When Father’s Day Is A Fat Hen’s Day

(Warning: Possible downer post below. I say possible because I’m not sure how I’ll end this. I’m not feeling hugely optimistic and upbeat, learning some kind of lesson through it all. I’m not sure if I’ll be able to see a bright, beautiful rainbow at the end of this post. I truly have no idea where this post is going to lead me. All I know is I feel crummy in this moment.)

I’m writing this on Father’s Day night. But not posting it for a few days. I want the fun and the good thoughts and the raves about all the dads out there to die down. I don’t want to rain on anyone’s parade.

Don’t get me wrong. The Father’s Day we had, together as a family (kids and me and my husband) was awesome. We went hiking. We ate at my husband’s favorite German restaurant. We came home and he napped. Then, it was off to Tai Chi class. It was the perfect day for him. And I’m so glad.

But my phone call with my own father, 1000 miles away. Lackluster. Awkward. And sad.

The very first Father’s Day gift I ever remember giving him was a card. A card I had made. Out of construction paper and crayons. And he laughed. “Fat Hen’s Day? What in the world is Fat Hen’s Day?” I was probably about 7 or 8. With the penmanship of a 7 or 8 year old. I was crushed. I had worked hard on that card. So there was a space between the t and h of father. So my r dipped down a little and looked more like an n. He didn’t have to laugh. And it didn’t have to be part of the family jokes in the years to come. “Hey, isn’t Fat Hen’s Day coming up?”

Reflecting on this early memory? It feels a little out of place. I have so many happy, fun, loving memories of my father. He was silly. He loved puns. He could always make us laugh. But my Fat Hen’s Day card? In that moment, I was the butt of the joke. And it didn’t feel good.

And then there was last year.

I have always given my parents something, some kind of gift for Mother’s and Father’s day. My husband would just call and sometimes send a card to his parents. It wasn’t until we were married that he (and by that, I mean I) started sending a little gift. His parents were always so appreciative.

There was always a twinge of expectation with my own parents. And last year was no exception.

My dad, a voracious reader, would appreciate a gift card to Barnes and Noble, right? Of course right. (You can’t buy my dad a book because invariably, he’s already read it.) When I called him on Father’s Day, he thanked me for the gift card and said, “Yeah, I’ll be able to buy a…..newspaper with it.” And laughed. Money was tight for us. I couldn’t afford a lavish gift that year. I sat there stunned. And then defended my gift, suggesting some latest new releases (in hardcover) that he’d be able to purchase with his card. My heart sank. I’d disappointed him again.

This year I didn’t send a gift. I sent a card. I called. And he spent the conversation sharing with me all the things my sisters were doing for him. The gifts received. Blah, blah, blah. I barely listened. I’m tired of feeling hurt.

He and I used to have a close relationship. Well, a closer relationship. A relationship my mother was always so very jealous of. And so, my mother has come between us and we barely have a relationship at all.

When the conversation came to a close I said, “Well, I hope you have a great day, Dad. I love you!” And he said, “Thanks for calling.”

Click.

No “I love you, too.”

I suppose that was my sting for this year.

(And because I can’t possibly end on that sad note I’ll share with you a favorite clip from Bill Cosby. One of my dad’s favorite comedians – and one we thought my dad resembled: sense of humor, facial expressions. I could use a little giggle right about now.)

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31 Comments

Filed under family, Lessons Learned

31 responses to “When Father’s Day Is A Fat Hen’s Day

  1. Steven Harris

    That was quite a sting 😦 I KNow I am quite cynical when it comes to many public holidays and other date landmarks across the year but sometimes these occasions seem to do nothing more than remind an awful lot of people about the dysfunction and/or estrangement of their relationships with certain family members. It’s such a shame as the whole idea is to connect with those people, let them know they are thought of and loved. But, just as we’ll never cure the common cold, we’ll never really soothe family dynamics to the point where we can pretty much all look back on our childhoods with well-earned rose-tinted glasses.
    Anyway, happy Monday 😀

  2. angelcel

    This brought back some specific memories of incidents with my *mother* which were not dissimilar to what you describe.
    Now, in hindsight, I just think that if the gifts are so important then it says something rather sad about the person. It also has to be said that our parents’ generation often lack the ‘subtlety gene’ so your Dad may well have no idea at all how hurtful he has been. As Steve says, these celebratory days are so often fraught for so many reasons but I think the best you can do is to focus on the good day that *your* family had. In other words history will not be repeating itself.

    Sorry this happened.

