This is not the first and will not be the last time I write about my father, Sanford Cleveland Kahrmann. He was (and is) the greatest gift life has ever given me. Yes, he died way too soon at age 55 (I was 15), but his presence in my life for those 15 years and for every single day since (death only takes away so much) has made all the difference in the world for me.
I miss him on a daily basis and would give anything to be able to sit and talk with him for hours (and hug him). After he died I learned some things about his life I’d like to ask him about. When he was alive I knew he was in the U.S. Army in World War II and I knew he was in the 20th Armored Division. It was only a few years ago that I learned the 20th was one of the three American divisions to liberate the Dachau Concentration Camp. Like most war veterans, my father never talked about it.
All of us have relationships with our histories. Much of getting to a healthy place in life revolves around getting free of the damaging messages we received about ourselves when we were growing up, when we were too young to have any reference point to tell us what we were being told about ourselves was wrong. People (often family members) saying: You’re stupid, too fat, too thin, too ugly, too intense, the cause of all our problems…and then of course, the are those children who’ve been on the receiving end of abuse: verbal, physical, sexual, where your entire being gets the message that you are unforgivably inhuman, worse than dirt. Also damaging is the messages some get that they are smarter, better, superior than others. One’s self-image is badly skewed when on the receiving end of falsehoods like those.
Getting free of these messages may seem impossible. Not so. If you were (or are) lucky, you had someone like my father in your life. Someone who simply loved you for being you. All you had to do was be yourself to be loved and accepted, and in that, you got to discover that there is such a thing as being safe with another human being. It’s a helluva lifeline, I can tell you. Perhaps there is someone in your life who loves you like that now. I hope so.
At this writing I am 59 and I’ve been on my own since I was 16. Were it not for the presence of my father in my life I would not be alive. Some have said it was an act of courage for me to get back to my feet after being shot in the head at point-blank range. Maybe so. But, if so, my father (and my then seven-year-old daughter) provided the ignition that allowed what courage I have its full rein.
I’m not entirely sure what prompted me to write about my father today. It may be because we are closing in on the end of a year and about to start a new one. I tend to get a bit reflective around this time of the year.