Sunday, March 12, 2023

 I grew up in the  50s, a TV kid. I watched a lot of TV. Father Knows Best, The Donna Reed Show, The Nelsons, Leave it to Beaver. My Three Sons. These were all designed to be wholesome family shows and were of course probably totally unrealistic. Each had their own little issues solved usually in 20 to 25 minutes. Brothers for the most part were affectionate and helpful, Sisters seldom had issues with each other that couldn’t be solved with a chat from mom or dad. And moms and dads were loving and respectful. It was a little slice of heaven between five thirty and seven each evening. I loved it. I ate it up. That was the fifties.

Then the sixties came along. Sitcoms were getting a little grittier. They were dealing albeit carefully with more social issues. There was Rowen and Martin’s Laugh-in. I loved it and all the little innuendos they managed to slip it now and then. It was my guilty pleasure.

But I was becoming more aware that my father sometimes didn’t know best and that I was not the Beaver Cleaver of the family.

The facade was slipping and I was really clueless about how to handle what was under it. There were contradictions and confusion on many levels that were becoming overwhelming not just in my family but in the societal environment I was in. My escapism was becoming a bigger part of my daily life.

As I look back I think what really got me the most was the disconnect between those fifties shows and my own family life. I wanted a dad I could come home and talk to about what I was being exposed to in school and with my peers. I wanted a dad that would sit with me and ask me how my day was and impart wisdom and affection to me. I wanted a dad I could look up to and brag about. I wanted to come home to Fred MacMurray from My Three Sons. But the reality was quite different.

I don’t think I’ve ever really grieved that loss. I came home to a quiet house where we all kind of did our own thing. Where being around dad was uncomfortable. He looked at me in odd ways sometimes and really didn’t want to talk about anything. I was given directions instead of affection. What affection I did get was usually in the middle of the night and with few or no words. Sometimes when he was near me I got a weird kind of quivering in my stomach and I’d leave the room. I didn’t want to talk about my dad to my friends. I didn’t want them to meet him. I remember feeling uncomfortable with the way he sometimes looked at my friends.

It was a tremendous letdown and no matter how I tried I could not make excuses for him. He was not Fred MacMurray. I don’t know what or who he was and eventually, I decided around 15 years old that I didn’t want to know. I would continue to envy all the other dads of my friends and change the subject when a question about mine came up. And I hated that. I have never enjoyed Father’s Day and was always glad when it was over.

Even after all these years, it still hurts. And I’ve hated myself for all the lying to myself about him and making excuses and trying to please someone who couldn’t have cared less. I didn’t know that at the time. When you’re young you always hope. When I finally was forced to accept it at his death, a part of me died.

To this day I can’t help but still feel robbed. I can’t watch those shows anymore and don’t want to. My wife loves all of those and especially Little House on the Prairie. I just can’t watch. My dad loved The Rifleman. I’d watch it with him and wish I could be the kid in that show. He had a great dad. I loved the dad but I suspect dad loved the boy and that still hurts.

And so, I grieve I guess in my own way, and trust that my Heavenly Father will be all that I’ve missed when I see Him.


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