Pre adolecent and adolescent can be fragile beings, driving their parents and especially fathers almost to the nuthouse. I’m a grown woman now and have weathered many family tragedies, (including the latest, the death of my beloved Papito and my mother’s sudden plummet into Dementia…all within three months).
Today, I was very fragile and distressed, thinking about how the lack of listening with the heart has led many marriages and families to fragment. I cried out to Father for strength to make sense of the relationships in my life and realized I hadn’t read a wonderful letter from Pastor Jeff Lane, from CTN’s call in prayer network America’s Prayer Meeting from 12;30 to 3:30 am. One sentience leaped out at me. ” My freind, you have been hurt, mistreated and unfairly judged.” A torrent of tears burst from my eyes. Pastor Jeff’s letter continued. Blessed are the pure in heart.. in other words, blessed are those whose hearts have been cleansed from the bitterness of the world.
My issue has been being greatly wounded and traumatized by those closest to me or those who are supposed to be my inner circle. When these are emotionally close-hearted or refused to listen and understand my weakness or person, it can be an area like an unhealed sore. So Pastor Jeff’s words were spot on and I asked Father to continually bless and forgive my friends who have unfairly refused to hear me out.
I hadn’t expected to compose a blog today, but Holy Spirit used this deep, inner hurt to issue to explore this necessity of allowing heart felt communication and understanding to flow, particularity between fathers and daughters. My thoughts went back to challenging times in my father’s life where he didn’t have the support of my mother. He always turned to me, ( as his firstborn daughter). Deep down, he’d wanted his firstborn to be a son and so he never allowed my female gender to stop him from teaching me “male” attributives of leadership, discipline, resourcefulness and high education. I graciously respected and received his guidance and all, except his insistence that we not express our frailties and emotions.
Having taken many years to heal from Papito’s demand that we never cry, all of my sisters and I paid a heavy price and the results were damaging and devastating in many ways, particularity our serious health issues. As I continue to ask Holy Spirit for the grace and healing, wisdom in understanding the psyche, (in this case, the female adolescent psyche) I hope fathers, (and mothers) humble themselves in asking Holy Spirit how to raise confident, androgynous, aspiring and relaxed young women.
I’m no expert on raising great families or on having the ideal marriage, but I can definitely share what will weaken or destroy the fiber of a marriage or family.
I’m still sorting out my feelings about my beloved father, Papito Teofilo Ferrer Cepeda, (daddy wore the name of both his mother and father proudly). His mother was a spiritually, disciplined and fiery half Latino-half Indian who was no-nonsense, educated and taught her children well regarding self-sufficiency and excellence. When her husband, (my grandfather, Valentine) contracted a serious lung ailment, she took on the responsibility of raising nine children on her own and running her farm!
Last year, when I received a phone call from my younger, physically-challenged sister that we needed to visit daddy in the hospital, I was shocked that yet again, there was a possibility of losing my beloved mentor. As the elevator doors opened to reveal that Mark and I were on the oncology ward of the hospital, my heart skipped a beat. My mouth dropped open as I saw a skeletal Papito half-covered in his bed. His voice was barely audible as I took my guitar from out of its case to sing his favorite Spanish ballad, Eres Tu. I sang Amazing Grace and then my youngest sister Margarita, entered the room, holding on to her beaus arm. Like me, she battled a neurological disorder. Hers was MS, (Multiple Sclerosis). It was surreal, as I asked Mark to pray with my father so I could ask the nurses what was going on with him. A lovely young nurse raved about how charming and non-complaining my father was. She had never seen anyone suffering from such painful throat cancer as Teo! I started to weep, wondering what emotional ghost had brought him to this point. Even now as I write this blog, my prayer is that spouses and families will not make the same mistakes as mine.
Papito’s second wife, my step-mother was not present during my sister and my visit. I couldn’t make sense of the fact that he was in a hospital, a three-hour driving trip away. I would have preferred for him to have hospice care near all of us girls. I played my father’s two favorite songs at his funeral and though most were moved by my testimony of my relationship with him, I was left with unrequited sorrow and no explanation of why he died the way he did.
Having learned so much the past two decades regarding the relationship between unresolved grief, bitterness and resentment precipitating cancer and other traumatic conditions, I deduce that spouses and families must allow each other to freely express themselves! When people are faced with a traumatic episode, the shock and grief is assuaged by empathetic and non-judgmental listening and comforting.I believe most cases of domestic violence, child abuse and even dysfunctional-strained relationships are caused by the person not being listened to and understood.
In my father’s case, I beloved he died of a broken heart. My mother was staunchly unsupportive of my father’s dreams and endeavors and my step-mother had a very strong personality. Daddy preferred to keep the peace because he had developed such a fragile situation with his blood pressure over the years. Any conflict or argument would have sent him to the hospital. So, my father kept his disagreements to himself during his second marriage. I’m sure, his sorrow about his failings as a father during his and mom’s divorce and the inability to protect his adolescent daughters was an unhealed wound. I reckon that at least he may have fondly remembered his dependence on us when all four of us girls helped him renovate the old, dilapidated farm house on Shafto Road.
