Who's Your Daddy?

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Who's Your Daddy?

My father left the family when I was about six. "About six" is about as close to accurate as I'll ever get about this life-altering event. My parents got divorced. Dad disappeared. I never really understood that event. No one ever really explained it to me.

Blackwell, as he was called, had been violent physically and abusive verbally. My inarticulate terror of him infused his absence, so I wasn't merely abandoned, I was accompanied by a formless, infinite, shadowy dreadfulness that was somehow my father.


Whenever I hear about fathers who are present, attentive, helpful, I'm reminded what a handicap it is having a gaping abyss for a father. Usually, though, I'm simply resigned to my destiny. I probably think it's my fault, somehow, he left. His absence was and is an amorphous accusation of some crime I committed, for which nothing can ever expiate my guilt.

Sitting in church on Father's Day, a year ago, I remembered my father and considered how unlike a model father he was, how unlike the men in the congregation. He was high-strung, brilliant, weak, headstrong, talented at too many things, arrogant... I pity him. I'm a lot like him. My relationship with this absent man is complex. He doesn't fit my idea of what a man is, exactly, and he certainly didn't fit the folksy, downhome church evocation of a positive stereotype.

Dad was not a positive role model.


Michaelangelo's vision of God the Father as a sexy old Italian fresco.

This year, for Father's Day, I decided not to wear a tie for the first time in over a year. After a brief choir rehearsal, we ate a hearty pancake breakfast, only I skipped the refined white flour and dug into the frittata our music director had thoughtfully confected. On the tables were ties cut out of paper the children had colored in with felt markers, some with stripes, some with polka dots. The choir director suggested we wear them to sing the anthem, so we gleefully attached them with paper clips.

Isn't it odd? On the day I didn't wear a tie we all wore ties.

Sitting there, not paying attention to the service, I was struck by the kindness of the people in the congregation. How unlike my family they are. Less talented, less brilliant, less arrogant. I saw the preacher as a surrogate father, a gentler, kinder, simpler man, who demands nothing of me, who radiates a kind of benign acceptance unlike anything my father was ever able to radiate.

God the Father. God the Fuck. God is such an overrated, misunderstood commodity. God is within, of course, but some of us take forever uncovering our inner source of illumination. God the Father gets in the way, an absence acting as an obstacle.

Comments [32]

LongBeachDogLover's picture

My Father was a feminist....

My Father was a feminist.... I could not have had a better teacher, friend, or mentor.

Not2Taem's picture

LB, I am genuinely happy to

LB, I am genuinely happy to read a totally positive post on this thread. You should not be at all shy about relating your experience. I think you were both lucky. Smile

LongBeachDogLover's picture

Thank you Tae.

Thank you Tae.

LongBeachDogLover's picture

**where's that delete button?

**where's that delete button? i should have read the other comments before commenting myself.

:insert emoticon affected by a feeling of guilt:

K I T's picture

why delete? why feel

why delete?
why feel guilt?

because you share something positive and beautiful?

for once i am glad then that we don't got that editor tool / delete option on here etc.

and as far as i can tell, your comment ain't of topic
just look at the title : Who’s Your Daddy?


LongBeachDogLover's picture

You're probably right

You're probably right Kit...... I shouldn't feel guilty.
Thank You. Smile

Robin Rigby's picture

My father was a violent

My father was a violent alcoholic. I have memories of him playing with all of us but also of him breaking down the door after my parents had separated, of him dumping an entire table full of dishes and food on my mother, of him hitting my brother on the head with a stirrup and causing him to have about a hundred stitches.

I don't recall ever feeling like my parents divorce was somehow my fault, but being 3rd of 5 children may have something to do with that. I do know that I make a conscious effort not to be like him. I have no patience and my anger sometimes threatens to burst into violence. We can't change our past, only the way we respond to it. Erin, your father and mine were both assholes. That's their problem. It has nothing to do with us. I suggest letting go and trying to learn from their mistakes so we don't repeat them.

