“It doesn’t matter who my father was; it matters who I remember he was.” — Anne Sexton

“A king, realizing his incompetence, can either delegate or abdicate his duties. A father can do neither. If only sons could see the paradox, they would understand the dilemma.”
Marlene Dietrich

The Fathers Day weekend is always a bittersweet one for Mrs TenMiles (Mandi), as it always coincides with the death of her father, a little over five years ago.

A once successful architect who could provide for all the wishes of his children, both material and emotional, he seemed to me a man larger then life, a figure given life by her words and descriptions of dusty memories, a sort of Edward Bloom. She’d get a sparkle in her eye broader than a Hollywood smile, indulging my curiosity with stories, like his ongoing tales of heroism in the Vietnam war (the man had never left these shores at that stage), his dreams of becoming a beachbum one day….

When she was in high school, his business partner screwed him over, resulting in the loss of his business, and then slowly, inexorably, his family, his life and his sobriety. Shortly before divorcing his wife and leaving, he disowned Mandi, a reaction to her pleas to stop drinking, to stop the emotional abuse. I still believe that had he any idea of the effect those words were to have on her, he would have cut his own tongue out.

Over the next few years, she would hear about him through her brother, about his remarriage, his downward spiral, his self-destruction. How he was living in a backyard shack in a destitute neighbourhood.
I’m not sure what brought about the change, the desperate desire for reconciliation, but by the time I’d fallen desperately and hopelessly in love with this fragile creature, he’d taken a step on the road less travelled. A few months before he died of liver failure, I met him. I remember not sleeping the night before, selfishly fantasizing about how I would confront him, order him to beg for his daughter’s forgiveness. But how can one be angry at the shell of a man? The broken man I met that day was both no longer the weaver of stories, nor the bitter drunkard. The remorse emanated from him, more potent than any odour of alcohol. A daughter who had never felt anything less than overwhelming love for this man was able to conjure a final, peaceful image.
As terrifying a sound as it was, I hope that he was able to hear the scream that left her lips when the hospital phoned to notify us of his death. It may just have been powerful enough to sear the shadows of his past.

And perhaps it would have been a last indication to him of the capacity for love his daughter possesses.

So for me, Fathers Day holds more secrets then any other invented holiday, and as each year passes I seem to grow more adept at deciphering and decoding them. I try to remain conscious of Ms Dietrich’s words and forge anew the respect and admiration I have for a man, who though we often disagree, has always let me run ahead, normally against his better judgement.

I love you, dad.

~ by tenmiles on June 21, 2005.

9 Responses to ““It doesn’t matter who my father was; it matters who I remember he was.” — Anne Sexton”

  1. the relationship between fathers & daughters has always held the highest level of fascination for me, more so than any of the other combinations of relationships.

    i’m biased, of course, being the daughter in said case.

    i’ve been fortunate enough to have two very strong father figures in my life; my stepfather is an amazing, unusual, & noble person. true to my fascination, however, i can’t help wishing my own father had lived longer to see more of his daughter’s life.

    well, that’s living for you.

  2. Very nice thoughts! It really is important that we don’t get caught up in the idea that these holidays are “manufactured” and that we use them as moments to stop and reflect on what we have, or don’t have, and on how we can be the people we want to be and how we can cherish those in our lives. Thanks for sharing this.

  3. It is indeed bittersweet. There is a brutal beauty to these words you’ve written and I’m grateful that you shared.

  4. Truly wonderful words.

    Thank you.


  5. Great post.

    Course for me father’s day doesn’t exist 🙂 Well in the years that I ignore Mother’s day anyway. Wouldn’t be fair to remember one and not the other now would it?

    Mind you, this father’s day my dad did get a surprise. He is going to be a grandad. And I, I hasten to add, will be an aunt. NOT a parent 🙂

  6. Sexton is right, as always.

  7. Fathers and MOthers are such complex concepts to grow up with. The entire perception of them changes as one gets older. From Super Human, to Human to Fragile beyond words.

    That is just beautiful 10 miles. You’ve trapped all the bitter-sweetness. True, real and powerful.

  8. oh. thank you for reminding me.

    sometimes us cats forgets…

  9. Hi there to all. But more importantly to the man who wrote these beautiful words I just had to shed a tear. If any one is wondering this is Mrs tenmiles and I am very proud to be the person who gets to share Mr tenmiles life and to know that this will be the Father of my children. Because I know they will have all that I longed for and so much more. And Dad even though you made mistakes and we weren’t as close as I would have wanted I still got to learn alot about life and for that I thank you. Thanks love for this I love you lots :)!!!

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