To see your parent as they were as a child can be a very moving experience. I recently came across a photo of my dad when he was between the age of 4 and 5. In the picture with him are his two sisters. Every time I look at this picture I start to cry. Sometimes I cry just thinking about the sweet faces in that picture.
Those sweet little ones in this picture didn’t have a normal childhood. Their father was an alcoholic, the youngest of 3 brothers, and according to my father, spoiled. Their mother, like so many women still do today, folllwing her husband around from honky tonk to honky tonk, trying to make him happy. My dad told me many many times that the best thing that ever happened to him was being sent to his grandparents to live. When my dad and his sisters were together, they didn’t tell sad tales. They laughed and recalled happy times. But if you listened closely the reality of their upbringing was there.
My dad had happy times with his grandparents, his Uncle Mack, his Uncle Dick and his Aunt Lizzie. He told me his Aunt Lizzie would take him to the Presbyterian church every Sunday. He always enjoyed going to church, even if he didn’t go on a regular basis. His Uncle Mack was really more like a mother to him. Both of his grandparents died when he was in his early teens and his Uncle Mack continued to look after him. He told me he was always a little scared of his Uncle Dick because he always seemed mad. But after he got older he said he realized that his Uncle Dick carried the weight of the work on the farm and had to listen constantly to his parents (my dad’s grandparents) talk about how wonderful and successful Theb (my dad’s father) was.
My dad loved me completely and totally unconditionally. He told me on more than one occasion that the day I was born was the happiest day of his life. That when he looked at me at the hospital he knew that here was someone that was going to love him forever. That I belonged to him and he belonged to me. When my sister was born, they only took boy clothes to the hospital. My dad went out and bought the frillest, girliest, outfit that he could find. My mother thought he would be disappointed that he didn’t have a son. But I think he was just thrilled to have 2 people that were completely and totally his.
So when I look at this picture, I see his hand protectively on his baby sister and his other sister leaning into him, as if for protection. They seem timid and vulnerable to me. They are young, I know.
Life isn’t always perfect. The three children in this picture didn’t spend their lives complaining or blaming their upbringing for any problems they encountered in their lives. They may have made their own mistakes. But as for me I always felt safe, happy, and loved in my father’s house.