Sunday is Father’s Day. Rather than marking it with declarations about why our fathers are the greatest, or how-to guides on buying Dad the best ties or tools, Yahoo News solicited first-person anecdotes about the contentious or disagreeable moments we’ve had with our fathers. Here’s one reader’s story.
FIRST PERSON | My late father, Marvin Barnes, died in 2000. Nonetheless, our father-to-son relationship could be very difficult because he really didn’t understand me or my then-undiagnosed Asperger’s Syndrome.
Because of my difference, it would cause me to act out a lot in frustration and keep to myself. My father could often be very verbally cruel and threatening when I did something inappropriate.
Let me share one incident that happened to me when I was growing up in Casper, Wyo., one very sunny afternoon circa 1981 when he was 51 and I was 14.
Summer vacation was often a tough time for me because I had trouble making and keeping friends. So I stayed home a lot and tried to make the most of being helplessly bored and alone. Nonetheless, I had so much pain and anger inside of me that when my father chided me for hanging around the house too much and not having any friends, I blew up. I shouted, “Let me tell you something…” and proceed to tell him that I didn’t appreciate his judgments on me, and all that ever happens to me is bad stuff, etc.
My father let me air my grievances, and then he looked at me and said, “Let me tell you something…” He then told me that he would basically whip me so hard with a belt that it would cut the blood out of me if I ever talked that way again to him. (Actually, his whippings were never as bad as he advertised.) But he also told me that I had to do complete a little written assignment, which was to list all the bad things I felt had happened to me and we’d discuss it.
I was really angry that I had to do this after he had just threatened and spoke harshly to me. The first thing I listed that I considered “bad” was falling in love because the girl I had fallen in love with caused me to be so afraid of her, that I never even tried to ask her out or let her know how I felt. Furthermore, I wasn’t getting anywhere with any other girls.
When my father saw it, he said, “How is this bad? This isn’t bad because you actually loved someone.”
Yes, that’s how my father was. After he threatened to whip me or chewed me out, he could turn around and could be so conversational with me, even as we often debated politics or sports or when giving me practical advice about life.
There were times when I felt nothing but contempt for my father. But as I have gotten older, I find that it’s the positive values that he instilled in me, from having a strong work ethic and being honest, that stay with me. My dad was a good blue-collar man, but was no nonsense and arbitrary at times. I wish I had more understanding from him.