I had nearly 16 years of a great relationship with my dad and I feel very grateful for that. I am very aware that there are so many kids who never got that with either of their parents (and this, in large part, is why I hope to be able to provide a stable, loving, consistent home for some of those kids someday). I get to have memories of daddy/daughter dates over freshly baked donuts, of writing my first song with him, of being taught tennis by him (his repetitive encouragement to “Make small adjustments” still echoes in my life), of Christmases in Wisconsin, dance parties and card games, him taking me to acting camp in Washington and taking me to California to tour colleges. There's a lot of good stuff there. And the bad stuff that followed doesn’t erase that for me. I’m so grateful for it.
We adapt, as human beings, to whatever situation we are in. We learn to fend for ourselves, to live without things, without people. Death doesn’t give you much choice but to move on. Disownment’s a little different. The person is still there. The opportunity is still there…being wasted every second until the grim reaper decides time’s up. A common argument is made on articles and posts where parents and children are in these types of situations that the parent or child should do whatever possible to make amends. I think this is a shit argument when it’s used as the cure-all statement to these issues because some relationships ARE toxic/abusive, and other relationships, like my dad and mine can’t be fixed just because I would like it to be or because I didn’t try hard enough. All relationships are a two-way street and if one party isn’t willing to participate there isn’t anything you can do. Period. Furthermore, it’s hurtful and very much not anybody else's place to imply otherwise.
When I think about my dad these days, I hope he is doing well. I hope he is happy, healthy, and has a good group of people around him. I hope that he has learned how to deal with his emotions better and how to handle personal conflict better. I’m working on this too. It’s really hard. I think about him as an individual now. I wonder how he narrates the story of his life. Sometimes I think about what he says when people ask him if he has kids. I also sometimes think with great sadness what he has missed out on in my brother’s life and in mine. We are adults now. My brother has a wife and four kids and beautiful home. My brother is such a great dad. It makes me so happy to see him be a father to his kids. My nieces and nephews are gorgeous, sweet, healthy, funny, and smart. He’s never met them.
And me? I’ve done the things I told my father I would do that he said he didn’t think I was strong enough to do. I went to school in New York City and studied acting. And the dreams of my childhood are still my dreams to this day. I’ve checked off a few—I still have plenty to go, but I’ve never waivered. I knew myself then, and I know myself so much more now. And it’s a shame he never really got to know either. I am resilient and kind, creative and passionate, loving and sincere, smart and focused. And sometimes I really wish I had my Dad to call up and ask advice, to reminisce about the history only we share, to hear corny jokes or share a donut again.
If my dad were to reach out to my brother and I now…I don’t want to speak for my brother, but knowing him, I think we would both be quick to listen. We would do our parts to make amends. We both have a big heart and are quick to forgive, to salvage pieces and to try to make the best out of situations. That’s the thing I would most like him to know. We don’t walk around with anger towards him. We don’t hold a grudge against him. We are loving people who have been hurt, but love nonetheless.
I think also it is important that my dad understand that at this point it has to be him to make that move. My brother and I have reached out and showed up before and have been left standing empty handed too many times. We need to see him make some effort on his own towards us. And I accept that he may not be able to do that. I understand how incredibly hard that would be to do…especially if he feels hurt and uncomfortable with confrontation and when so many years have now passed that “normal” is now life without us.
Anyway, I just wanted to put this out into the universe. I know Father’s Day for a lot of people is a touch painful—a reminder of a loss, of a scarred over wound. If my dad were to read this—I just would want him to know I still think of him, of our good times, and if he ever got up the desire and courage to reach out…I’d be happy to listen.