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Kind Words

Updated: Jan 1, 2023

Let’s see if I can do it. Can I write something positive about him, the man that took so much and gave so little? I sit at the keyboard and I want to do it. It’s kind of like when I said I forgave him that it gave me back my power. The next step in this therapeutic journey is to take something I love, writing, and put kind words towards my dad. After all, I actually didn’t forgive him. I forgave myself for letting him occupy so much mental space for so long. That was when I gained control over the great nemesis of my life. So, here is an attempt to capture his good sides because I know they were there. They had to be.

There might be some that dispute whatever I am about to come up with here, but then they should write their own version and tell it. Why share in the first place? Well, I have used my dad and the experiences that I have had with him to counsel hundreds of kids on my journey through the world of education. I have used the trauma he caused to relate to adults that are stuck in their own lives and cannot move on. See, the more I have written or talked about mental illness and trauma, the more I find that people open up and feel it’s okay to lay their heaviness on the table before them and speak their truth. It seems like a good enough reason to write about him. There I go again, justifying why I share my personal stories. I guess the justification comes from the judgment and stigmas around people who suffer from depression and anxiety. I am trying to slit the throat of stigmas and bury them deep in the dirt.

Here’s my attempt at good words about a bad man.

I remember times when he was goofy, making us all laugh with his antics, or the time he opened a full jar of mustard and it popped like a cannon all over his shirt. There were other times when he called me, “Roy boy,” the only one that ever did so, and I liked it because it meant he wanted me around and didn’t want to hurt me.

I saw him smile when I scored a touchdown once and he shook my hand after I received the Most Valuable Player trophy. I even think he was proud when I went off to bootcamp, at least he came to see me off at the airport. He shared his Army stories and tried to prepare me for the drill instructors.

I liked the stories of his Aunt Coot, and growing up on the red clay of Alabama, playing with copperhead snakes, impoverished and forgotten by his own millionaire father. I was too young at the time to recognize that these were the stories that caused his own darkness. It was part of his meanness because looking back, he was resentful and not strong enough to be the opposite of who raised or didn’t raise him. I digress, this is supposed to be about the good in him.

I remember him swimming with us in the gulf when we took a trip to Florida. He didn’t know how to swim that well, but he’d pick me up and throw me into the waves. I have a feeling my dad appreciated my fearlessness. Not much ever scared me, and I think he was proud of that.

I saw him kissing my mom once and he looked like he loved her.

There was a time when a man was not treating my sister well and my dad said to my brother and I, “Get a baseball bat and get in the car. We’re going after your sister.” There was another time that I was playing pool with him at the Blackbear, just he and I which I thought was special, and a drunk man started to mess with me. My dad calmly looked at the man and said, “If you don’t leave my son alone I’m going to toss you through the window.” It wasn't a bluff, he would have done it. This isn’t toxic masculinity, it’s just protecting your own. The truth is, I was never afraid of another man when my dad was around. I was afraid of him, but for some reason I knew no one could ever hurt me when he was there. To me, he seemed like the toughest man in the world. A boy needs to look up to his father. Somewhere along the way in our current world, it started being bad to be tough men. This is a mistake in my opinion.

He taught me how to box and how to fight dirty if it came down to it. I needed those skills a couple of times in Texas, but those are stories I don’t tell.

I liked his stories. He once told me about a biker, decked out in leather, known to be a local tough guy, pulling up at the curbside where my dad was standing. He got off his motorcycle and told my dad he was about to “Give him an ass kicking.” As the man, who was older than my, at the time, teenage dad, started to get his leather gloves on and brass knuckles out, my dad kicked him in the groin as hard as he could and beat the man for a bit before casually leaving. This was the 1950's so the law wasn't as sensitive as it is now. My grandma confirmed some of these stories.

My dad loved my brother, his first son. I am certain of this. I’ll admit, it placed a wedge in our relationship, but I also remember feeling grateful that my brother was loved by this man. My brother has his own stories, but I think we have both learned to forgive the same man as much as we can.

He always treated Karen well, from the moment he met her. He seemed to genuinely care for her and I appreciated that. She never found out what he did until a few years ago, so she liked him way back then up until he died.

We went to the movie Tombstone together and afterward had a great talk over a Chinese dinner about Wyatt Earp and Doc Holiday. Western Gunfighters and movies were something we had in common. You look for anything you can get sometimes.

That’s about all I can think of for now.

Sons can often have complicated relationships with their fathers. Boys should have fathers as mentors. I believe it is a major problem that we see with our young men today. I know it had an impact on me until I met my father-in-law, Dave. There are moments when I sit back and wonder what life would have been like with a loving, non-abusive father, and having a man in the house that did not bring fear to his family. I do wonder about it sometimes and then let the thought go like a dead dandelion in the wind because it is all imaginary. Imaginary fathers are only helpful in novels.

I wish I had a man

In my life

That cherished me

The way the man

In my imagination does

Maybe if I had a father

Who knew

Who he was supposed to be

I would have had a wonderful

Man before me

And all around him

Would have been love

I wish I could have seen

Him this way

Walking in the sun

Surrounded by light

Oh father, you are free

And so am I

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