Does every child need a father? Do single women need fathers? How old does a single adult have to be before parents are no longer necessary?
I grew up in a home where my biological father was physically absent after I turned thirteen. The engagement of Ray Llewellyn and Linda Higginbotham started out happily enough.
He was a return missionary, (West Germany, Düsseldorf) she was home from BYU uncertain about what to do with her life. They met at an LDS church social activity for college age single adults, hit it off almost immediately and 24 hours later, he proposed. Their marriage was solemnized in the Los Angeles Temple, June 1973. That's when the tension began as both realized it takes more than physical attraction to make a happy marriage.
After lots of moving around (California, Oklahoma, Kansas, Washington) and five children later, Linda and her kids ended up in La Verkin, Utah. Ray remains in Seattle to this day.
She met Alan Scholes in 1992 and they were married in the St.George temple five months later January, 1993.Mom is so proud of herself for landing another husband, she refuses to be in the same room (let alone the same stadium when her oldest daughter is receiving her second bachelors degree) as Ray Llewellyn. Linda and Alan pride themselves on being regular church and temple attenders while Ray Llewellyn has gone through several relationships since his excommunication from the church and subsequent divorce.
When Mom remarried, I was relieved Father's Day would no longer be the dreaded holiday I'd come to despise. It sucks to be the only girl in Young Women's from a broken home. It hurt to see my friends hug and cuddle with their fathers while I feared I'd never enjoy a strong, stable relationship with any man.
Seeing my Mom find happiness again meant I might have a chance to get married in the temple one day too. I resolved not to rush into anything, like Mom did with Ray or be so desperate I'd snatch the first man who came along which is what I now feel she did with Alan because, unfortunately, Alan Scholes turned out to be a disengaged father.
After I turned sixteen, Mom would give me grief about my not being attractive or popular enough to be someone worth dating and Alan would concur since he didn't want to cause contention with the woman whose house he'd moved into and whose bed he was now sharing.
When I expressed interest in gong to college and getting a degree, they were quick to remind me that because Linda Scholes wasn't getting child support, it was the government's job to provide my tuition.
Alan makes a great home teacher when there's handiwork to be done around my apartment: installing a ceiling fan or hanging shelves but I could never talk to him about my own life's ambitions; my hopes and dreams. Alan Scholes never knew me well enough to have those father-daughter talks and Linda Scholes was always quick to remind me I needed to find my own boyfriend/husband.
That's too bad because I could really use some advice right now. I've taken a second job at a Walmart bakery and agreed to work Sundays because church attendance is hard for Mormon women who aren't wives and mothers by a certain age. I loved my Primary calling teaching the three and four year-olds but the group that came in from the nursery after the new year is smaller and quieter. The nice woman I co-taught with really doesn't need me anymore, so I slipped off to earn some extra money until I know what I should do with my second bachelors degree and the rest of my life.
For Alan and Linda Scholes, breaking the fourth commandment by working Sundays is now my biggest sin in their eyes which only makes them look more righteous. Other than that, I've never caused them any grief. I wouldn't have sex outside of marriage (like Alan's two oldest boys did) or do drugs or demand ordination to the priesthood. I won't even come out as a lesbian so they could at least have a reason why their oldest daughter remains so perpetually single. I've even refused to keep a great and spacious makeup kit. As a result, they just don't know what to do with me. We had a long, tense discussion about it last week but nothing was resolved. Nothing ever changes.
I broke their hearts. I no longer honor them as the closest people I have to "parents." The worse part is, I no longer care. At 39, I feel my days on this land have been long enough already.
Growing up, the only thing I was ever encouraged to do was go out and get a job and start providing for myself, if no high school boyfriend was going to materialize. Alan had five boys to visit and provide for. A second marriage takes just as much work as a first one, if not more. Being the oldest (still) of ten children meant I was on my own when it came to making life's milestones happen.
They didn't happen and I have no father to talk to about it. Ray Llewellyn works at an auto parts store and hasn't used his bachelors degree in business or taken a job as a computer technician since the divorce in 1989. With no wife or children to provide for, why bother? He's happy and content with his life. He doesn't make me feel inadequate because I have no man in my life but I can't talk to him about anything either and there's nothing he can do for me be it intellectual, emotional, financial, or spiritual. He tells me I'm amazing because I'm his daughter but I have a hard time believing that from a man who never put family first.
I am nobody's daughter.
The only father left is the one my religion encourages me to look heavenward and beseech for guidance and direction but I guess He's too busy running the universe to care about trivial things like my never having had a boyfriend, date to the prom, steak dinner or flowers on Valentine's Day. The years tick by and I'm still waiting for the blessings from all my hard work while remaining a straitlaced virgin. As a double whammy, I've never been offered a job outside of food services or been led to anyone who might open that door to an exciting career to make up for being single and alone.
As a Heavenly Father, God led Eve to Adam. Eve never had to compete with Lilith (or Steve, now that homosexuality has become an accepted part of the dating scene) she never had to pick her way through the minefield of her local single's ward. God was the First Matchmaker, but I can't expect him to do that for me in this day and age. Not when fatherhood is no longer a vital social ambition for males.
Fathers do matter. They matter to the mothers of the children they create. They matter to the little girls who will grow to adulthood, waiting to be asked and wondering what path they should take in the meantime. They matter to the single adult women who wait for marriage, who understand the wisdom of keeping both eyes open to prevent heartache. When it comes to the creation of a family unit, fathers matter a great deal.
And now to end on more positive note:
I fell in love last summer with a charming little movie called Despicable Me which I'd never seen until I borrowed the DVD from a friend and couldn't stop watching it, over and over. I watched it again today, in honor of Father's Day before my Walmart shift.
What is it about this story that hit me so square in the heart? The main character's transformation from villain to Snow White. Watching Gru forsake his life of crime to become a father to three little girls sets an example for all men who feel inadequate. It's both a fairy tale and a love story with an unlikely hero pulling out his ray gun to blast a condescending enemy before ending the day with goodnight kisses. It's fun to imagine having someone like that in my life who has my back.
Here's hoping all of us have, or already have, a good man in our lives who has our backs and is there for us whatever our age.
.Happy Father's Day