I was so excited! My dad and I never spent that much time together — he was busy working constantly. A large family requires hard work; he had a lot of mouths to feed.
But now — my dad wanted to take a special car ride with me. Just he and I.
We got into the family car and began driving around. We chatted, though our conversation was filled with awkward silences. He and I didn’t have a lot in common. I took on the burden of leading the conversation. I went on with stories of school and friends and church. My dad listened quietly and responded when apt.
Then, he decided to speak up.
“So, Dean, how is music stuff going?”
Now this was a treat for sure! I had just started playing flute and I was loving it! I was actually really good too! I joined the band at school and was gearing up to join the orchestra at church. I was reaching the point of needing my own flute (I was borrowing one at this point) and was looking at options for it.
I began going on and on about flute and music and everything it could mean. This was a crucial time for me — I was 10 years old and I finally had an interest that was mine, my own, and I was excelling at it.
As I excitedly went on, my dad interrupted me. “Dean, how much will a flute cost?”
I had been bracing myself for this question. Instruments could be expensive. But I knew how to do this. I had practiced this over and over again. I gave my spiel to him and was determined to win him over.
“So it would only be a few hundred dollars,” I summed up, “and that would last me for a long time, Dad. It could be my birthday and Christmas gift for this year and maybe next year too!”
I was satisfied — my case was made, my point made clear. My dad had to agree. We stopped at a light and then he looked across the seat at me.
“Dean, I will give you any amount of money you ask for…if you promise never to play flute again.”
“That is a woman’s instrument and I cannot believe you would ever consider playing it.”
“But, Dad,” I whispered, “I really like flute and I’m actually good at it. Please let me play it.” I don’t know why I was now so determined to play this instrument. But I just couldn’t let it go. I begged and begged. My dad took us home without speaking until we pulled into the driveway.
“You can keep playing flute,” he said, “but know that I am disappointed in you, son. I am disappointed that you would play a woman’s instrument. And I will never feel any differently.”
Years later, he would apologize for this; sadly, you can’t undo that kind of damage.
Our relationship would never be anything but completely fractured, even to this day.
Have you experienced a fracturing moment with your father? How did you deal with the hurt, and has the separation healed?
* Photo courtesy Javier Boelle, Creative Commons.