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A Father’s Love: A Non-Traditional Story of Loss and Enlightenment


My First Experience with Loss

Lately, I have been thinking a lot about my father, whose name is Austin Marion Roberts. My father was only in my life until I was five years old. When I was five, he left me and my mother to fend for ourselves, never to be seen or heard from again. The last memory that I have of my father was not a pleasant one; at  57 years of age, I remember what happened very vividly. I was sitting at the kitchen table of our home on South Street in Utica, New York methodically munching on a baloney sandwich, when my three uncles pinned my father against the wall and simply said: "If you do anything to hurt Sadie (my mother) again, we will kill you." Needless to say, I was scared.   I don't remember any incidents of abuse directed towards my mother, or me but my mother did tell me when I was older that my father was abusive towards her. My mother chose not to remarry again and raised me as an only child. I remember growing up longing to have a father in my life again and being angry as hell with my mother because she didn't remarry. My father's abandonment and the subsequent pain throughout my childhood of not having a father were the first significant losses that I experienced in my life. I have always said that if you live long enough, you will experience loss. Apparently, five years was all I needed to take a walk on the dark side.

 

Grace Under Pressure

 

My mother, whose name is Sadie Bridgett Roberts, could have been bitter about the hand of cards that she was dealt, but instead chose to only tell me the good things about my father. She told me that he was brilliant and creative, but conflicted because he grew up in an environment that was chaotic because of a dysfunctional mother. He had five brothers, all fathered by different men. My mother acknowledged that he tried to be a traditional father and family man, but that he just couldn't. She never allowed me to dwell in negativity about my father and she never undermined or criticized him in front of me. My mother always displayed grace under pressure, even with the challenges of raising me as a single parent. She died at the age of 77, on March 11, 1994 of a massive bacterial infection. She was also a wonderfully intuitive woman who touched the lives of all who crossed her path. I am grateful that she chose me to be her son. She remains a part of my life today.

 

My Father's Death

My mother was determined to find out what became of my father. He was a veteran of the Korean War, so she enlisted the help of the Veterans Administration in her search. When I was a freshman in high school (1969), she picked me up in her white Buick Special and showed me a letter from the Veterans Administration. My father died six years after leaving us, in Philadelphia, as a result of a car accident. At least I knew what happened to him. Knowing what happened didn't make up for the sadness of not having a father in my life.

 

Coming to Terms with My Past

 

My Two Dads

 

I have revisited my past on many occasions during my 57 years of life.  It has only been recently though that I have looked at my past for the lessons that it has taught  me and the gifts it has given me. I always lamented the fact that my mother never remarried again and was angry with her for a long time because of it. I saw her as depriving me of the opportunity to have a father my life. But in reality, she provided me with two father figures, her brother and my Uncle Dave and her brother-in-law, my Uncle Jim. Several months ago, I thanked them both in prayer for the gifts that they gave me after my father left.  I still do today.  I also thanked my mother for taking care of me.

 

 

Honoring my Father

 

On Father's Day this year, I spent some time with my dad. I expressed my gratitude to him for loving me in his own way and for leaving.  I believe that my father knew that my mother and I would not have thrived or even survived if he remained in the picture. I do believe that his letting go of us was the hardest thing that he ever did, and to me the greatest act of love.  When my daughter Jeannine died in 2003, I had to learn to let go of the accepted ideas about life and death and change my perspective to fit a new reality. My father's gift to me was teaching me the meaning of letting go.

 

 

Honor the past as your teacher, honor the present as your creation, and honor the future as your inspiration- Jamie Sams

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About the Author

I became a parent who experienced the death of a child after my daughter Jeannine died of cancer on 3/1/03 at the age of 18. I am a retired addiction professional and am also an adjunct professor in the psychology and psychology-child life departments at Utica College. In 2007, I established Bootsy and Angel Books, LLC(www.bootsyandangel.com). The mission of Bootsy and Angel Books is to provide information, support, and services to individuals and families who have experienced the death of a child or other catastrophic losses. I have presented workshops at national conferences of The Compassionate Friends since 2008 and at gatherings of the Bereaved Parents of the USAin 2009 , 2011 and 2012. I have been a keynote speaker for national gathering of the Bereaved Parents of the USA in both 2011 and 2015. I am also the chapter leader for The Compassionate Friends of the Mohawk Valley. I have contributed articles to Living with Loss Magazine ,We Need Not Walk Alone, Hello Grief and Recovering the Self Journal. I have co-authored two books with Linda Findlay of Mourning Discoveries on navigating through grief during the holidays and pet loss. I am a contributing writer for the Open to Hope Foundation and have also appeared on Healing the Grieving Heart and the Open to Hope Television show.. I am also a featured speaker, workshop presenter and coach for Aspire Place(www.aspireplace.com) You can also find me on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/david.j.roberts1

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