Portrait of the Writer as a One-Time Two-Parent Kid


Me at seven months old. My grandma’s caption written on the back of the photo begins, “Mommie had to take him. Daddy was in too big a hurry + didn’t give him time to look at him first.”

The annual MCC year-in-review clipfest and stats party will be coming later this week, but before we get to the fun stuff, perhaps a separate epilogue is due for one of the most (ostensibly) significant events that happened within any of my circles in 2015.

Back in September my father passed away after years of illness and decades of questionable choices. The week that followed was unlike any I’d experienced before — leaving me at a loss for words for a few days, engendering a wellspring of condolences from family and friends, creating no small number of moments both heartfelt and awkward and rife with flawed, generous assumptions.


A separate season from the other three pics, this one was already blurry when it was handed to me. All of these are straight scans, no filters or close crops or major edits. Welcome to the world of 1972.

For Fathers Day 2014 I wrote the definitive essay regarding my thoughts about my dad. This is the link. I’m not repeating or reprinting it. I’m not summarizing it here, not even for Team TL;DR. It wasn’t the greatest thing I’ve ever written, or the most enjoyable to write, but there was a certain catharsis in articulating thoughts and emotions that I’d never really been able to express to my satisfaction. That entry is as close as I’ll ever get. I’m pretty sure very, very few friends and relatives have read it.

Sometimes I think of MCC as a diary with the key left in the lock, where it’s gathered cobwebs because no one tries to turn it. Sometimes there are advantages to being overlooked and/or forgotten as an adult. Being overlooked and/or forgotten as a child is a different story.

Golden Christmas!

My first Christmas, seven months old. I honestly had no idea Dad stuck around for that long, but I concede the point to the indisputable Christmas tree. Unrelated note: I think my mom still has that lamp.

The following is a list of every single gift I can remember my dad ever giving me during my first twenty-one years on Earth:

* A music box in the shape of a foot-long wooden car that played “Take Me Home, Country Roads”
* A homely sky-blue knit sweater that my grandma forced me to wear whenever I was supposed to dress up for anything
* An 18-inch Rudolph made of six interlocking wooden pieces
* A calculator watch
* A queen-size bed after I moved out on my own
* A Civil War chess set, which I know how to play but have never used
* A dartboard and darts, which might be niftier if I didn’t hate risking dart holes in our walls
* There may have been cash once? At most?

The following is a list of all the advice I remember him ever consciously giving me:

* Don’t deal pot
* Girls ain’t nothing but trouble
* Things I now regret knowing about my mom
* His list of known medical conditions
* Pure Prairie League are cool

The following is a list of dates from years 1-21 on which my dad drove me somewhere, showed me someplace, let me stay at his place overnight, spent a few hours with me, showed up for school functions to my knowledge, bought me a food item such as a meal or a snack, or paid child support from age two onward:


Randy Goldens!

One of the last times in which the phrase “father/son quality time” ever applied to my life, until decades later when I became a father.

After my dad’s funeral, I asked my mom if her big old photo album collection contained any pics of my dad and me in the same shot. The four pics on this page are her complete search results. Far as I’m aware, this is our complete father/son photo gallery for years 1-43. Four isolated instances to prove that once upon a time, there were a mom and a dad in my life at the same time. Where he left a void, my mom and my grandma did their best to fill it, or at times left me too much latitude to find my own ways to fill it. I never had a fallback stepdad to compensate, either. I did the best I could with whatever and whoever were around for me.

These thoughts are, in so many words, previously unwritten outtakes from the two entries linked above. Finishing what I started so I can move on in the new year and beyond. These are the sorts of things that came to mind and had to be suppressed whenever a well-meaning soul would try to say encouraging things about what they assume my dad meant to me, based on their own experiences with their completely different dad. I felt like a liar every time I kept my responses gracious yet noncommittal, but trying to counter condolences with an “Actually…” felt like the worst of all possible moves at the time.

But three months have passed. And I felt I needed this “In Memoriam” epilogue out of my head and entered into my written records before the end of 2015, despite the disappointing ending. Sorry we didn’t bring in a Top-40 singer to croon something stirring while you read, but we couldn’t afford their asking prices, and Pure Prairie League are off for winter break.

4 responses

  1. This is so weird to me because I have a less than ideal relationship with my Father which I can’t say totally parallels your relationship with your father because mine was present and loving when I was a child but something drastically changed in him and hardened in my late teen years especially as I got into more trouble. He was diagnosed with cancer over the summer and I’ve been dreading the on set of 2016 because I know it will be the last year of his life as he has a several months to live. It’s such a complicated issue to try and sort through and I’ve shared this hoping that I don’t make you feel like I’m “making this all about me!” I sort of man but not but anyway I appreciate this entry and I wish you peace in 2016.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’ll never understand that brand of fear or reasoning perhaps because I’m not a male. Some men just run from it, & I’ll never get it. All of the reasons I’ve heard just sound like copouts/excuses.

    The best (& most important) thing is that you broke the cycle.


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