PRIDE OF BEING A
FATHER OF VIGILANCE by
Cliff McKenzie, Editor
ZERO PLUS 1378 DAY--New York, NY, Sunday, June
grew up with no father.
Then I got a step father.
He wasn't my father.
My father never existed
in real form. I heard about him. I saw his pictures. I watched
him drive by me piloting a Greyhound Bus along the Columbia
Gorge. His route was from Portland, Oregon to the Dalles.
But he never acknowledged
my existence even though he passed by where I lived with my
mother and grandmother frequently. I stood by the side of the
road numerous times and watched his giant silver bus churn its
way out of the Cascade Locks stop, where my grandparents' home
was, and felt an emptiness akin to that of Peter Pan and his
Lost Boys Clan.
I felt like one of the
When I was five, my mother
remarried - to a man I didn't like. I met him on my fifth birthday
and he gave me a softball. Then he started to play catch with
me. He threw the ball so hard it smashed into my stomach and
sent me crying into my grandparents' house to tell my mother
he had done it on purpose, which to this day I'm sure he did.
She denied he would do such a thing, promptly told me "he"
was my "father," and that my job was to "mind
We never were father
and son. He was big and mean looking. He drank a lot, as did
my mother, and the two fought. He hit my mother often and I
found myself fighting him, throwing myself between my mother
and step father and suffering the consequences.
When I searched for a
wife, I wanted someone who help me be the best possible father
I could be by being the best possible mother to our children.
I found her. She was my angel, the beautiful sum of a woman
who would in tandem, repair the tear in my soul--that rip in
my childhood where I had no relationship between my mother and
father or my mother and step father.
I begrudged my mother
for staying with my step father and consuming the abuse he issued.
He drove my sister from our home when I was fifteen by making
what was considered a pass at her in one of his drunken moments.
She became a persona non grata in our household, and I went
to live with my grandparents with her. She never returned home
as a child, only as a bitter woman excommunicated by a family
living in denial about its ruptured nature.
If a man or woman is
charged with some mission in life as a result of circumstances
and events, then mine was to be the father I never had. My wife
was not close to her father, and we commonly agreed that we
would make the "family" the first and foremost priority
of our lives. She hails from East Helena, Montana. We both grew
up in a world where "children are seen not heard,"
and the thrust today for "interpersonal relationships"
with children on adult levels was creaking its evolutionary
way into society.
Kids like myself who
hungered from rich relationships on parity with my parents where
we were "friends" and "buddies" and "pals"
was in its gestation stages. James Dean was leading the revolution
with his famous movie: "Rebel Without A Cause," a
precursor of the pent-up anger in teenagers who sought independence
from the draconian attitude that "children should be seen,
not heard." Dean's character who violated that rule sent
lightening bolts through a whole generation to "change
Not all revolutions are
Some are very subtle.
I chose the subtle revolution.
My wife and I were going
to love our children as children but also as friends, buddies,
We were going to create
deep bonds of friendship, loyalty and respect that we did not
have in our lives.
We were going to create
deep bonds of friendship, loyalty and respect
This isn't anything new
in the maturation of human behavior. If the goal of all creatures
is to leave the world a little better than it was before you
came, then insuring your children are more mature and emotionally
balanced than you are, is a worthy target.
achieves this among her children. She allows all living things
the ability to reinforce their genetic shields to withstand
and adjust to the shifts and changes of the world. Even the
deadly germs and viruses adapt, modify and evolve to survive.
As more and more antibiotics are crated, the "bugs"
change and alter themselves to become immune to the medications
so that they might live a more "happy, joyous and free"
life and procreate in spite of attacks upon them.
From a family point of
view, that's what my wife and I sought.
We were going to create
the "perfect" family in the sense it would be "more
perfect" than the ones we had come from.
The universe blessed
us with two beautiful daughters.
We kept our vows. Each
of us, in our own ways, and collectively, as mother and father,
set about a course in which the ultimate value of our lives
would be expressed in the maturity and healthiness of our children's
attitude and outlooks on life.
The trick was, of course,
not to impose our own belief systems on them, but rather to
inculcate that they not only had the right but the duty to create
their own belief systems, and to march to their own drummers
even if the beat of those drums flew in the face of what might
commonly be called "accepted."
That happened. One of
our daughters became a social justice advocate, working with
the homeless and disenfranchised, living and breathing and working
toward a better world for those who might be trodden by the
world's rush to achieve over the bodies of those who got in
Our other daughter became
a federal special agent, packing two 9mm's and arresting the
"bad guys" who threaten society with crime and human
pestilence. We ended up with one daughter on the Left and one
on the Right, but, in truth, they existed on an equal plane--both
fighting for justice--one with guns and the other with a cross.
