It is said the father we had during our formative years is the precursor to our relationship to God, the Father of all living things. For it is during those early years we observe and absorb all our earthly fathers say and do with us, for us, and near us.
Was he constant? Truthful? A willing provider, of not just material stuff, but of his wisdom and time? Did he love our mother? More specifically was he abusive? Absent? Unreachable in some way? All of these experiences play into our perceptions about the Creator of the Universe, free of any specific “religious” teachings.
My own father was fully human. My father was fully human. What does that mean? I have a laundry list of proofs of his foibles, dalliances, and idiosyncrasies. I was not even privy to most of his record, and certainly what I did learn was enough to let me know he was a man confident of his own place in life which he occupied it in a way that the rest of us learned to accept. Had we not accepted it, it would have made little difference to him. He was first a man, and next a man of God, and third…there was no third thing. He was fully human and knew God intimately, and the rest of it was “onaconna”.
Onaconna. Know what it means? Neither did I and probably still do not fully understand its full meaning, but like “Hakuna Matata” in the movie Lion King, it applied to so many things in our vibrant family life, and was used in situations like:
“Dad, why can’t I go to the movie with my friends?”
“Why do you make us go to church?”
“Why do we have to be home for supper every night at five o’clock?”
“Why don’t you like this guy I am dating?”
What it meant was, “I have set a boundary, and there is no arguing possible. Onaconna is my side of things. Go ahead, keep asking questions, I am listening.” It was frustrating.
Our mother was the polar opposite. She lived for our arguments, ideas, and emotional outbursts. She’d listen endlessly to our struggles, dreams and political ideas, offering opposite views just to make us grow and think. She was “devil’s advocate” in every discussion, and we loved to come at her with our best thoughts, and have her take us down, so we could gain an even sharper edge.
Dad was firmly, simply, entrenched in his positions, leaving us no doubt about what they were, and he listened to us by the hour, and we changed him not. He was my second choice in which parent to talk to. I do not believe it was simply because he was a`man, either. I think it was because I had some very valid ideas of my own, contrary to his, and I was not going to change my mind. Hearing his opinion, followed by “onaconna” would have been fruitless.
Oddly, once I had survived them both, I began to fully comprehend what an important role he played in our lives, and how he influenced my thinking, even when I was not allowing it. He had been a very good father, and I did not understand it until he was gone. He was not perfect. Neither were we. BUT, never once, ever, did we doubt he loved us. Why did he love us? Onaconna.
Before I was born, there was a dark chapter in my parents’ lives. A son was born, named, celebrated, and died within days of a diagnosis which would be an easy fix today. His esophagus was not fully open to the stomach. His milk would come back up and he finally died of slow starvation. They tried everything. This loss was so unthinkable, so enormous, so incomprehensible to my mother and dad, losing their first born son, that it colored everything for the rest of their days. They never got over it and we all knew there were seven of us, not six.
I was born three years after the funeral service, burial, and shocks had passed. Their hope was for a boy. I was a girl. Mom sorrowed at hearing this, and apologized over and over to my dad, who was inexplicably overjoyed with his new baby girl. Nobody could believe he did not care he had another daughter. He was transfixed. This is my “story” which I lived, but do not remember.
In retrospect, I think my father was overjoyed God had sent another baby. He could barely contain his relief. I believe he felt he had deserved to lose his son, and that God had been justified in taking him away as a “punishment”. I am out on thin ice in my assessment, but somehow I have the impression my dad was rather free spirited until confronted with this terrifying loss. My mom told me he went to his knees over it and never recovered until after I was born, both the beginning and the ending to an imperfect story, and no replacement but a brand new thing.
Dad named me. The name “Tandy” came out of his heart and mind, and no argument from my mother could change it. We were all pretty surprised to find out I was “Baby girl” Holter when I applied for a certified copy of my birth certificate after I turned eighteen. I had remained nameless, which is rather unbelievable, and probably left a mark, but I do not have nor do I offer any kind of explanation or guess how it impacted me to learn it.
My dad had been so intractable in his position that I remained without a name until I earned control of it for myself. I had reached maturity and despite never liking my own name, I chose to keep it. A Tandy simply cannot become a Jane, or a Linda, or a Kathy. Why not? Onaconna. (I can picture him now reading this, smiling with his bright smile, nodding and looking very pleased, not so much with me, but with himself. It was never about winning the argument, but about having things settled in the right way.)
Now that I think about it, my dad and I were very close, despite our many disagreements and basic internal differences. We always kidded around that the two of us were so well liked because we were “so NICE.” Yes, we’d laugh, “We are just plain NICE.” Mom would roll her eyes hearing us, and we’d accuse her of being jealous.
It was all a big put on of course. We’d be the first to admit we were ugly, painfully flawed in all the important ways, and that everyone else was just generous enough to accept us at face value, frauds that we were. It is kind of hard to explain how we got along, and how we truly accepted each other, viewing one another as nearly perfect and our imperfections were just too lovable to hate or despise. This unconditional personal regard was extremely comfortable for us, and we never took it for granted, exactly, but never gave it much thought either.
I really cannot write about this. I cannot. Dad was just an ordinary man. Yet he wasn’t. His extraordinary days of life with us would sound like an epic tale, or a work of fiction. He was that great. He had few enemies. He came from humble beginnings, and made good. He was punctual, steady, constant, and just a solid human being. I knew him well. We both knew of his dark side. I knew of mine. But even though he never tried to hide his, he would never acknowledge mine. He was openly flawed. He had an honest relationship with God, and never apologized for his humanity.
In this way, he demonstrated to each of us, how a father should love his children. He loves you just the way you ARE, and stands ready to assist you in overcoming whatever life is doing to you at any given point. It is never about measuring up, or putting on any kind of false front. It is about being fully yourself, making no apology, and feeling assured you are worthy of love every second of every day, no matter what. His love for us was incomprehensible, all encompassing, and had nothing to do with merit or any other kind of caprice. It was his to give, Onaconna, which means “On account of”, “because” and “I say so, and there is nothing more to be said about it.” “My decision to love you IS, and will always be unchangeable and unwarranted, so you might as well relax and just be who you are.”
He was just plain NICE.