Tomorrow is Father’s Day , and if Mother’s Day causes me to feel ambivalent and mournful , Fathers Day enrages me.
My father was a petty and wantonly cruel man , frustrated with his situation he expressed his rage in violent outbursts directed at his terrified brood. My mother perversely would boast her husband didn’t beat women but boy he knew how to beat children.
His punishments were decidedly corporeal , unpredictable and communal , in so much if one of my six siblings aroused his displeasure , we were all summoned to drop our drawers , and await the blows from a studded belt purchased specifically for his “justice”. From teen to toddler we took it , silently , I believe silently out of pride . My mother , deep in her own madness , stood silent as well, a mute specter .
Surprisingly , my being the eldest, I somehow escaped the brunt of his wrath. My father like many macho Latin men could smell a faggot a mile away and he instinctively recoiled from my presence . He beat the shit out of me , particularly if I betrayed a fey gesture , but his concentrated brutality was upon my far younger and far sweeter siblings .
One such incident was deeply profound and it severed figuratively and literally my relationship with my father. My baby sister Kat, left to my care after my mother’s illness left her unable to attend to her needs , was participles adorable and particularly precocious . I adored her sparkle .
My father found it aggravating .
She was just a toddler , acting out , impotently I tried to hush her , frustrated , my father rushed from the kitchen table and just slammed her full force into the wall . Her little head hitting the unforgiving surface with a heartbreaking sound . Without thinking I rushed to the utility drawer and pulled a pitiful and most likely , dull , paring knife. I went after my father , and in romantic reflection I want to believe I stabbed him, but what I do know is , in a bit of Fruedian genius my father pulled out his far larger hunting knife , effectively ending the fight . My mother , the ever present yet silent ghost , witnessed my mortified retreat .
Hence today’s painting from 2015,”The Castration of Uranus”. According to classical tradition , the Earth Mother Gaia provides her son, the Titan Cronus with a “great stone sickle” with which he castrates his brutish , sibling devouring father. Alas my mother provided me with no sickle and I lacked the ability to smite my father.
Soon after I was on my own, I haven’t spoken to the hateful man in well over thirty years . I’ve heard, like old Nazis , he has mellowed , but I harbor memories of his unjust power .
Often, like my depiction of Uranus, my father held court , in his briefs , legs apart, for like many of his Italian American friends he was unabashedly proud of his endowment . That he chose to flaunt his “family jewels” ( as he called them ) in front of his children befuddles me to this day. But I was taken aback when revisiting this painting that I had expertly captured that haughty pose , granted now deflated .
So if I hadn’t the power to vanquish my father with a paring knife , I have the power with my brush . My father’s greatest gift to me is empathy , I cannot bear brutish cruelty towards those unable to defend themselves. My passion for the rights of animals stems from past lived experience . For that I’m grateful .
Happy Father’s Day ( seriously ).