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Syndic Literary Journal

I Lost My Father

 By LeRoy Chatfield


Don, the mention of your father, whom you never knew, prompts these comments about the relationship with the father I knew. Never sick a day in his life, he died at age 56 from pancreatic cancer. This was 50 years ago (1970).

As I began the process – in fits and starts, at first – of writing my series of Easy Essays, I found myself drawn to write about my father. Strangely, I felt just the opposite about  my mother. Even though both were deceased when I began to write, I instinctively felt  my father would approve, and my mother would not. I still feel the same way.

Through death, you lost a father, whom you never knew. Through a series of voluntary separations, I lost my own father. At the age of fourteen, I left home to attend boarding school sixty miles away; I came home once or twice a month on weekends. This would have been 1948.

The second separation occurred a year later when I entered a religious monastery. For the next seven years I saw my father only once a month on “Visiting Sunday”.

A further, and more deliberate separation was caused by strict adherence to the religious ideals of seeking to separate oneself from the world, including one’s family members, for the sake of serving God –  we were taught to be “in the world, not of the world.” Such separation included wearing monastic garb, giving up the family name and replacing it with a religious one, and keeping one’s family at a distance, lest they become a distraction and/or interfere with one’s religious calling.

I cannot say what the relationship with my father would have been without these voluntary separations. Probably not much different, I suppose, than what it turned out to be. In the first half of the 20th century, the family role of fathers was much different than it has become thus far in this century. My father’s relationship to his own father seemed detached and distant to me, much like my own to my father.

In your case, you think – and wonder – about  what relationship you might have had with your father if you had been given the opportunity to know him; and in my case, even though I knew my father, I wonder what my relationship might have been had I not chosen to separate myself from him.











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