June 19th was Fathers Day for 2022. This caused me to think of how I have been as a father and step-father and how very grateful I am to have had the father I did.
But first, I want to say something about my now perception of the relationship between my father and mother. Like most children growing up, I did not and could not accurately perceive the dynamics of the relationship between them. There was never any open conflict between them, but as an adult I both learned about and can see things were not all rosy all the time particularly during my brothers and my growing up years.
Like most families of the era, my father worked and my mother was expected to remain home and take care of the “home front”. What this meant was that I spent most of my home time with my mother and took on her views and attitudes. As I look back, I see there was some distance between my parents. My father always encouraged or even pushed for growth of his sons. My mother, on the other hand, tended to be fearful and overly protective of us which, frankly, was to our detriment. What she passed on was a world to be feared along with an expectation a husband’s role was as protector and provider — or even caterer. I believe there was always tension between my father and mother about how children should be raised. This had a lasting effect on me and both of my brothers.
The worst period for me as an “adult” began when I was only 19 years old. I had very difficult times as a result of a pre-marital pregnancy, then a wedding the day before turning age 20. I was a mess psychologically and physically. I wound up with a bleeding ulcer, panic attacks, depression, and high anxiety about all the time and for years. When still at Purdue as an undergraduate, I commonly went behind class buildings to throw up before going to class. This was my way of life.
For my last two years while at Purdue, I was seeing a psychiatrist at least weekly and sometimes twice a week. As I look back on that time now, he (the psychiatrist) is the one that focused me on my relationship with my father. I learned to blame him, my father, for about everything wrong in my life. I learned later that my youngest brother, too, was counseled elsewhere to blame our father. What a crime this was.
My father grew up without a father from age 16. His father was killed in a auto crash. His death sent my grandmother, his mother, into a period of deep depression. I honestly do not think she ever got completely out of that even to the day she died at age 78.
Some of my greatest and most treasured memories with my father began early in life. At age 11, I was the only one with him on the trip to Lake Maxinkuckee when the family (really my grandmother, but through him) purchased the lake home on East Shore Lane (The Knoll) from a elderly lady who had lived there for decades, Mrs. Rice. That lake home was so important in my life for so many years. Our family spent the summers there annually including my many summers of camp experience at Culver Military Academy beginning in 1949-50, then off for several years until my time in the Culver Horse Troop from 1954-56 and as an instructor of horsemanship in the summer of 1958. For years, my father would work during the week and come to the lake for 2-3 days on the weekends. He would take us boating and water skiing a lot. At times, I think we wore him out but he never complained.
I remember family trips to such places as Quebec, Canada, on a paddle wheeler on the St. Lawrence River. I had an experience at St. Anne-de-Beaupre Cathedral I will never forget. There were crutches and wheel chairs and canes lining the walls where people had been healed. My father took us there.
I remember several fishing trips to Canada and one to Colorado in the mountains. There were many. I remember trips to Florida around Hollywood where we would vacation a couple of weeks many winters right on the ocean beach.
I remember the days beginning in 1954 of skiing at Boyne Mountain, Michigan. My father would take he and me to Boyne about every winter weekend. It was just he and me. We would get there late on Friday evening, ski all of Saturday and Sunday, and he would drive us back to Kokomo late Sunday evening after the chair lift closed. I loved the time with him. At one point in that period when I was a senior in high school, my father took me, our mother, my two brothers, and a friend whose father had died to Alta, Utah; one of the nation’s premier skiing resorts. In all, we made two trips there.
And, of course, there was an earlier family trip to the Dude Ranch near Rim Rock, Arizona. My father was already in Arizona dealing with his alcohol issues that began in WWII. He was at a long time friend’s ranch to “dry out”. He was successful.
