The Father Effect

A silhouette of a father and his young child playing baseball outside, isolated against the sunsetting sky on a summer day.

I always felt that the odds were stacked against me. I was continuing to just scrape by to pay rent, utilities, and an employee or two.  Having no parental help wasn’t even the chip that I had on my shoulder. The lack of people believing in me wasn’t what held me back, it is what drove me.

 

I had little contact with either of my parents during this time of my life, and it lasted a few years.  I wasn’t fully aware of where my mother was, and my father cared more about my athletic career than whether I would succeed in life.  I went several years without a family Christmas or Thanksgiving. I spent mine with friends’ or significant others’ families.

 

I remember once during the last few months that I lived with my parents, my father telling me how big of a failure I was destined to be.  “You’ll never make it.  You will just sleep in and mess things up for yourself.”  I made nearly straight A’s for years, signed to play college baseball, was never once suspended or arrested during my life (knock on wood), but it wasn’t close to enough.  Perpetual Dissatisfaction. 

 

To be fair, I made mistakes as any high school kid does.  Who would have thought a 16 year wouldn’t use perfect judgement?  This was the rational behind his assumption that I would not make it.  He took it a step further by seeming to root from my failure, just to prove himself correct.

Backwards thinking based on outdated information and cultural norms complicated things.  There was a blatant racism, homophobia, and especially xenophobia.

“My dad didn’t believe in it, so I didn’t believe in it,”  my father would say about marijuana.  “It’s for niggers.”  When asked about his U.S. foreign policy views, he boldly stated, “If it were up to me, I’d push a button and nuke all the Muslims off the earth.” All of his views came from sentiments from 1950’s shared to him by his father, which came from science of the 1940’s.

When you’re taught Christian values and these types of views are mixed in, it begins to not feel very Christ-like.  I am no religious studies or Biblical expert, but from what I have read, Christ was understanding and accepting of all people, lifestyles, and cultures.  No matter your religious beliefs, the Bible portrays Jesus as kind and heeling. Not judgmental and condemning.

Despite the odds, I had made it.  Not to the top, but I made it somewhere.  

 

More than sleeping on the ground with the roaches, I remember the joyous thrill of accomplishment.  I was able to assemble some glass display cases that gave my place a semi-professional vibe.  But it wasn’t enough to succeed to make me feel whole. It is cliche to pull a classic “seeking the approval of my father” move.  But who doesn’t want that? Especially when you have one that constantly told you that you would fail. Hi, I am human nature. Nice to meet you.

 

The day came. I invited my father, and he agreed to come see my store.  In a selfish way, it was redemption. A chance to prove the nay-sayers wrong.  All day I dreamed of the dumb-founded look on his face when it finally hit him in the face of how wrong he had been about me.  But the conversation we had will never escape my memory:

“See dad? I told you I would start a successful business!  Now I have a store all to myself,” I proclaimed.
“That’s great. But let’s see you stay open for 6 months and then come talk to me,” He said with a grin on his face.

 

My heart immediately sank. But I immediately came to a helpful realization.  I made my mind up right then that there would be no changing his mind.  I promised myself to give up the quest to impress him and went back to work proving it to myself...