with you, then.

          I’ve printed out these and other pictures – like of my mother and maternal grandparents – that show a side to them I never saw when they were older. My grandparents never showed affection to each other in their 70s-90s. But I have this beautiful picture of them in their courtship that amazes me. Two young people very much in love in the 1940s….

          They are going to be a part of my healing process. For sure!

  2. bert0001 says:

    great post about a great man

    • Casey says:

      Thank you so much, Bert.

      I marvel at how much he obviously loved and cared about my sisters and I. Sometimes, I just gaze at those pictures and get a warm, glowing feeling inside.

  3. Gail says:

    I shared this with your dad after I got home from work. You don’t know how much it means to him to know that you love him in spite of Judy. The one greatest thing that a parent can give to their child is love and that is the one thing that your father has always had for you and your sisters.
    Unconditional

    • Casey says:

      I’m glad you showed him, Mom Gail.

      Even though I don’t always show it, I am deeply grateful for his and your presence in my childhood. I’m so grateful to you for helping him as much as you had to keep us connected for as long as you could have. It made a tremendous difference in my life.

      I’ve been working really intensely lately on my recovery program (Adult Child of Alcoholics). I’ve been very quiet as I’ve been studying the Big Red Book and working on trying to decide how I’m going to be working the steps. I’m on Step Four, taking a fearless inventory of the ‘exact nature of my childhood abandonment’ (and no, I do not think Daddy abandoned me, but Judy pushed him out of our lives. She definitely abandoned us and abused us) …but I am not actually ready to do that. I’m getting kind of lost in some painful memories, so I had to stop. I skipped ahead to chapter 8, about establishing contact with 1. A loving inner Parent and 2. My inner child/children (my Self at different ages that holds different pieces of information about my past).

      I really can’t go through step 4 without establishing my Inner Parent and Higher Power which will ease me into the deeper levels of healing and integration.

  4. Michael says:

    Beautiful and touching post. And awesome photos! I was saddened to read about the 29 year hiatus. Hope it was a blessed reunion.

    Michael

    • Casey says:

      Thank you, Michael.

      I think these were my absolute favorite photos with me and my sisters with my dad.

      The hardest part of the absence was that my dad missed all the important milestones of my adolescence and young adulthood.

      I wanted him there at my college graduation. I desperately wanted him to walk me down the aisle. I wanted him to see his granddaughters at the time they were born.

      I was able to re-establish phone contact with my father and step-mother ten years prior to our actual visit. I never had his contact information. And it took me a long time to work up the courage to call. And actually, I don’t know if I would have had the courage if I hadn’t attended a Landmark Forum event.

      At the Landmark Forum

      “Course participants are encouraged to call people they know during the course who they are incomplete with and either be in communication with the other person or be responsible for their own behavior.”

      My mother planted a whole lot of fear in my psyche with regards to my dad. For the longest time, I was afraid if I contacted him, he wouldn’t want anything to do with me. But I was wrong. So very wrong.

      It took a while after the Forum to contact him. I contacted him on Father’s Day around the time I was 30, I think. And, when I was pregnant with my first, but miscarried, my dad called me everyday for about 3 days to make sure I was okay. I was deeply touched.

      We were trying for years to have either them come up here, or my husband and daughters visit them, but it just didn’t happen. Instead, my husband would make cd of their childhood photos for them. In fact, I think we need to make another one.

      I decided, for my 40th birthday, to take my daughters by train to visit my dad and stepmother. It was an amazing trip. Instead of just a whirlwind flight, we had traveled 18 hours by train from Chicago to Denver. The extra time gave me some time to prepare myself mentally for the reunion. It felt a bit like a pilgrimage and it was amazingly restorative.

      I’m going to write a post about that trip, and I think my next post will be about the reunion. And yes, it was blessed.

      • Michael says:

        Thanks for sharing the lovely story, Casey. It’s all about working up the courage to phone Home!

        Michael

        • Casey says:

          You are welcome MIchael,

          And yes, I quite agree.

          When we visited my dad, I had more than a few questions answered and I found a piece of the puzzle that was missing for so long. And while there were not many pictures of me as a child in my mother’s albums, there was quite a number of them with my sisters with my father and stepmother. I was so glad to be able to take a few pictures of them to bring back and tweak on my computer.

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