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Friday, May 23, 2008

Training Wheels

I mentioned in yesterday's Meme that I miss my Dad, and I do. Thankfully, I have many happy memories of him from childhood, before our family exploded into smithereens. I've mentioned that I was a "Daddy's girl", so as we approach June, I often think of him, of the fact I was nearly born on Father's day (Dad was SO hoping for that gift that year!), and of course, of our happy memories. Even the "disasters" of love gone awry are sweet, sweet memories that pack a punch even today.

My Dad was an unflagging optimist who stubbornly held onto ideas even when they were proven to be wrong...because they had to work! They just had to! And so he would try the same things again and again, making minor adjustments, sure that eventually the "formula" would be right and there would be success.

Unfortunately, sometimes his ideas, with love as the foundation, intruded into reality in ways he did not intend.

As a "Daddy's Girl", I always wanted to be around him and I trusted him implicitly; in my eyes, he could do no wrong. And so, when it came time for me to learn how to ride a bike, Dad was right there for me. I had been riding with training wheels, but Dad felt maybe it was time to give me my own wings. He knew I was afraid of falling, so I wouldn't let him take the training wheels off. Dad understood, so he studied the problem and came up with a solution.

He would leave the training wheels on...but he'd raise them a little bit. That way, as I rode, if I started to lose my balance, the bike would tip down on the wheel, which would be enough to stop it from tipping, and I'd be able to work to right it again. I agreed this idea was logical. Many things operate on such a principal...it was a "safety catch" of sorts. So I let him move the wheels.

Trusting Daddy, I got up on my bike, and started to pedal. And then I lost my balance...and spilled hard onto the pavement. I got up crying, and Dad dried my tears, assured me I was fine, and said he thought he knew what the problem was. He adjusted the wheels again, thinking that he'd put the training wheels up too high...if he lowered them, the idea would still work.

OK.

So off I went again...and crashed! And again, I was crying, and I didn't want to fall again so I told Dad his idea didn't work and I wanted the training wheels back like they were. Dad was very very sorry, but he asked for another chance, because he KNEW this idea would work! So, still trusting Daddy, trusting that all would be well, and his promises that I wouldn't crash, I let him adjust the training wheels again.

You see where I'm going with this, don't you? Yup. I crashed again. It was just like Charlie Brown and Lucy with the football. Over and over again. And that time, I was done crashing. I couldn't handle this any more, and I was really really crying. And this time when I got up I ran inside to get Mom. Because it really DID hurt when I hit the gravel and pavement, and I really was all scraped up, and although I knew Daddy really did think his idea would work, my bruises proved him wrong.

I still remember my dad's stricken expression as I ran away from him, refusing to be comforted, going to Mom, and my Dad turning again to his work, trying hard to help me learn how to ride a bike through proper mechanics.

Mom and my older brother (by 2 years) talked him into putting the training wheels as they were. And finally they all coaxed me out to get me to ride again, and Dad proved to me that the wheels were just as they had been, and he was really really sorry that I'd fallen before. And I accepted his apology and gingerly got on the bike...and rode off into the sunset.

Or at least down to the end of the street and back. A few weeks later, one of my brother's friends observed, "She's just dragging those wheels...she's riding all by herself." But I didn't believe him, as usually, they were always teasing me. I didn't want to crash. It took them a few days but finally I was convinced of their sincerity and allowed my brother's friend to take the wheels off.

I was terrified, but desperately wanted to trust I really could do this. I really did want to ride my bike, all by myself! So I began to pedal...and didn't tip! So I pedaled a little more...still going! I got to the end of the block, turned around, and rode past the house, triumphant, joyful, and proud! And I only wished Dad had been there to see me. It seemed wrong that he wasn't the one to take off the wheels. He'd offered to do so...but I'd refused, because I didn't trust him any more.

It's one of those bittersweet memories, but one I think we all have at some point; that our parents aren't perfect. I laugh even at spilling into the street and my Dad's absolute insistence that this would work. Why? Because I'm just like him, in more ways than I care to admit.

Trust is a huge thing. It's a big deal. It's foundational. And when trust is lost, it messes up a lot of other things, too. That day I learned that I couldn't always trust my Dad, and I followed through with that distrust by allowing someone else to take over "his" job.

