My Dad, he is the best. No, he really is. I don’t think I had a true appreciation for him and all he has done for us until the last couple years. I have always respected and loved him, without a doubt, but I spent a large part of my childhood being scared of him as well. Just because that is how children in our family were raised for generations. One of those, “children should be seen and not heard”, “I was beaten with a stick when I was spanked and I turned out okay when I was a kid”, “because I said so, that’s why” kinds of traditional Irish/Italian families where the Moms stay home, the Dads rule the household and the children DO NOT talk back. And I didn’t talk back. I still don’t! This was tough love but love none-the-less.
I try not to write often about my family on my blog. My family is a private group. We keep our dirty laundry in the hamper, where it belongs (not that there is much, I am the most controversial in the bunch; the “Black Sheep” and not ashamed to be so) but out of respect and love for them, and because I do not feel they have negatively affected my mental illness, I do not find it necessary to tell their story. That is for them to do, if they choose. This is also the reason why I have not completed my book. I get to a place where the story would not make sense without mentioning one of my relatives and I stop. I have been either strongly supported, or patiently tolerated by everyone in the brood and I wouldn’t do anything to jeopardize that by writing something they would find unfair or unjust or that they interpreted differently and took offense. Someday, I may move past this wall, but for now I feel my progress does not hinder on writing this book, so it has stalled. All of that being said, my father being one of my strongest supporters, I know he is also one of the people that feels most responsible for my mental illness. And I feel so badly about that, because he is not at all. He was a strong disciplinarian, but was NEVER abusive; he was tough and worked a lot, but we never worried about money or our parents’ love for each other or our safety in our home. I believe he probably does have OCD and some anxiety (but I am NOT a psychologist), but, although these are possibly hereditary, it is not his fault I have these issues (in addition to some other fun illnesses) any more than it will be my fault if one of my children ends up with mental illness(es) or that it was our ancestors’ fault that my father may have OCD, etc. There is more serious mental illness in our family’s history on both my mother and father’s sides. This is just the way it is. The luck of the draw. I drew the brain serotonin issue card. Such is life! Now I know, now I have accepted it and now I do what I have to do to be healthy and function to the best of my ability. People work with worse and people do worse with better.
So why do I specifically write about my father today? Well, it is Father’s Day weekend and I have many strengths that I have to thank my father for. Even though I do have depression, I am not lazy (as is a too often assigned stereotype for those of us with depression) and I have a strong resolve. My father literally broke his knee jumping from an attacking swarm of bees while operating his several story high heavy equipment machinery device and somehow managed to drag himself to his truck, get home and prop up his leg (grudgingly went to the Dr. the next day at my mother’s insistence) and was back working that next afternoon. This man has literally never taken a sick day in his life. He has only missed work if my mother has been sick (as she was significantly so these past two years) and had to take care of her. My father gets this from his father who is the same, only more so. My Pop (Grandfather) pulled his own painful tooth once with a pair of pliers, as opposed to going to the Dr. and miss work. ‘Grit’ is what I have more aptly called this quality. This is what I believed has enabled me to continue working full time plus some, raising children, finish college and a Master’s degree, complete marathons, become a boxer as a hobby, and running a household all on my own despite battling my inner demons (along with some serious flares of Lupus) for years and years. I would not have made it to 38 years of age without this ‘Grit’. I understand this now. And I have him to thank for that.
When my Dad first learned of my attempt and hospitalization my worst fear was that he would be angry that I upset my mother and did something horrible ‘on purpose’ and that he would either say terrible things to me I would never forget, or possibly disown me…he did the opposite. He instead said to me, “I am not mad. I love you.” I haven’t heard anything more healing in my entire life. I knew then I WAS going to be okay. He and my equally as wonderful mother took me (and my two kids) into their home and allowed me to just heal. He took over all of the stresses in dealing with my exes and their threats of taking my children from me, he assured me they would do whatever they needed to do to make sure my kids and I were okay and that gave me the strength to continue working, get healthy and be a good mother again. Even now nearly two years later I know it was him that made me so that I could get back on my feet and be a strong person. It was him that made me feel that I am still a whole person, even though this happened. I respect him even more now. I feel much less fear and much more adoration of him not just as a father but as a person. If he could grow into this worldly and accepting father, maybe I can grow into a more resilient and more accepting individual of my own lapses and opportunities. He still will not accept any non-sense, don’t get me wrong! But he knows the difference between non-sense and helplessness, and he saw that difference in me when I didn’t. I thought I was a failure and he knew I was still his Christine. His firstborn and capable of so much more than what I had done up to this point. So I believe that, too. I take it easy on myself now. I know not to take other’s judgments of me harshly because my Dad accepts me so I know I am okay. Anyone who doesn’t “get it” is not someone I have to worry about. These lessons my father has taught me by example. And so…he has given me life a second time. I owe so much more to my dad than just a tie, or a card or a gift card to Academy. I owe him my life and to continue living it the absolute best way that I can. Just as he has always done for us.
Thank you, Dad. I love you!