There is an expectation that a father will protect his daughter. The truth is, he can destroy her as no other can. He is her first love. Her first champion.
Finding the beat of a stolen heart
Story by Faye Bayko / Photo by Dorothy Bayko
My father died of prostrate cancer in March of 2010 and each Father’s Day since I’ve been unable to bring myself to pay homage to the role he played in my life. Nor have I marked the anniversary of his death as I have for my mother. She had died four months earlier of bowel cancer, and each year since I have driven to a pub on November 25 to toast her memory. My reluctance to do the same for my father has its roots in how my relationship with each of them changed within the last few years of their lives. I’m sure my mother and I were close when I was young, but I have no memory of it. What I do remember is how hard it was for each of us to understand why the other did what they did. We were opposites. She was a homebody. I wanted nothing more than to escape.
But with my father, I had always thought we were close, that we were the same, and that I was his favorite because of that. I grew up believing that although we argued over the dinner table, throwing out challenging statements, daring the other to defend beliefs or positions─that he got me. He just got me.
I was wrong.
He did and said things as he approached his death that negated my belief in him, and therefore myself. I was left feeling as if he had reached into my chest and ripped out my heart, still beating, and carried it into the grave with him. I became like the walking dead. Who and what I was had been stolen from me and I couldn’t even ask him, why?
He was dead.
It wasn’t as if I didn’t know he could be cruel. I’d grown up listening to him cutting my mother down in front of anyone who was nearby. His comments about her weight or her ability to do anything well were usually cloaked in sarcastic humour, but not always. Sometimes I would correct him but as I grew up, I felt my mother should stand up for herself.
After my father died, I spent four years screaming my pain into the dark, knowing it was fruitless expecting answers, but doing it anyway. The hole in my chest wept, my life force dripping down the front of me as I ached for what had been taken from me. My husband tried comforting me by telling me his parents loved me, but I’d cry even more. His parents were nice but they weren’t mine. They couldn’t give my childhood, my identity, back to me. It had been taken to the grave with my father.
Then I started to write again.
Journal entries turned into a web page, the development of which forced me to go through all the branding exercises necessary for the development of a business. Slowly, over the following five years, I began defining who I was, what I stood for, and realized some of those definitions came from my father. The challenges yelled across the dinner table had taught me how to stand up and defend myself.
So, I did.
Thump-thump, thump-thump, thump-thump.