Today, Father's Day, I'm reminded of my father who passed away 29 years ago.
The first time he ever said, "I love you" was on his deathbed. I imagined it took a lot of courage for him to say those three powerful words to me.
My father died of alcoholism resulting from his failure to follow his heart. He allowed himself to be forced into choices that were beneficial to the ones doing the forcing, but not to him or to my mother. His giving in resulted in guilt, anger and frustration; he sought relief through drinking, which only open the door to additional problems.
I spent most of my growing up being fearful of my father because the majority of the time I saw him he was in a drunken rage. But there were times when I suspected that he really did love me.
One time in particular, I was 13, he promised to buy me an electric organ for Christmas. Because of his drinking, my dad was often in and out of work. It took my mother's meager wages to keep us from being homeless and there seemed to never be any monies for Christmas presents. One of my older brothers would work odd jobs just so presents could be put under the tree for our younger siblings.
One day, my girlfriend came over with a Christmas toy catalog bragging about the table top organ her parents were getting her for Christmas. "What are you getting Ann?" she asked. "Oh nothing," I replied "Christmas is about Jesus' Birthday not mine." That was our way of dealing with the truth that there was never any money for Christmas presents for us older children. After she left, my father with anger in his voice said, "Do you want an organ for Christmas?" I hesitated, not wanting to upset him, "Yes sir" "Well this year nobody is getting a Christmas Present but Ann. Big Eyes (his nickname for me) you are going to get your organ!"
I was ecstatic! Not only was I getting a Christmas present this year, but I was getting an organ. Now I can learn to play just like momma (My mother played the piano)! I couldn't wait to tell my girlfriend that I was going to get an organ too. As Christmas approached I became worried that maybe my father wouldn't be able to keep his promise. And sure enough Christmas came and there was no organ. How could I face my friends? How could I explain that I didn't get my organ? I imagined them laughing at me and calling me a liar. "She didn't get anything for Christmas!" I heard the voices say in my head.
During the entire holiday break I avoided my friends, and then a few days before school resumed, my dad came home with a huge box under his arms. "Here Big Eyes" he said, "I told you, you would get your organ!" My dad didn't get me the table top organ my girlfriend got; he bought me an organ that stood on its own legs with a matching bench and 2 song books.
I don't know how he was able to grant my Christmas wish since he was out of work that year. He had to pass up many a bottles of Jim Bean and Old Grand Dad to pull off such a feat. And I know he couldn't have done it if he didn't love me.
Though I no longer have my organ, I do still have the books that came with it. And when ever I look at its cover I see my little organ standing next to my mom's piano and I remember the joy in my father's eyes as he presented me with my present.
Most children blame their parents for them turning out all screwed up because they didn't fulfill their ideal of what their parents should have been, but not me. I believe that the father God blessed me with help make me a better person. His life served as a guide for me to correct his mistakes by not repeating them in my life. And when I look at my children I see that they have corrected my mistakes by not repeating them in their life.
I thank God for my Dad, he was a one of a kind father; the kind that God knew I needed.
Anna M. Caison, third (eldest daughter) of eleven children, born in Chicago, Illinois. She is an ordain minister, Preschool Teacher and freelance writer for adults and children.
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