Honestly, that wasn’t a memorable time for me as I was suddenly transferred from a wonderful catholic school where I thrived, to a public school where I became the outcast and was bullied daily. I was not allowed to speak about my terror of the three bully girls who made me feel like dirt. I endured many painful things duirng my high school years. My sisters and I did not have the freedom to express any negative things that troubled us and thus we learned to shut up and stuff it. Anyway, what kid has the permission to voice how miserable they are with a strong or domineering father obsessed by his dream? Many families (and many marriages) today are fragmented and dysfunctional because of lack of honesty and empathy.
Looking back, I want to bravely share my thoughts on reading a diary as a fifteen year old. My love and devotion for my father since being born-again in 1982 has always been endearing and I was shocked to read the many turbulent and devastated emotions detailed in my journal entries.Two events in particular caused me to be ostracized for the rest of high school.My parents refused to buy me a razor to shave my legs. I was nick-named bear legs by the boys. My father also refused me to wear any blue jeans because he deduced them to be anti-establishment! So I had to wear my corny Catholic school, pleated knee length skirt and loafer shoes. My parents also never came to my defense when a large bully girl accosted me daily because I was of mixed heritage. It took decades for me to shed the skin of being unworthy and insufficient.
All this being shared, I long to see children and adolescents soaring into their divine destiny, their parents being well-equipped to empathetically nurture, (and appropriately discipline when needed) their kids. Children do not belong to parents. Parents are temporary stewards of God’s little people, who he is seeking to one day bless their destiny!
If my father were still alive today and asked me to honestly tell him what he could have changed about the way he raised me, this is the letter I would write to him as a grown and healing woman of God:
Words cannot express the gratitude I have for the great things you’ve taught me. Thank you for the special times I had with you as you taught me all about sign-painting and making silk screen templates for your job. Though I was skinny and had awful hay fever allergies and hating you taking Leslie and I to doctor Pfum to get twelve allergy shots twice a year in my arm, I was able to help you dig holes for the sign posts Thank you for insisting that I not run the streets after boys because they would get me pregnant. Thank you for playing those amazing Spanish Flamenco albums. My love for all kinds of great music contributed to me being the eclectic and innovative composer I am today.
As a grown woman, I have truly appreciate all of who you are. You are such a charming, highly intelligent and gifted man. Thank you that even while you worked full time as a graphic designer for the US government, you earned your bachelors degree in political science so you could earn a better living for mommy and us girls!
My few regrets about our relationship was that you never allowed me to cry, to complain if I were exhausted. I would have loved for you to take seriously my greif and shame at being half Puerto-Rican and half German, ( a weirdo and not accepted as equal by the other kids). I also wished you had appreciated and supported my talent in sewing, fashion design and creative writing and not say they are useless! Also, please respect that I have my own mind, I am a free spirit, (non-conformist) and not interested in doing anything rebellious of crazy! I know you have plans for me, but allow me to make my own choices:) The most painful rejection from you was when the two times I needed you most, you reneged.
When I was a boarder in the house of that alcoholic man and his blind wife and he tried to kick down my door and rape me. You said, “Be strong, honey, do the best you can.” You have no idea how that devastated me. And then when my fiance was emotionally stalking and traumatizing me and threatened me with death if I didn’t marry him. You wearily said to me, “I’m sorry, honey. I can’t help you. I’m a sick man.”
I love you and forgive you and my Heavenly father has made right all the wrongs. I ask you to forgive me for anything I’ve hurt you with and please forgive yourself. Abba God has forgiven you, Papito.
Fathers (and mothers)..Healing and reconciliation comes from looking deep inside yourself and remembering what you said, how you responded to your daughters cries, complaints and questions! Daughters are very complex and fragile beings, (with all these chemicals and hormonal changes). Please fathers, do your intense research early, before your little girl starts to show her womanhood. Old as I am, i am still my Papito’s little girl. I yearn every day for his hug and his “I love You, Anita.” Every day. I curse that demonic man-made tradition men don’t cry or don’t your emotions! Pride is a killer and it’s terribly wounded and destroyed many relationships with their children. Thank you for allowing me to share about my relationship with my dear father and may you learn from his and my mistakes and help heal your relationship with your princess today!
Heavenly father, thank you for your unmerited and abundant wisdom which we have avail…if we humbly ask. Let there be healing in the fathers and daughters who read this testimony. Lord, help father to build bridges of compassion, tenderness and wisdom as they raise up, confident, trusting and joyous daughters. It’s not shameful for dads to make mistakes, but the three words, “I am Sorry” heals a multitudes of bitterness, resentment, shame and unforgiveness strongholds which could take decades to uproot in our daughters. From this day forward, Father, help us daughters to also appreciate our fathers and honor them so that our lives are long and prosperous. In Jesus name, amen