It’s Personal

May 10th, 2010

No photo today. This isn’t about photography.

And that’s not how I do things here. I started this blog as a place to show my recent photo work and talk about what I was doing with photography. I’m not big on putting a lot about my personal life on line. But I feel I need to make an exception, so here goes.

I’ve received a lot of very nice messages and comments expressing condolences on the death of my father. Your thoughts and thoughtfulness are greatly appreciated. Unfortunately, my situation is not typical and most likely not what most of you are thinking it is. So I feel the need to explain a bit.

My father and I were not close. In fact, he wasn’t my birth father. My mother married her second husband when I was about two years old. He adopted me. But he never treated me as his son. I was just an obligation he took on when he married my mother. As a child I didn’t have the tools to understand, but I knew something wasn’t right.

As I grew up there were many conflicts between my father and myself. Eventually I started to be aware of him being cruel and abusive toward my children and I stopped taking my children to visit him. That also cut my kids off from contact with their grandmother, but I wasn’t going to allow my father to do emotional and spiritual harm to my children.

After my children had pretty much grown up I started to visit again, and even encouraged my children to visit, although they seldom did because of the toxic environment surrounding my father.

My mother died about 5 years ago. In the aftermath of my father’s death I learned, to no real surprise, that he had removed me from his will after my mother’s death. One final hurt delivered from beyond the grave.

The financial impact of that is insignificant. The insult to my mother is troubling. If I believed in heaven it would be fun to imagine her up there kicking his ass. But my children assure me that they know they have something that I have never had: a father who cares deeply about them and loves them unconditionally. So it was a small price to pay to keep them safe from the hurtfulness that I’ve had to deal with throughout my life.

So, this has been a very complicated time of grief, but also of bonding within the healthy and loving family I’ve created. Creating that family was a challenge for me since I had no role model for how to be a good father.

It’s been very hard for me to focus on much other than this for the past couple weeks. But the storm is clearing and I’m going to be getting back to work and back to blogging. I’ll have new things here again soon.

I’m concerned that this all sounds whiny and complaining. I don’t want it to sound that way. There are huge numbers of people in this world who have much more to complain about. My issues are minor in comparison. I am fortunate to have a loving wife and wonderful children. I am who I am because of all the things that have happened in my life, including my relationship with my father. And I’m pretty happy with who I am and the life I’ve made for myself. So I really don’t want to complain.

Quoting from the Desiderata:

“…Be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be, and whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul. With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world.”

Thank you all for being a part of my life and for caring. I’ve always been a little suspicious of the whole on-line friend thing, but over time I’ve met a lot of my on-line friends in person and I have yet to be disappointed in the people behind the web presences. You are all a bunch of great folks. Thanks.

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5 Responses to “It’s Personal”

  1. 1Dave Rudin
    May 11th, 2010 @ 4:29 pm

    I'm glad to hear that you're finally getting past this, DL. You had told me long ago about the situation with your stepdad, but I guess that even losing someone who had that kind of relationship with you enacts a certain emotional toll.

  2. 2Super Girl
    May 11th, 2010 @ 9:19 pm

    I believe that when you get to a certain age you get to decide emotionally who your parents are, and are not. You no longer are bound to biologically pick your parents. Does that make sense?

    At any rate, the man I call my dad is a man I share no DNA with but he couldn't be anymore my father if he did. The man I used to call dad and who I do share DNA with stopped being my dad when I was about 25 years old.

    The child I gave birth to at 19 years is not my son nor am I his mom. His mom is the woman who has loved and cared for him his whole life. My son has no dad. The tool whose sperm met up with my egg is not his dad, he just donated some DNA.

    All of that said, this man was still a member of your family and your history. You are entitled to whatever emotions his death caused and that doesn't make you whiny or anything else.

    Do you suppose he shaped the wonderful father you are by showing you the type of father not to be? Food for thought and big hugs.

  3. 3unbearable lightness
    May 12th, 2010 @ 7:46 am

    Dave, in my own family upheavals, I have found we come to deal with these hurts, but it's unlikely we can ever erase their influence. It's good for you to reflect on the past and talk to those close to you about it. Advice from any of us would be inappropriate, as each case has to be digested and dealt with by you and you alone, but I will say I have rediscovered my father's brother and his lovely family. It took my nephew's death and estrangement from my mother to bring this about. They have lived across the country all my life and always kept at an arm's distance, but I recently learned all the history no one told me, and now I not only understand why but also have a whole new family. I guess I am saying there may be some good in this if you go forward with an open heart, as I know you will.

    Big hugs.

  4. 4D.L. Wood
    May 18th, 2010 @ 12:50 pm

    Super Girl hit on the note that came to my mind as I read your post.

    My father is my biological father. In my early years we had what I thought was a normal father son relationship. But as I grew and matured, got married, had a child, I awoke to the realities of what was really an abusive relationship.

    It wasn't anything physical, he only once grabbed me in anger, his was all mental. Words and attitude can build a child, give them love, hope, confidence – but – also can leave them lonely, confused, hurt and scared. And I feel those scars are worse.

    My mother died in 2000 after suffering for over 50 years. I told her repeatedly to leave but she wouldn't. My sister has forgiven him. I can't unless he will tell me to my face he's sorry. He's 81 and hasn't even come close to it so I won't hold my breath.

    He has been in and out of the hospital recently. I have seen him more in the last month than in the last 10 years and he lives 4 miles from me. I visit, I check his house, I pay his bills, take him to the doctor, doing what needs to be done as a friend of mine says. Do I do it out of love and respect – no – I do it because I'm a son and that comes with a certain load we have to carry and it's also to keep my sister happy.

    So Super Girls is right. My Dad didn't show me how to be the person, husband, and father I am by being a good and positive role model but by being a negative and poor one.

    So your concern of being whiny and complaining is unfounded. Your story like mine and many others just has some dark parts. You also turned the negative into positive and because of circumstances you felt that it needed to be brought up. I thank you for sharing.

    I come to this conversation a little late as I was in Mexico for my daughters wedding. I walked her across the sand and gave her to the guy that replaces me as the most important man in her life. As I remember them standing together saying their vows as the sun set over the Pacific – I know she is in a lot better place than I was at that age.

    D.L. Wood

  5. 5Lisa Renee
    May 18th, 2010 @ 11:35 pm

    Sending you my condolences, not so much on the passing of the man who tried to be your father but for your new awareness that you are dealing with in light of all that has happened.
    It is not easy being grown adults sometimes as our youthful innocence has been taken over by reality…however painful that reality becomes it is still a time for us to grow. We learn from our pasts on all accounts but believe that our parents teach us the most. Parenting is a hard job at times & there is no rule books but we give it our best & that's all we can do. "Best" NOT being abuse of any kind & have found myself that verbal/mental abuse lasts much longer than psycical in so many ways as we go about trying to live our adult lives.
    I'm glad you're clearing your mind of all the toxic past you've had to deal with, can now lay all to rest & continue to move forward on your life's journey. Sounds as if you have done a tremdous job raising your children & that's what matters the most!
    All my best to you during this hard time & my blessings on your future!
    We all know what you are capable of producing as you have shown the world your many talents….sometimes the hardest challenges in life make us even better & you certainly have done this by far 🙂
    Lisa XOXO

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Photos and comments by Dave Levingston. This is the place to see my most recent work which may include nudes, dance, landscape, nature and whatever other kinds of photos I feel like taking.

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