Erin Blackwell's picture

actually, i think my father

actually, i think my father has a lot to do with me and that's a mystery i've been working on, or not, a lifetime. i've tried not-being him. that works in a way, but it leaves a lot of *me* out of the equation. because personality isn't reducible to some social scientist's model of child development. although freud is pretty fuckin' good.

i mean, not only can a thing *not* be avoided, as Oedipus discovered in that greek tragedy, or Hamlet, not only will our destiny find us, but each of us is also independent of mere cause and effect.

i actually need to stop running from his shadow. paradoxically.

Robin Rigby's picture

By 'not being like him' I was

By 'not being like him' I was specifically referring only to those parts of him that I find unacceptable. The temper, impatience, etc. If I could think of any of his good qualities right now, because I'm sure he had some, I'd tell you that I'm not throwing them out.

Erin Blackwell's picture

personality engineering from

personality engineering from the inside, not easy! i'm currently finding acceptance, not of him per se but the him in me, his echo, a mad embrace really, is the way to go. no more half-measures. good luck to all of us impatient people! and those who love us.

Robin Rigby's picture

Ha! Never thought of it that

Ha! Never thought of it that way. I had quite a few issues with depression, self-destructive behavior, etc back in high school and college so one day I sat myself down on my bed and had a heart to heart with myself. I said, you need to look deep inside to see why you do these things and you need to be honest regardless of how unflattering whatever you find is and you need to keep on until you have some answers.

Eventually of course, this led to me being honest enough to come out but it also became such a habit that I am just naturally, brutally honest with myself by nature. I don't even think about it anymore. Self-examination happens automatically with me.

Erin Blackwell's picture

the brutality of honesty!

the brutality of honesty!

Xanadu's picture

I don't really understand

I don't really understand this theory that kids take on guilt and believe their father abandoning them, is somehow their fault ...

I can understand a (child/adult of divorce) wondering why they weren't a good enough reason for the parent to stick around ... but believing you caused an (adult) parent to leave? ... Feels slightly martyrish to me.

My parents are still together, but have had a BAD marriage since day one. I've always known (with no reassurance from them - or a shrink) that their problems have nothing to do with me.

Maybe this is a self esteem thing? Not trying to aggravate anyone (it's a touchy subject) ... just thinking out loud :idea:

Erin Blackwell's picture

it's not a"theory" xanadu,

it's not a"theory" xanadu, it's not from the outside, it's not some clinician's *idea* it's my lived experience, it's my emotional, deep psychic, irrational sense. it's my *dread*. we all have it, we artists and mystics and gypsies. poe & kierkegaard are its poets/philosophers. self-esteem is something else, non-tragic, in a fixable universe in which there are always win-win solutions.

Not2Taem's picture

Xanadu, You may be right. It


You may be right. It may well be a self esteem thing. Which may also go largely to the basic family dynamic and history. If you don't mind my asking, were both of your parents supportive of you? Were you always, or at least usually sure that they both cared about you. And when things got tough, did they generally resist the urge to use you, one against the other or complain to you about the other? These are the ground rules that good parents follow, and they generally allow the child to navigate the challenges of the situation relatively unscathed.

On the other hand, when one or both parents exhibit behavior that defies dignity and/or logic, we tend to look about for explanations. If this starts early in child's life, when the ego is undergoing major development, it is natural to look to oneself for the cause. It becomes an aspect of one's basic self and frankly, it sucks.

Its a lot like those hybrid roses that have been grafted way down at the base of the plant. Any time a frost or blight strikes, that plant is more at risk than others. Following a freeze other plants just send out new shoots from their base. But the grafted plant can't do that.

One would think that the person would reach adulthood, identify the sticking points in her own development, and move on. But in reality she is likely to spend a hell of a lot of time preparing her defenses for the next frost. The trick is to build up a nice ground cover so the neighboring plants don't know your graft is there.