So on Father's Day this
past Sunday, I sat in a swath of joy.
Day I sat in a swath of joy
Sometimes I get all concerned
about "my life's value" and "where I am"
and "where I'm going" and "what's in life for
me," and all the other singular selfish concerns that are
common when one looks in the mirror at his or her reflections
and wonders whether life is being good or bad, or whether its
worth pursuing with the passion that once gripped me as a younger
Then an event such as
Father's Day comes to bring a truth that is so easily overlooked
I almost forgot its true treasure.
That is the truth of
Of all the achievements
human beings can tout, there is none more important or worthy
than that of being a good, hard-working parent who teaches a
child how to love life by loving that child's uniqueness, loving
that child's humanness, loving that child's beauty as a being
and his or her potential to become anything he or she truly
wants to be--not what you might wish or want him or her to be.
At Tompkins Park in the
East Village, our family gathered this past Sunday for a joint
Father's Day and birthday celebration for our youngest grandson,
Brendan. He was celebrating his third year of life. Brendan
is extra special because he was conceived on the Terrorist attack
of September 11, 2001.
I've always considered
him to be an example of nature's thirst to evolve beyond the
worst of events. He carries in his small, loving body, the hope
of further evolution. We enjoy two other grandchildren, Adam
and Sophia, soon to be nine and seven respectively. They all
belong to our social justice daughter and her husband's household,
but they are truly "community kids," who were born
into a much vaster world of Family Vigilance. The love expressed
to them by both their mother and father is a tribute to that
which my wife and I gave them, added to and plussed by their
parents own natural desire to give their children the best from
within--from their hearts and souls.
Our gun-toting daughter
is also pregnant. She is due to have her first child in just
a few weeks. I watched her rubbing her swollen, ripe tummy and
cradling it as she stood, cupping her hands under her womb-wrapped
baby with an affection that made my heart sing.
Her husband, who is the
father of a beautiful young girl starting into her teens, is
a man who loves children. I sat back and watched both my sons-in-laws
interacting with the children at the party. They are both great
fathers whose first priority is their family and their children.
My daughters picked the
In a sense, it is easy
for me to scold my two "fathers" and lambaste them
for not being "fathers" to me. In reality, neither
of them were. But in another sense, I have always wondered whether
I would have been the kind of father I've been with my daughters
were it not for the Beast of Family Terror that drove me to
battle that Beast with Family Vigilance.
Life is about learning
and applying knowledge.
Beast Of Family Terror evolved into my ........
Countless children grow
up to be kind, loving parents despite the lives they might have
led as children in abusive, complacent families where selfish
desires by parents exclude the child's emotional maturity.
In my case, I grew up
with a special purpose to not be like my fathers when it came
to parenting. I wanted to spread a table of love and respect
for my children that I never feasted from. My wife joined me
at the hip on that mission. We are still joined in that mission,
for we now have grandchildren to be grandparents to, and to
offer our experience and wisdom to them as parents as we did
to them as children.
So, on Father's Day,
I looked back at my fathers and felt nothing. That bothered
me. When one has indifference toward a parent, it's not good.
I'm sure there's something of value my fathers did for, to and
of me that I am blind to see.
My biological father
gave me life. For that I am grateful. My step father gave me
gifts I have yet to recognize and appreciate, but I'm sure they
exist. I heard an expression once about parents that sums up
excuses for their lack of parenting: "Did you ever think
your parents did the best they could with the tools they had,
but they didn't have very many because they weren't parented
I've rejected that idea
most of my life because if that were true, then I would have
followed their parenting paths, for they gave me few, if any
parenting tools that I recognize. My parenting tools were reactionary--to
not be like them."
That, in a way, is positive.
It means that I might not have tried to be a good parent as
hard as I did were it not for them, and for that, my father
and step father deserve some credit, however unintended that
credit might be.
I also know I'm certainly
not a "perfect parent."
of Family Vigilance
Nothing is "perfect" in that sense.
Hopefully, our children will want to improve upon our parenting,
and do things differently and better--as they do do now.
My Beast of Family Terror evolved into my Sentinel
of Family Vigilance.
It can for any child who wants to make life
better for his or her children than what the child feels he
or she didn't get.
Terrorism is only a starting point. It is the
force sometimes that drives us to Vigilance.
This Sunday I looked at the results of Vigilance
I sat back and inhaled the joy of my children
and wife and sons-in-laws all unified in the joy of being parents.
There was nothing but happiness yesterday flowing
between all present.
That was my great present. I was proud to be
a Father of Vigilance. I was proud I had Children of Vigilance.
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