My mother, one brother, and I joined him by the Santa Fa Chief Pullman train there near Flagstaff. I vividly remember that trip because it was my earliest memory of being with horses. The Director of “Gone With the Wind”, Victor Flemming, was at the ranch. And I met Bruce Brockett, too. He was a rancher famous in the area. He gave my father a copy of “Fenced Trails”; a book written by him. My father treasured that book and I treasured it later after my father’s death.
There were not always fun trips to remember with my father. Like my maternal grandfather, I had serious allergy problems very young in life. My father is the one who took me to the best allergist in the country in Chicago. That was not a fun trip for me because the tests required multiple skin injections, but the ultimate result was that my allergies were managed and minimized the rest of my life. But for years I resented him for that trip that I regarded as torture. I regret that.
He was the one who, too, took me to a dentist in Indianapolis to have four teeth removed as part of preparation for teeth braces. I had a serious case of “buck teeth” at the time. Again, the result was a lifetime fix. The message: he was the one who acted to take even the unpleasant steps necessary for a better life for me. Another expression of love: yes.
After my undergraduate degree at Purdue, I joined the Kokomo Tribune family. My father guided me through all the newspaper departments to learn operations from the floor up. For some years, I was still a psychological mess. I know I was a disappointment to him during those darkest of days for me; but I did make it out of the worst. I played a key role in guiding the newspaper to being one of the very best in the world in both technology and content. Our subscribers trusted us for truth. We were awarded the “Best in the Nation” award several years running.
Eventually, I came to the deep realization my father did not deserve being blamed for anything. He loved me and my two brothers deeply. He did his best to guide us in life particularly as we grew up. I know being blamed must have deeply hurt him. I feel sorrow about that. He and I resolved all of that before his death. He developed heart issues — maybe from a broken heart — and for about a decade before the family sold the paper, he trusted me to guide the newspaper ship. I value that sacred trust he had in me.
When I think of me and being a father. I know that in spite of my deep and seemingly never ending psychological issues with my marriage relationship, I did my very best to be a loving father. I was the one who held children when sick. I was the one who laid down with them each night to read books and say prayers as they were preparing to sleep. I was the one who took them camping. I was the one who supported them in sports and hobbies. I was the one who helped with homework and more. My own father taught me about being a loving father.
Troubled times came early in my marriage to my children’s mother. Actually, it was from day one. I felt trapped, but crazy as it was, she and I went on to have a total of four children. I was in and out of counseling for most of the early years. At about 10 years of marriage, when the first of the children was about 10, I connected with a psychologist, Dr. Loriene Chase, in California.
I got myself to California in 1970 for about a two week stay. In hindsight, I absolutely don’t know how I made that trip. I was desperate. Most of the time I was alone but reading books she suggested and seeing her about one hour each week day. I remember staying in a small bungalow at the Miramar hotel near the beach in Santa Monica. I used to walk the beach every morning for a quiet time.
After a few hours with Dr. Chase, she was very clear with me that my marriage would not last and that I needed to leave the marriage as soon as I could. I did not heed her counsel and stayed about another ten years. I could not bring myself to leave four young children. I did what I believe to be my best in being a father for them from 1959. My marriage to their mother ended formally in 1979. That is not to say my then wife did not have issues as well. Indications are she had other relationships over the years.
Along the way, I met in 1975 the woman I knew was my spiritual other half. I felt safe, complete, and whole when with her. She had a daughter and I had four children. We both made our children the priority for several years. We were married in 1986. The sad part of the story is that my four children would not accept her as “family”. We know this was caused by their mother’s demands and attitudes. What my now wife and I always wanted was a blended family to include all. Did not happen. I finally walked away from my children, now adults — or they walked away from us — and then grandchildren. Conditions were not tolerable.
We do not know if there will ever be a time of coming together in our life times. We believe we have done our best to be loving parents and grandparents. We can only trust God for the future.
I loved being a father and grandfather to my children and my step-daughter and, when permitted, to our grandchildren. We deeply believe our grandchildren are paying a price they may never know about or how deep.
I wish all fathers a wonderful and blessed Fathers Day past and future.