Posted by: Tina M | 17 June , 2012

An Open Letter to my Dad on Father’s Day

An open letter, as I haven’t been in contact with my father for the last two years.

Dear Dad,

Father’s Day is always a difficult time for me as it focuses on the one area of my life that has consistently been a point of suffering, and that is my relationship with you. It’s always amazing these holidays that proclaim, as if it’s universal truth, that all parents are worth Thanking. But for many like myself, this day and all the commercials, cards, restaurant specials, and Church messages that come along with it, haunt me and make me resentful for what I don’t have.

To be honest, I can think of many beautiful and loving times that we spent together in my early childhood. You took me on many adventures to explore the world. We would hike long trails at Charleston Falls, weaving from woods to praire, standing in awe at the top of the waterfalls and then climbing carefully down the rocky path to the bottom, marveling at travelling what seemed so far. You would help me balance as I hop from stepping stone to stepping stone, and lift me onto the fallen tree that was perfect for climbing on.

I remember visiting museums and knowing your slow and thorough academic interest in things, I would slow down with you and really admire the importance of what had been captured before us. One day, at a special art exhibit at the Museum of Natural History, we paused at each picture, commenting on the medium, colors, accuracy and emotion we both observed. A stranger approached you and commented that they’d never seen a young kid (10ish I think) that interested and focused. I could tell that you were proud in that moment, and even years later when recounting to me this exchange, your eyes shone with pride.

And I remember going on trips with you to visit your side of the family- Dillon family reunions or Zanesville, we would navigate the family as you ushered me under your wing- playing in the park or swimming, but always together two peas in a pod.

I think what’s most difficult about remembering so clearly these moments where I felt loved and cared for by you; is that I know how long it’s been since I’ve felt that.

The last time we spoke, I remember, was when I called you to tell you that I’d gotten engaged to my partner to be married. I could imagine some questions, but wasn’t prepared for what felt like awkward disinterest. “Oh, That’s cool. . . ” It felt so familiar. That hurt and disappointment at getting a different response than what I’d hoped for, the anger and resentment that I always seemed to try, open myself up to the possibility of connecting, and then can’t handle the shallow reality of the relationship that we have.

So on this Father’s Day, I want to let you know what I’ve learned about how I see our history. It’s strange to need to analyze it as if it’s over, a dusty biography on a shelf, but that is the pain of having to grieve a father who isn’t dead, but is no longer in my life. Because every day that we don’t speak, that you reinforce my belief that you will never reach out to me, you also reinforce all of the myths I’ve created in my mind to justify this reality.

  1. I’m not good enough. This is something I fight every day- but sadly only recently became aware of. I can’t believe that if given the opportunity to be my family and friend, that you wouldn’t want to. I used to think that you thought highly of me, but knowing the lack of effort you’ve exerted in being an active father in my life since the divorce – I have a hard time believing that it could be anything but disappointment or disapproval that you feel towards me. The way this plays out in my other relationships is that I don’t believe that people will stay in my life, I have a hard time expressing my needs because I don’t think that anyone will care/be able to provide it, and I have a hard time expressing emotions.
  2. Someone better came along.  It seems unfair to blame it on your new wife- but what I saw happening wasn’t just you leaving when you moved out. I saw you replacing my Mom (painful enough) but also my sister and myself, as your girlfriend had two daughters.  So why would you need me? With a new family to jump into, a fresh start without the emotional baggage of your past life that you left in shambles.  This belief haunts me because again it instills a fear in me that not only is there a scarcity of love to be had (why couldn’t it felt like we were sharing the love?) but that even if you find it, you can easily lose it if someone new and attractive, less crazy or more convenient comes along.
  3. I can’t handle the truth. It felt like nothing was ever talked about in an open and honest way with me, I found out after everyone else that you were leaving and that there was another family- I remember asking you straight up where you had gone the evening before when you were “out with friends” – and you replied, just some friends from work. Not really a lie as you did work together. This theme ran throughout the rest of our relationship. Now I often feel that people are hiding things from me, that they aren’t telling me the whole truth.
  4. It’s my fault.  I still can’t help but feel as if I “drove you away” with all of the negative emotions of a young girl dealing with the loss of her dad, of her fairytale reality, of her faith in marriage and family- If only I could’ve been happy with less, with watching you give the love and affection I craved to everyone else in front of me- but I kept trying to ask for more, but as a small child I didn’t have the language to express my anger. And all I saw from you was the bottling up of everything negative or real, and running away from issues. This is a double handicap in my current relationships, as I fear that I am pushing people away and then I run away from them to avoid facing any hurtful realities that I expect.

So, this father’s day, I wanted you to know- that I think of you often as I walk through life looking through the lens of loss that you gave me when you left. I do hope that you’re doing well- and I miss you to this day; but I continue to try to heal from past wounds until one day hopefully I’ll be able to give it one more try.

 

With Love,

Your Youngest Daughter


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