Telling the Truth

connecting the dots of my life

Tag: Dear Dad

My Voice and My Dad


When I began blogging over three years ago I was terrified. I’d carried family secrets around with me for nearly 70 years. My Dad died in 2010. Over ten years before he died I confronted him about his harsh treatment of me as a child and teenager.

Yet I still had things I needed to say, in writing. Publicly. To him and to anyone else who cared to listen.

Here’s an excerpt from a post I published on 27 January 2015. That was one year after I began blogging, nearly 5 years after Dad died at age 96. I’d begun posting Dear Dad letters from time to time, even though it felt awkward.

I’m surprised at feelings I’ve had since I began writing Dear Dad letters. Sometimes I’m afraid I’m trying to get something from Dad that he can’t give me. I don’t think I am. I definitely feel I’m ‘out there,’ in the driver’s seat without a finished roadmap, uncertain where this will lead.

Most surprising, though, has been a sense of relief. Not because I know what I’m doing, but because I know I need something for myself. Something I can receive only by speaking to him about the very subject he wasn’t always interested in hearing about—me, his first-born child, female. . . .

These Dear Dad letters feel right because I’m my father’s daughter. I’m not asking for anything. I’m not expecting anything from him. Simply put, I need to be present to Dad in a way I’ve never been present to him before.

I’d describe it as barging right in and announcing my presence. Not rudely, but confidently. Interrupting Dad was a big no-no when I was a child. Knock before entering; enter only if permission is granted. Dad is very busy right now in his study. Don’t disturb unless absolutely necessary!

But he’s my Dad! I’m allowed! No explanations needed. No big crisis. No requests to make things better. No great accomplishments or failings to report. And no clear strategy or plan about why I’m here just now, why he’s the one with whom I need to speak, or what I’m going to say next. I just know I need to be here.

This strikes me now as it did then—the language of a mature, responsible adult woman. It didn’t matter then, and it doesn’t matter now what Dad would think of this.

After all, he’s my Dad and I’m entitled to be with him and say things to him at any time. Whether he’s living or not.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 20 June 2017
Image found at skitguys.com
Response to WordPress Daily Prompt: Relieved

Dear Dad | Photos and a Dream

P1090529

Castle Fraser — Front drive leading to formal entrance under the arch.

Dear Dad,

The 102nd anniversary of your birth came and went last week. For the first time since you died in 2010, it didn’t trigger a downward spiral in me. Read the rest of this entry »

Dear Dad | What Ifs

P1050544

To Dad with Love from Elouise

Dear Dad,
I wasn’t going to write about this today. But when I woke up this morning it was already on my mind. So here goes.

Over a year ago I began wondering how I would answer questions like these:

  • What did you inherit from your father?
  • What are you proud of in your father?
  • What’s the best gift your father ever gave you?

I often feel left out when I hear daughters, not just sons, thanking their fathers for being their mentors, their best friends, their coaches in life and their faithful cheerleaders. Sometimes they tell stories about how this happened. Do I have stories like this?

When I was young I was proud that you were a preacher and that you’d gone to college. Besides, you could fix just about anything in the world, and knew the Latin names of most every plant in the world. And could recite poem after poem by heart.

As an adult, I’ve always said I inherited from you a love of theology. Because I became a theologian, this was important to me. Something that set you apart from most other fathers.

At the same time, it was never easy to answer questions about your influence in my life. So when I began my list of things we share, I thought it would be a short list. I also wanted to think about you differently—without denying our sometimes unhappy history as father and daughter. In the end, the list was longer than I thought it would be, and brought back some happy memories.

When I woke up this morning I started asking myself some What If questions. Most of the time I stay away from What Ifs. They don’t seem to get me anywhere, and end up making me even more unhappy than I already was. Besides, they don’t change What Is—what I must live with each day.

Still, my What If questions wouldn’t go away. Here’s how I’m thinking about it.

  • As a parent, I found it distressingly easy to be judgmental and critical. Or to put my children on guard or push them away. I haven’t just experienced it as a child; I’ve done it as a mother.
  • So what if I were interested, positive and encouraging to my children? I know this works better, because I’ve experienced it, too. Not because it came naturally to me, but because I learned how to do it.

So back to you and me. What if you had taken a different approach with me?

When I was growing up I watched you relate to children and teenagers not in our immediate family. You seemed to be a different person! They loved you. They experienced you as their friend and cheerleader. They weren’t afraid of you the way I was. You were firm with them, but not harsh and unyielding.

I wanted you to relate that way with me. Sometimes this happened a bit when our family went on long road trips. They forced us out of our tired, predictable patterns.

Going to summer camps as a family was a bit like this, too. Not exactly the same, but enough to convince me that I’d rather be traveling or camping with you than living in a house with all those Thou Shalt Nots.

I don’t know why you chose to be strict and judgmental. You said you didn’t want me to grow up to be angry like your father was. Today I wonder what it was about you (not about me) that kept you from treating me differently. Since I saw you relating to other children, I know you had the skills to be a different kind of parent.

I used to think your parenting approach was my fault. I don’t think that anymore. I also don’t know whether a different approach would have been possible for you. Either way you’re still my father, and I’m not about to disown you.

Love and a hug,
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 1 July 2015
Photo credit: DAFraser, March 2015, Longwood Gardens

Dear Dad | Things We Share

Sandbar-Ruth, El, Mom, Diane, c1951b

Sister #2, Elouise, Mom, Diane on sandbar. Our dock and boathouse are just above my head, to the left. Summer 1951

Dear Dad,
Today marks the fifth-year anniversary of your death. Not a long time, yet it feels like an age ago. Like the photo above. Do you remember that day? It was 1951, our first year living on the river in the Deep South. Read the rest of this entry »

Dear Dad,

I need to write this letter to you, but I don’t know where to begin. So much happened to me and in me when I was a child and teenager. I need to talk about this out loud and without shame. The only way I know to do that right now Read the rest of this entry »

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