Xanadu's picture

To answer your question Taem

To answer your question Taem -

Whilst I wasn't what people would consider to be neglected or abused, back in the day ... I was not supported or physically loved and I was often brought into arguments (or I deliberately inserted myself into their arguments). I've been openly blamed for the state of their relationship and I'm still not supported (as an adult).

I was born a few years after my disabled sibling, who's been in a wheelchair since birth ... There's been ongoing alcoholism (and all the 'joys' that come with that) ...

For some reason, I've just always had the ability to recognise when adults were/are behaving like idiots Smile and have not (that I'm aware of) internalised or felt responsible for their problems.

Not2Taem's picture

Brava! Keep on keepin' on,

Brava! Keep on keepin' on, Xanadu.

Erin Blackwell's picture

TwixTits, beautiful image.

beautiful image. there's something about probing one's own wound, keeping it open to better feel the world, rather than "moving on." in the true sense of the word, it is the martyr's path, much maligned, which once made sense to a feeling world.

Steph H's picture

"One would think that the

"One would think that the person would reach adulthood, identify the sticking points in her own development, and move on."

If only life were that easy. Beautifully written piece there Tae xx

Not2Taem's picture

Another one of my favorites!

Another one of my favorites! I really do love it when you open up and trust to read the real you. What a complex quandary, this family thing. I am genuinely glad you have found one that allows you to sing your self.

Erin Blackwell's picture

hmmm... i responded to this

hmmm... i responded to this earlier. did i neglect to "submit"?

which is the "real" me? there are SO MANY neural pathways. FEEDBACK helps me sense which one to trickle down. so thank you for letting me know when you feel i'm on "a favorite".

it's amazing how one finds "families" where one least expects 'em.

K I T's picture

did i neglect to submit

did i neglect to submit ?
cant tell for sure but i have noticed myself that when you submit and don't wait to see if the turning wheel has finished and your post shows / if you moved to fast to something else then its gone not submitted even if you think you did

Lake's picture

Erin you are not alone on

Erin you are not alone on this topic....my father was not a violent man....just an irresponsible one....actually both my parents were. I was raised by Grandparents...and am thankful for that. I've decided to stop trying to figure out who my Father is....too much stress. I don't care to know a man who doesn't want to know me.

Thank you for sharing!! Wink


Erin Blackwell's picture

i'm sorry re your father...

i'm sorry re your father... these paradoxes they present us with... so similar to the ones *they* were handed by *their* effing dads... where does it end? in LESBIANISM :mrgreen:

Lake's picture

Thank you! I have no idea

Thank you! I have no idea where my Father came from....My Grandfather was an amazing human being....I'm lucky to have had the time with him.

Never take your tie off....it's a part of you...and it's HOT!!! Wink


Erin Blackwell's picture

thank *you* i will reveal

thank *you*

i will reveal The Tale of the Tie in a future blog the gist of which is, "i really resisted wearing it" & i still can't believe people like it. the stuff you run away from turns out to be who you are... sigh...

glad you had Grandpa! i had Grandma. grandparents rock!

Lake's picture

Can't wait for the tale!!!

Can't wait for the tale!!! So true about the Grandparents!!!


Not2Taem's picture

I can see the adds

I can see the adds now:

Support Same Sex Marriage: Break the Cycle of Abuse

Laughing out loud

Erin Blackwell's picture

:finger snap:

:finger snap:

camomileroses's picture

Your presence here has been

Your presence here has been missed. What is a father? Sometimes a father can be absent even when he is present. The mystique of not having a biological father physically around must exceed the reality of having a geographically close father who emotionally abandons his child. What are the implications of having two mothers and no father like my daughter?
Too many questions. No answers.

Erin Blackwell's picture

sometimes the question is the

sometimes the question is the answer. thanks for missing me. sorry for being ABSENT :mrgreen:

camomileroses's picture

You are so punny you darling

You are so punny you darling little horsy (I guess I should say studly or stately?).