The Lessons of Orphanhood

From Mirada Global:

Father’s day was never one of the happiest days of my childhood. I lost my father when I was nine and from that date on, the issue was a kind of taboo and everyone tried to make me forget the only pain I had experienced in a life overflowing with love: I didn’t have a dad. I was an orphan; a word that sounded like a punch in the stomach or a dart to the heart: orphan, orphan, orphan.

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Cancer took my father, a beautiful, tall, smiling and loving man of 46. This left a trail of mourning and tears that forever marked the face and the gaze of my mother, who ripped off a part of herself in the burial of the deeply beloved husband. I was told the clumsiest and hateful things about it: that I had to accept God’s will, that it was the best for him, that now I had to be particularly good to my mother, etc.

I never was one to give in easily and lower the guard. And it was no different concerning this important episode in my life. I decided that if I didn’t have a father, I could live without one. And that I wouldn’t give anybody the pleasure of seeing me sad and crying. I gritted my little teeth with anger, clenched my fists and started a struggle for the happiness that seemed to have been stolen from me forever with the disappearance of the beginning of the reality of my horizon.

It wasn’t easy. My heart tightened when I saw my friends and schoolmates with their fathers celebrating Father’s Day, birthdays, Christmases, filled with the force and the affection that weren’t present in my house or in my life. Despite my mother’s attempts to be both mother and father to me, she didn’t succeed. And the lack of the father figure was felt like an irreparable amputation.

But orphanhood also taught me lessons I tried to learn as best I could. I learnt that we can’t take anything in life for granted. We must struggle bravely and courageously, with persistence and tenacity. We don’t gain life through a lazy “a priori”. It must be sought with nails and teeth and no struggle is big enough to keep it and gain it over and over at every breath, at every instant. This is how I grew up, this is how I met the man who is today the father of my children, and when paternity once again filled my house and my life, I decided I wouldn’t let it go away so easily.

Also available in Spanish.

Tim Reidy

 

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Eugene Palumbo
6 years 2 months ago
Anne Chapman: 
 
You asked for a translation of David Smith’s post.   He’s citing a paragraph from the Spanish version of the piece.  The English translation for that paragraph is:
 
''However, the definitively healing experience, the one that sort of sealed my learning as orphan, was the learning of prayer. In a retreat I attended, as an adult, I finally experienced the presence of God Father, the source where all paternity stems from. It was in tears that I received the gift of being able to say “Abba Father” and feeling that I was speaking to a person that surrounded me with his love. And as soon as this happened it was as if all that repressed and concealed feeling had formed a rigid and painful tumor that was now draining a viscous liquid and liberated the flesh, which could now beat again, alive.''
 
Maybe you’re saying to yourself, “Wait, I didn’t see that paragraph in the English version that appears on the blog.”  You’re right: it wasn’t there.  Probably because of a computer glitch, when one clicks on “read more” at the end of the post, a few more lines appear, but the last five paragraphs of the piece don’t appear.  The paragraph cited by David Smith is one of those paragraphs.  Probably that glitch will have been remedied by the time you see this comment.  But just in case: you can see the complete English version by clicking on   
http://www.miradaglobal.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=1842%3Alas-lecciones-de-la-orfandad&catid=52%3Areligion&Itemid=82&lang=en
Anne Chapman
6 years 2 months ago
David, would you be willing to translate your post so more of us will understand it?

I have to confess that I often envy those who have experienced the kind of loss this writer has - she had a wonderful father (and a mother, so not truly an orphan) who was taken from her too young. But she has wonderful memories of his love for her.  I had a father who was sometimes present at home physically, who was never present emotionally.  By the time my parents separated when I was 10, I was numb to it. Not only was Father's Day meaningless (and the Father -Daughter dances at my sorority later on), my birthday became a sad day for me. I shared the same birthday as my father, but he was usually out of town, and he never celebrated it with me.  I never even wished my Happy Birthday.  I knew he couldn't have forgotten the date.

I never knew a father's love, and so have no good memories of a father even though he didn't die when I was a child. When he did die, when I was an adult with children of my own, my tears were only for what I never had, not for losing something precious.  I had seldom even seen him after my 10th year.  I understand that the author grieves for her loss, but I hope that she also realizes that for at least ten years she experienced love that many never experience. My loss of a father did have a similar ending to hers - I married a man who is a wonderful father and our children are blessed.  I thank God for this blessing.
Anne Chapman
6 years 2 months ago
I hit post when I meant to edit. I meant to write that my father never wished me a Happy Birthday even though it was the same day as his. I hope that all of those with loving parents, whether or not they are still alive, should count their blessings.  The author's hard-learned lessons are shared by many, including those who never knew the love of a father (or, perhaps, a mother).
kathleen shea
6 years 2 months ago
Gene et al: the initial Mirada Global link (at the top of the post) brings you to the full article. We only print excerpts on the blog.
Eugene Palumbo
6 years 2 months ago
Anne Chapman:
 
You said that the author of the piece was “not truly an orphan” because she had one of her parents.  While that’s how “orphan” is defined in the U.S., in El Salvador, where I live, children who have lost one of their parents are called orphans.  The author, writing from Brazil, sees it this way, too.  Possibly this is how “orphan” is defined throughout Latin America.
Anne Chapman
6 years 2 months ago
Thank you, Gene.  Both comments were very helpful.  The extra paragraph you translated hits home with me. I am also glad to know about the use of the word "orphan" in Latin America - one small step to better understanding a neighbor.

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