  3. Wow, this could have been my parents, my mom. I know we’ve talked a little about this before. Yes, we’re grown now and trying to break these cycles with our own families. But it still hurts. It’s so beyond my understanding.
    Some wounds, I think, stay a little raw forever.
    Love you Jane!

  4. OK, do we have the same father too and that’s why we’re so much alike? I know EXACTLY how you feel and I’m so sorry. Those moments where you feel like you are 7 years old again and gave your dad a “fat hens” card suck big time. I’m so sorry…here’s a big “my dads suck too” hug!! (I have 2 suckeroos…aren’t I lucky?)

  5. I have a friend who has never really talked about her father, but over the weekend I found out that he set their house on fire to claim insurance money. The kicker? She and her sisters, all under the age of 10, were asleep in the house at the time. The only reason they survived is because their mom smelled smoke.

    She married a wonderful man with a wonderful father, and marvels that she lucked out and has learned about how fathers should be in the actions of her husband and father-in-law.

    The older I get the more I realize that those with really great dads, really “DAD” dads, are the exception rather than the rule. As the daughter of an alcoholic, pretty much absent, father, I wish in this case that I wasn’t part of the majority.

    Sigh. I’m sorry, Jane. Life? Stinks sometimes.

  6. Oh, that’s sad, Jane. I’m sorry your dad has been so hurtful. Whether he realized it or not, the pain is there and still remains.

    I have never been close to my dad. He was always there, but not *present*. He didn’t grow up in a loving family – his parents didn’t talk about feelings. Neither does he. I remember when I was a teenager, something was going on between my parents and I thought they might get a divorce. It didn’t bother me at all. I was happy with just my mom. He changed over the last 5 years or so, which has made my mom happy, and he’s trying. I think he’s making up for things with my children, which I’m happy about. But I don’t think we’ll ever be close.

    Sorry! I didn’t mean to make this about me! All this to say that I’m sorry your feelings are hurt… some memories/feelings just don’t go away. But I’m glad you’re making happy Father’s Day memories with your own little family. Take care.

  7. These things just never go away sometimes. Sending you hugs.

  8. I am so sorry that he acted this way Jane. I can relate as the only father I have ever known is my step-dad and he and I have never been very close. After everything that has been going on with my parents’ relationship this year, I didn’t even end up going to visit him on Father’s day and I waited until 9:30pm to call him.

  9. Oh Jane I feel for you I really do. I had (and still have) a father who always said ‘is that good?’ in response to whatever achievement had happened (a A in an exam, passing a driving test etc etc) – he pissed on my bonfire every time. My mother knows that I have a degree but couldn’t tell you what it was in – her lack of interest is legendary. I have had the playing my brothers off against me all my life. I SWORE to myself and my children that I wouldn’t be like my parents and I’m not – and I know that I’m not because I ask them and they tell me. I have got to the stage with my parents where I keep it short and sweet and don’t tell them everything. Life is far simpler that way. Sad but true – but a self preservation tactic par excellence. Keep your chin up. x

  10. Ouch. That would sting all right. He probably has no idea. That sort of thoughtlessness is just that…thoughtless.

  11. Either your Dad has no idea how hurtful he is being (which I doubt) or he is doing things deliberately. Either way I think it is worth having a conversation with him and telling him very honestly how you feel. If he reacts well then it will have been worthwhile. If he shows that he does not care then you know he is simply not worth bothering over and that you should just get on with the life you have now. I am so sorry you have such sadness over your relationship with your Dad.

  12. How frustrating, Jane, to have a childhood slight revisited upon you in your adulthood! I hope that your dad’s insensitivity didn’t detract from your enjoyment of your day with your family – and that you get a lot of comfort from knowing how much you are doing as a parent to ensure that your kids won’t ever feel the way your dad made you feel.

  13. Jane, sending you a virtureal hug. The sting is strong, but hope you are taking comfort from the memories you made with your children and their father.

    So sorry you experienced this.

  14. My mother is like this, not only with the presents I get her, but the ones I get my Dad. The last thing I bought for her she said “Great another trip to the charity shop” meaning she was going to give my gift away because it was no use to her. Everything I get is wrong. “Your father doesn’t wear short sleeved shirts anymore” was what she said about my gift to Dad. But if I said anything like that to her….my life wouldn’t be worth living.

    • My mouth is hanging open. Stunned. But I don’t know why – I’ve heard very similar comments in my lifetime from family members. Wrong. So very, very wrong.

  15. It took me many many years to come to grips with my feelings for my father. To recognize that, as my father, I had to respect his position. But I did not have to like him. And I did not have to bend over backwards to try to please him. Unfortunately, even parents come with baggage far too often. All we can do is make sure our kids don’t have to go through the same garbage. So hug your husband and your kids, look yourself in the eye (using a mirror would be good) and remind yourself that you’re just fine. And your dad isn’t and he just can’t help himself, for whatever reason.

