I never doubted my father’s love for me. I always knew he loved me because he would bus all the way from the DTES (Downtown East Side of Vancouver) to show up once a week on a Sunday afternoon just to see my face and say hello. He would tell me he loved my smile and that I was the prettiest girl in the room. It wasn’t much, but to me, his words and actions were evidence of his love. During my recovery process, I needed to have concrete facts and evidence that I was loved because my brain would tell me no-one cares about me and no-one loves me to shame me into poor choices based on my low self-worth. Yup, that's me. Nice to meet ya!
I have struggled with myself because I would not give up that I deserved more than a life of poverty, mental illness and addiction to be my fate. I believe my ability to recover has everything to do with the seed firmly planted in my heart, of my father’s love.
My father Fred was not a perfect man. He was a broken one. He died in the DTES of Vancouver, shortly after being found laying on a sidewalk while people walked over and around him. They ignored him because he was just another drunk and/or drug addict and he didn’t matter. But he mattered to me. He was my Dad.
That man lying on the sidewalk that day was the same man that saved me from a grease fire just in the nick of time when I was home by myself, cooking bacon for breakfast. The Dad that made the best spaghetti sauce I ever tasted. Actually, I don't even remember how it tasted, but I do remember that he would whistle while he made it and he was really happy to sit at the kitchen table with me and enjoy our meal. He was the Dad that gave me socks for Christmas one year as some of my siblings made fun of him. I saw his shame at my gift and fiercely defended him to my brothers and sisters. I hated them all for my father that day. They didn’t see him the way I did. He was the handsome man that sang "Pretty Woman" to my mother as he spun her around our kitchen. He was the hero in the story of my life and I wouldn’t stand for anyone to laugh at him. "Oh, Fred” my mother would say with a sigh, but I think she secretly liked it. I hope so. I loved it when my Dad flirted with my Mom. It reminded me that there must have been good times too, times when they were together and things were good – when they made me.
When I met my children’s father, he was a broken man with a broken heart because he told me he was denied the right to be a father to his son. I saw a good father in him and I loved that part of him with all of my heart. I could forgive him a million mistakes for his loyalty to his children. I still do.
We are entering a new phase of our parenting where we switch roles and he takes on a larger parenting role for our three children as they become teenagers. This is because they need the structure and authority he can give them. I’m very grateful I didn’t give up on the man that I met so many years ago that only wanted to be a father to his son. Our children have needed both of us in different ways, at different times and I’m grateful that, we’ve both been able to see past our own differences for their greater good.
Being a mother is the hardest calling I will ever answer and I’m thankful to have him as my partner in parenting. I would have never forseen this shift in our family where I would be taking a smaller role in parenting our children. I believe that our family is separate, but not broken as we are all still working together for our common good. To me, that is family.
I love watching all the men in my community that have setbacks, but don't give up on being a father to their children. No matter what obstacles they must overcome, they continue to show up to be Dads and plant those seeds in their child’s heart that they are loved. Many are denied this right because of their previous lack of personal responsibility. They’ve made mistakes and most of them would give their lives for a second chance at loving their children. That breaks my heart because I believe in the importance of a father's love. I believe love is rooted in forgiveness and in the potential of us all to redeem our past mistakes. I’m grateful my mother let my father love me. Even just a little bit of evidence that I was loved by my father went a very long way in helping me believe in myself and my ability and right to recover.
As a mother, I believe their relationship with their father is the best insurance I can give my children against all that tries to claim their identity as fallible human beings. They will make mistakes. When they do, I want them to know they are loved enough to forgive themselves and take responsibility for their choices – knowing I was loved was critical to my survival.
Fathers, you are very important. We could not have children without you and I believe there is a reason for that. Your children need you. Know that in your heart. If you can’t see them, pray for them. Keep doing the right things and being someone they can be proud to call their father. Fathers that overcome themselves are the strongest kind. Don't give up. You matter. You really do.
Happy Father’s Day!
CCACF Certified Addiction Counsellor, Author, Radio Co-Host of Talk Recovery & Founder of Mothers Recovery Tribe – helping others navigate their way to recovery through one-on-one counselling, radio, books, blogs and workshops!
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Frances Stone is the Author of A Reflection of Love ~ A Different Kind of Love Story, a Recovery Counsellor and a Radio Co-Host of Talk Recovery Vancouver, a show about addiction and recovery issues, located in the DTES of Vancouver, BC. In her spare time, she does laundry and mothers three clever, curious and challenging little humans.