by James Luscher

My earliest memory is one of complete and utter joy and abandon. I was about three years old, my father on the floor on hands and knees and I riding on his back, getting a "horsey back ride". When I heard Bly tell the story "Iron John" and described the "golden ball" I knew that for me the golden ball was a "horsey back ride" from my father at three; a joy, peace and acceptance that was never to be recaptured. The eldest of five children, I lived in Chicago until around the age of ten when we moved to Western New York. The rest of my early childhood is a large blank, without even any memories of having brothers and sisters. Whether my earliest memory is an aberration or whether there was some dramatic event that changed everything is lost in the sands of time, everyone who might have been able to tell my curious inner child has passed on now.

I adored my father and wanted to be like him. I hated my father and didn't want to be anything like him. I admired his knowledge and his strength and was grateful for the opportunities he provided me. I hated his temper, his violence, his shaming, his emotional withholding and his disapproval. I especially hated his disapproval.

The song "The Leader of the Band" has a lyric about one's life being a vain attempt to imitate "the man".

That lyric touches my heart deeply whenever I hear it. Much of my life has been an attempt to gain the approval of my father. The last few years of his life I finally "got it" that he could never give me the approval I sought from him. That began a period of loss and grieving that continued until his death a year ago. I really felt the need for a dad when I had a big problem at work a while back. I had taken a female co- worker to lunch and we had a great time! I asked her out to dinner later and she ‘adamantly’ said NO, so I dropped it. Two months later she complained to my boss that I had made her feel "uncomfortable". He couldn't deal with it so he laid it all on me; no discussion, no review, no charges, ... just I had to use the back door at work, I had to never go into the area where she worked, even on business. I was feeling terrible, SHAMED, and didn't understand what was going on at all! I went over it all in my mind many times and couldn't resolve it. I was being treated as a second class citizen at work, the feelings that went with this were extreme.

For the past three years I have been in a men’s group in which we discuss our lives, loves, families. We understand each other, accept each other (despite our flaws), support each other and provide encouragement to take risks in expressing and acting out our values in life. I told the group about my problem. They LISTENED, they believed in what I told them - didn't have all kinds of doubts (typical male offender in denial ...) or lay any shit on me about it being my fault. They gave me trusting, open, non- shaming support that helped me get through the two months it took to finally resolve the problem. Without the group I might have quit - and I greatly needed the job. Their being around was crucial to my emotional well being at that time. My group has given me what I had always sought from my father! I know I can go to these people with concerns, fears and failures and they will offer balanced advice, encouragement and support. I can go to them with joys and successes and they will share my joy and cheer me on to greater accomplishments and selfhood.

I encourage all men and women to take part in serious, long term, group work, especially if they have parent issues to resolve.

My prayer for the future is that I successfully give my son, with whom I have limited time due to divorce, the kind of understanding and acceptance that I spent my life searching for.

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