Sunday, June 19, 2011

Making A Mark

Not quite sure where to begin. Never even thought of writing this letter before, never once even crossed my mind. My relationship with you not being a relationship at all. My memories of you faded, so unclear in fact that at times I wondered if there were ever real in the first place. Any scars or wounds long ago sanded away by the years and a life that kept moving, shifting and changing….without you. Any pain or resentment replaced with indifference and an understanding that my life could be marred with self pity and a sense of emotional injustice or I could learn that I needed to stand on my own two feet, become the woman I always hoped to be and do it without wishing, longing or blaming you. Just as you made choices that would ultimately leave me behind, I let you go long ago.

“Sam, why didn’t you just make the card?” my mother, the woman once your wife, asking me why I refused to participate in arts and crafts at school, a little stunt that landed me in the principal’s office and had her receiving the much dreaded call from school while she was at work. I was in the fourth grade and we were asked to make Father’s Day cards. I sat there, my classmates with crayons blazing, my elbows dug into the hard desktop, my scrunched face resting upon my balled fists. Not angry as much as thinking it ridiculous that I was being forced….and graded on, a card celebrating an imaginary figure. I wouldn’t do it and as I sat in the office, piles of multicolored fliers, ladies milling about doing I don’t know what, the smell of copier ink and peroxide think in the air, my tummy a cauldron of worry, (Mom was not a fan of calls from school or blatant rebellion) watching the principal’s face shift as my mother explained that my father was “no longer with us” from irritated to sympathetic, that was the day I decided to stop pretending or making excuses for you.

“I’m sorry. How did he die?” was no longer met with my mother’s favored, “it was a heart attack” no, from that point on I would flatly respond, “Don’t be sorry. He died from an overdose” a comment that would for years have my mother reaching under my arm and giving me that nasty pinch on the soft doughy skin there. I now know that she lied less to protect your honor and more to cover her personal humiliation. Part of me feels bad that I couldn’t bring myself to help her with that but….well, I was unwilling to keep up some sham of a story, not for either of you. I just never saw the fact that you were an addict as any reflection on my mother, in fact I saw her selfless act of walking away from a man she was madly in love with, to protect me, as the kind of strength I wished some day to have. I took my zero on that Father’s Day project, took the sad, “I’m so sorry faces” and took hundreds of underarm pinches but I learned not to feel some sense of responsibility for the actions and choices that were made that had nothing to do with me. Lessons about personal responsibility that I would have to revisit from time to time, when I fell or lost my way…..

“Do you ever wonder?” always a question asked of me when people learned that you died when I was so young, a question that I never quite knew how to answer. Did I wonder? I think at some time I must have, must have been curious what you were like as a child, what your favorite color was, if you shared my almost unnatural love of all things pickled or ever spent hours lying on the grass, no matter how itchy it made you, staring at the shape shifting clouds as they passed above.  I knew, or had been told that I looked like you, had to take their word for that one seeing as I didn’t have a photo to compare my silly grin, slender nose and green eyes to. I never knew your face and had no one to ask about the kind of person you were, I’m sure I had to have wondered but practicality kept me from continuing to do so.

“If you are the Samantha Dugan I am looking for” your brother, my uncle…finding me. A flood of emotions and even more unanswerable questions but now, just a little more information about who you were before addiction and sadness crept in, before your need to escape, alter or dull some of your pain…a glimpse into what got you there. Your brother has been diligent in sharing you with me, giving of his stories and absolutely generous with opening his heart to me. Been an incredible few months getting to know you a little, getting to see me…

                                    (My father on the left)

In you.
We do share a face

I want you to know that I was never angry
Never felt responsible
I forgive you….

So Mr. Mark Dugan, your daughter would like to say…for the first time, “Happy Father’s Day” and I um, made you this card.


middle child said...

A healing.

Susan said...

Wonderful post. It is always amazing how our childhoods, parents and choices made by our parents continue to affect our adulthoods. All these so-called "Hallmark" holidays like Mothers Day and Father's Day have a way of causing more introspection than one would think they would.

Joe said...

Very touching. I had to go straight to and read about sports and tough stuff so I wouldn't be a sobbing mess at the office.

chris said...


Your mother's strength,

Your father's resemblance,

Your first Father's Day card,

...are all remarkable.

Samantha Dugan said...

Middle Child,
Seems to be...

Well welcome you, always nice to see a new face. Father's Day never made me feel anything before my uncle found me, now I find that I am longing a bit. The good news is now I have this uncle, the sweetest and most generous man...makes me wonder just a little more what my father was like. Thanks for reading and commenting lady.

Softy. Course it's likely more because of your relationship with your beautiful Olivia, who also shares your face, than my words are just the sweetest.

You are too kind. I had only a few minutes to write this letter, felt like I wanted and needed to more than ever before. Thank you so much for indulging me!

Anonymous said...

You have his face, you have your memories with your mother, but your brilliance, your shine, your spirit... that's all you.

Marcia Macomber said...

Crimey! Straight for the gut. Yeah, I know it's not intentional at all when you write that it creates a beeline to the core...but you do seem to have a wonderful knack for it!

Luved it. And it was so very different than previous posts about your mom and dad -- always new insights. Thank you.

Samantha Dugan said...

Another Day of Crazy,
First of all, I miss you. Secondly, thank you dear friend. I was just chatting with someone that read this post and felt compelled to contact me, his first Father's Day since his father passed away.....dude. I always feel selfish and indulgent when I write these all about me posts but, well turns's not all about me. Unreal.

Did not intend to kick you in the gut lady. Just wanted to make that card that I long ago refused to do. Always more to the story it seems, especially with my family. I appreciate your willingness to indulge me, to read me and to comment, means a lot.

Ron Washam said...

My Gorgeous Samantha,

It's been a really long time since Father's Day has had any meaning at all for me. I watch TV, see tributes to Dads at baseball games, on the news, everywhere, and basically feel that tributes and memories like that are as foreign to me as being raised among the Inuit.

I've long since forgiven my father for his distance in my childhood and his mental illness in his last years. (Yes, I know, you got your father's eyes, I got mine's insanity.) I'm envious of those who miss their late fathers, or can celebrate their living ones. Maybe I've never been a father because of the one I was born to in this world. Don't know, but "Father" means less to me than so many others.

There is no doubt that your father loved you. There's no doubt my father loved me. Therein lies all of our gratitide, as well as all of our pain.

This is a lovely essay, My Love.

I love you!

Samantha Dugan said...

Ron My Love,
This was a silly self indulgent post but something I felt like I wanted to say. Once again you have outdone me with your words and ability to convey palpable emotion with them. I don't know much about your relationship with your father but I know a lot about the man that you became in spite of him. You are a rare and beautiful human and I love each and every second that I am allowed to spend in your life. I love you too....

luvgrapes said...