“Are you going to be sad tomorrow?” my mom asked me, as we sat in a booth at Panera Bread on Saturday afternoon.
My mind raced as I took a bite of salad, trying to place what she meant. Tomorrow? What was tomorrow? What did I have to be sad about?
“Oh!” I finally said, realizing what she meant. “About Father’s Day.” I nodded. “Yeah, I’ll be sad.”
I thought about it for a moment.
“Not as sad as I’d be about Mother’s Day, though. A lot of people have crappy fathers, but Mother’s Day would be really hard.”
Yesterday was my sixth fatherless Father’s Day. Is it getting easier to not be with my father on the days I should be with him?
Yes… and no. I still get sad. It still hurts not to be with him when I could celebrate this day with him. It’s not as if he’s died and I’ll never get to see him again, except it’s almost as if it is.
A few months ago, I saw my father. I knew instinctively it was him. He was riding his bike down the very same (busy) street I live on. His signature bandanna wrapped around his head, his legs pumping. He turned his head in my direction right as I passed him and I looked straight at him. He didn’t see me, he was looking above the traffic but I know it was him. My face heated, my heart rate rose, and my breath came in spurts.
“Was that Dad?” my mom asked. She was driving us to lunch.
I nodded. “Yep. That was Dad.”
It’s weird, you know? Here he is, living this life without his kids. He’s working and biking and shopping and laughing and sleeping and hugging and making memories without us. As if we don’t even exist. This man who used to be my entire world, who used to make me laugh so much and played with me and walked me to the bus stop and gave me silly nicknames and sat with me as my brother and mother rode roller coasters at theme parks and… he’s just a memory now. I just have memories of how much fun I used to have with him. Memories of the way he made me feel loved and safe and happy.
I’m no longer mad. It’s been so long that the anger has dissipated, leaving in its wake pure sadness. I want a relationship with him again. I want to see him, hear him say my name, hug him. I want to have a father again.
But I also know that I need more from him. I have so many good memories of him. But I also have so many awful memories of him. Memories of him cursing at me when I spill a drink. Memories of him taking my brother and I to play tennis and him only playing with my brother, because my skill level just wasn’t as good as their’s. Memories of him holding a knife up to my mom’s throat or yelling at her or abusing her. Memories of an answering machine message where he threatened to kill my mom. Memories of him berating me, making me feel less than worthy, making me feel that I needed to do more and be more for him to love me.
I couldn’t have that man in my life anymore. I deserved better. I deserved a father who loved me unconditionally, foibles and all. I had to sever the relationship. I did it because it was the only way I knew I would be able to learn to love who I was. The only way I would learn to accept myself. It was hard and scary and I worried every day if I was being selfish and a brat.
Five and a half years later, I know I made the right choice. For the first time in my life, I stood up for myself. I let him know, in no uncertain terms, that I would no longer be treated that way and I was worth so much more. I no longer judge who I am by my dad’s standards. I learned to love my shy, quiet, introverted nature. I learned to stand up for myself, put myself out there, and above all, love Stephany just as she is. Stephany is a wonderful, wonderful person and he is missing out on me. He is missing out on so much.
Father’s Day will always be a hard day, knowing I made the decision to shut the door on my relationship with my father. While I know I made the best choice for me, there’s always that niggling feeling of guilt. I wonder constantly what he thinks of me. Is he sad? Mad? Apathetic? I just don’t know. Living a fatherless life is hard. I can’t relate to those with wonderful fathers and I can’t relate with those with fathers who have died. Thankfully, there is an army of us – those with deadbeat dads who can’t help but feel like we lost out on something special with the fathers that were handed to us. We’re the ones who wake up on Father’s Day always a little melancholy, a little sad.
Father’s Day will always be hard, but every year, I get less and less sad about it. I choose to focus on the men in my life (such as my grandfather and my brother and my uncles) who have stepped up and showed me the true worth of a father. They are the ones to be celebrate and loved. They are the ones this holiday is all about.
To my father, I love you tremendously and not a day goes by where I’m not thinking of you. I hope, with all my heart, you understand why I had to find my way without you and I pray that one day we will both be able to have a relationship again and mend the hurt in our hearts.