  16. Oh Jane … I’m sorry. I hear the rawness of the old hurt in your words.

    It surprises me how sharply past injuries can sting when they are so far in the past, but how I know that sting well. I wish I knew how to lessen it for both of us.

  17. barrymanana

    I know a lot of people who say the same about their fathers/mothers, and I can say without exception they are considerate, loving parents who wouldn’t dream of treating their children in this way.

    I think sometimes you just have to hand it down, rather than pull it down. Your father may be a non-returnable valve – you are not. That’s where your strength lies.

  18. I’m so sorry, Jane… It’s tough, having a relationship like that… I do hope, though, that you can either mend your relationship or that it stops hurting as much as it does, because as you said, you’re sick of being hurt.

  19. There is just no excuse. For making fun of a child’s hard and earnest efforts. For diminishing the monetary value of a thoughtful gift. No excuse at all. You’re thoughtful to have sent even a card this year.

    I’m so sorry the day was soured for you like this. Perhaps next year you can focus on the local version of Father’s Day.

  20. ck

    I am so sorry, Jane. My mouth dropped when I read that. I don’t know you nearly the way your family does, but I think you are one of the most sincere and thoughtful people I’ve met. I can’t imagine finding fault in you…or your gifts. You are a wonderful, wonderful woman. (((hugs)))

  21. I know that people, even parents, resort to humor when they feel awkward sometimes. I can still remember some stings from my mother and I’m sure my own kids have a list of hurtful things I’ve said in cluelessness, but your father seems to have a special knack. Others have wounded by his rapier tongue too, I guess. . . ?

    It makes my eyes mist to picture the earnest child who wrote the words and was mocked for her efforts. I wish you could take it away from your father to claim it as your own and smile at your most clever lazy r which sent a fractured message. Even then you were a writer.

    Hugs to you.

  22. unabridgedgirl

    Wow. A lot of stings there, and the last one would make me feel horrible, too. Lots of hugs your way, Jane, and I hope that things turn up for you soon.

  23. ((you)) My heart hurt just reading this. Wish I lived next door so I could make you a strong cocktail and a Fat Hen’s day card out of your father’s scalp.

  24. Thank you ALL for your kind words, support and love. You truly are the best bunch of blogging buddies a girl could ask for!

  25. Words rarely fail me, but Jane, I simply cannot find the right words to describe how I felt after reading this. It’s inconceivable to me the insensitivity displayed in those moments. It’s a tribute to you that you want to still remember the happy times. It’s a bigger tribute that you have taken steps not to repeat history.

    I heard once that a person can’t have peace until they find all the pieces. Perhaps you do need to collect all the pieces of the past and clear the air with him. Then the burden of change rests with him. If he cannot/will not apologize and see how this has hurt you, then you can decide whether keeping a relationship is in your best interest.

    But, really, I just can’t find the words… so a cyber hug will have to do…{{{{{{big hugs}}}}}}

  26. That sucks. *hugs* Sometimes parents forget to be parents.

  27. I’m sorry, Jane! I feel you pain and frustration.
    Some problems cannot be fixed. And that is what grieves my heart the most. We all have things to work against. If my husband’s mom hadn’t hit him one to many times, he wouldn’t have the need to stand up for those who are hurt. You are kind and generous and loving, perhaps in opposition to these stings.

  28. absurdoldbird

    Despite the video at the end (which actually seems to be supporting your father’s side rather than yours), your post rang bells for me. I’ve had relatives (and sadly, so-called friends) like this who’ve given the wrong response at the wrong time. I suppose that life gets in the way of emotion as far as they are concerned, or maybe they just never really connect.

    Laughing at a child, particularly a parent laughing at their own child, and not being aware that it’s a sensitive human being with feelings, is entirely wrong. Fair enough if you and your dad had been having a laugh, sharing a joke or something like that, but you weren’t. Your gift to him was given with love and he didn’t seem to ‘get’ what it was about.

    There’s a post I’ve written about stuff in my own childhood (though not to do with my parents) that I must put into my blog one of these days.

    Thank you for sharing this. I do believe the positive in ones life should be balanced up with the negative, otherwise how are we to know we all have something in common? Peoples lives do not all run smoothly.

    Be well.

    Val

  29. I don’t have anything wise to say to help you navigate this the next time you have to face it again. I just want to give you this:
    XXOO {{{{hugs}}}}}

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