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Friday, June 14, 2002
      ( 8:23 PM ) Jackie  

Tis the Season: Father's Day, Summer Solstice, and Other Stuff

It’s sad that Father’s Day coincides with the Summer Solstice.

I heard a program today on KPFA that goes beyond the simple correlation of dates. Indeed, it hooked up father’s day, the patriarchial pantheon, the constellations, and the summer solstice. I think their connection of the Slavic people’s tradition of building bonfires and the U.S. custom of men barbecuing tons of beef was tongue in cheek. But it’s hard to tell these days.

I had planned to stick with my Slavic ancestors and dance around a bonfire, but my friend Lisa is having a barbecue on Sunday. Hah!

In any case, fathers day is a little foreign to me. My father died when I was seven and was around rather intermittently before that. He was in prison some of the time; other times he was off looking for a job in some state other than the one in which we were then living. (We moved a lot before we settled in that little cement block house between Zion and Winthrop Harbor when I was 6.)

A therapist once tried to frame his wandering and his gambling and drinking as a adventurousness; but it never quite took. He was only 33 when he died in an automobile accident but he had managed to wreak a fair amount of havoc by then, having been an abusive husband and father.

My mother’s father died when she was two years old; her mother following when my mother was fourteen. My father’s father was another abusive man—no big surprise, just living testimony of the generational cycle of abuse.

Of course, knowledge of these things often comes later in life, so it is only in retrospect that I came to realize that my father experience has not been good. As a child, , I was certain I took all my best qualities from my (dead) father. I knew he must be smart and kind and magical and that everything that was wrong with my life was because he was not there. He was quite handsome in his photo, with black hair and brown eyes, wearing spectacles that added to his look of intelligence in my young perspective.

Here’s a picture I submitted to Choire and Philo’s Trailer Park Trash contest. Judge for yourself. By the way, while I was the proud recipient of the Authenticity Award there was not prize attached to the award, so don’t be thinking that was nepotism!

It is my father’s side of the family that we believe to be Native American. Story has it that his grandmother on his father’s side was Native American. Of course no one actually knows if that’s true since his mother (my “Grandma Louise”) was scandalized when he tried to tell stories about that part of the family. Perhaps my belief that his stories were true is a remnant of my earlier idolizing of my father. Or maybe it's because my grandfather was names "John Mojave Miller" and I don't think that middle name came from the claimed Germanic and English ancestry. But who knows, maybe somebody crossed the desert while making their way to Garland, Texas.

In any case I am totally in the dark about what it means to have a father, much less to have the kind of companionship and love that people talk about. I don’t mean to be whining--or anyways not justwhining. It’s more that I’m clueless about what that would be like. It’s sort of a familial version of not having a sense of taste or smell I think.

So, y’all! Dance around the flames, barbecue that beef, and take some time to look at the stars. And if the mood strikes you, celebrate Father’s Day in whatever manner seems suitable to your own experience. (And I learned to talk in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, so I get to say ‘”y’all”, y’all!

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Words and photos from Jackie in Oakland, CA. More I cannot tell you ... I won't know what it is until I do it.

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