I don't think this particular situation applies, as there is a difference in types of trust and "betrayal", which I define as any decimation of trust, big or small. So it was a small betrayal that day, maybe even a necessary one, but larger ones came later on in our lives. Yet it is in us to want to trust, to need to trust, and to really retain that as a foundation of all our relationships.

And who is it most important to trust? Our parents. They stand in for God, so when things go wrong with a family, there's a domino effect that carries the harm far beyond the family itself.

I've often thought about this especially since I started realizing that God was asking me to make a committment to Him..or SOMEONE. I've often lamented that it's hard to let God love me, and even that I don't love Him enough. And I think, as it's all on my end, it's from the trust that was destroyed when I was so young. Not from the bike and the training wheels, but from the destruction of my family.

I used to argue that although I come from a divorced family, I'm totally normal and fine and blah blah blah. Lies. I still remember making my last argument...and in that argument I affirmed the point that indeed, I have been injured by my family's crisis. No, I'm not angry with my parents, and objectively, the divorce was a good thing on many levels. Mom did what she had to do, and her decision protected us from worse harm. But that doesn't mean that there weren't casualties.

All of us. We're all a bunch of walking wounded.

But God is faithful, and over time, He knows how to rebuild trust. And He is patient, because it takes time. He first reveals Himself to us, and then asks us to take a step. And He gives us success. And then He asks for something more and something more. He rebuilds us. He reveals a larger family, and when we're ready, he takes off the training wheels. And even if the wheels fail, He is always there to catch us. We may fall of our own accord and sprawl in the street, but God never causes injury...He binds it.

My Dad wasn't perfect, and no parents can meet that standard. They do their best. My memory of the training wheels actually makes me love my Dad more for his flaws..and for the lesson he unwittingly provided. If he was still walking the earth, I'd call him up today and remind him of that...and of the lessons I've learned since then.

I think that part of the injury of broken homes comes from such a huge betrayal of trust on so many levels that the "walking wounded" don't even know that they have to forgive. But if we look back on the little things and see the small imperfections, it's much easier to look at the bigger ones in a different light. And from that standpoint, forgiveness comes more easily.

I forgave my Dad a long time ago for the little things, and I think that, now, as an adult I can finally forgive him for the bigger ones. Dad was nothing if not human, and if it wasn't for both the good and the bad, I wouldn't be the person I am today.

I miss you, Dad. Rest in Peace.
Requiem aeternam dona ei,
Domine, et lux perpetua luceat ei.
Requiescat in pace. Amen.

7 comments:

uncle jim said...

i remember not too long ago you were somewhat deficient in the use of Latin phrases and prayers - you are doing great now!

and i sure do appreciate your fond remarks about your dad ... i'm sure those memories will carry you to better places over time.

may he rest in peace.

adoro said...

Uncle Jim ~ I'm still deficient. It's called "copy/paste" from a website that has the prayers in both English and Latin. :-) I don't even know how to pronounce the above!

Ray from MN said...

Adoro:

The Fraternity of Ex-Altar Boys jealously guards the keys to Latin pronunciation. There are probably more of us that can pronounce Latin than there are active priests who can do so.

Melody said...

I think you are right that our parents "...stand in for God, so when things go wrong with a family, there's a domino effect that carries the harm far beyond the family itself." And it's a sobering thought for those of us who are parents; I can only hope we didn't mess things up too badly for our kids.

ignorant redneck said...

Adoro,

My relationship with my Father wasn't the greatest saga in the history of Father/Son relations.

I spent years resenting and hating him. From time to time I get mad at him still, those he's dead these many years.

But your essay, well, I remembered him taking me fishing. And teaching me to trap. And showing me how to frame. Things like that.

Ray from MN said...

Redneck:

One of the most important things that I learned during my pagan days (my 20s and 30s and somewhat even today) was that it is possible to forgive one's father, even though he was dead.

But it can't be done without also asking him for forgiveness for my refusing his occasional overtures of friendship (which probably unrealized by him) were attempts at apologies.

My worst behavior was when I refused to accept compliments he gave when he thought that I deserved for success in school, the military and in my career.

He was not physically abusive, but his verbal abuse leaves a mark on me to this day.

But I have asked for his forgiveness for my refusing a relationship with him. He died relatively young.

Cathy_of_Alex said...

Adoro: Prayers for your Dad here...