A Poem for My Father

I didn’t think he cared.
Twice weekly visits
seemed enough for him,
A dinner, a chat, an update
on life and school.
No more, no less.
Neither shallow nor deep.
A hug goodbye, a wave,
the door would shut, we would drive away
and our life would go on.

It wasn’t until years later
in rage, as we crossed
swords and words
that the truth came out.
He’d been lonely, he’d been sad.
Saying goodbye
broke his heart every time.

He hid it behind the man
he’d been raised to be.
A man who holds it inside
and shows no pain.
A man, a family man,
who woke up,
went to work,
wrote the checks
paid the bills
cleaned his kitchen
took out the trash
locked the doors
turned off the lights
climbed the stairs to his bedroom
in a house where he had
no one
to protect.

(Dedicated to my father, Michael)

By Alison Patton
copyright January 2015
All rights reserved

  • Teresa

    Beautiful poem Alison! Thank you so much for sharing it with us.

    • http://divorcedoc.net Alison Patton

      Thank you for the unexpected compliment!
      One of my favorite skits on Saturday Night Live was “Bad Ballet.” A dancer would execute some fake ballet moves and the ballet master would say admiringly, “Oh, now that is very very bad.” I’m waiting for someone to say that about my poetry. LOL

  • Smith267

    I found this poem while looking to comment on your “Uncle Dad” article and saw a similar thread here. What if Uncle Dads are the way they are because they have been pushed to the side in their children’s lives and that’s best way for them to cope? What if they feel they need to focus on fun with their children, instead of responsibilities because they only have minimal visitation? You talk about how as a child you thought your father didn’t care, because he only had minimal visits, but what if he was fighting behind the scenes to get more time and was thwarted by your mother at every turn? I’m not saying that this happened in your case, but I think sometimes Uncle Dads become Uncle Dads because divorced moms work hard to make them a secondary parent. Please write an article about divorced moms who insist on “winning” and showing themselves to be the only parent after divorce. I think that’s just as common as Uncle Dads, but perhaps less obvious because many of these mothers also present themselves as the martyr who has to do everything because they are divorced.

    • apatton

      Hi Smith267, thank you for commenting and I will do my best to respond.
      My parents divorced when I was 17 and they had a friendly divorce where my all my siblings and I were able to spend time with each of them as much as we wanted. (I wrote an article on Huffpost about my parents, called “Sucking it Up for the Kids” which will give you an idea of what my parent’s divorce was like.)
      My dad wasn’t an Uncle Dad, and my article about Uncle Dads stems from observing this pattern in certain cases throughout many years of practicing family law. However, I do understand your point, which is that some mothers try to alienate the father and can minimize visitation time as a result. I have seen that as well. The Uncle Dad, however, is a different phenomenon. This is when a father has significant custody time and isn’t able to step up to the plate as a responsible father because of self-absorption, immaturity and often narcissistic tendencies. Yes, there are definitely mothers who have other patterns, and actually part of my work as a mediator involves discussions with traditional mothers who are struggling with those feelings of “ownership” related to the children because they were the stay-home spouse. And I have a number of stay-home fathers in mediation who have the same struggle during divorce. Part of the mediation process is helping couples talk about and come to recognize the importance of two parents being involved in the children’s lives. A lot of my clients resolve their cases with some form of shared custody, which can work well when both parents are mature and truly involved with the kids. I get the sense you’re dealing with a BPD in your divorce, based on your two comments on my blog. That’s got to be very very difficult, and explains a lot why you are feeling the way you’re feeling. That personality does tend to claim “ownership” of the children and plays the martyr and undermines the co-parenting process.