As I wrote earlier this year, my folks left me in August 2015. They moved 2,000 miles away. I don’t expect to ever see them again. I’ve made peace with it.
And for the most part, I’ve made peace with the fact that, while many pay tribute to their dads, their heroes, on Father’s Day, I wasn’t among the fortunate ones to have a dad like that.
I know my experience is shared by many, and for plenty, their memories of and feelings toward their dads are much worse. My dad could be emotionally abusive, and occasionally physically abusive, but nothing like what I know some people experience.
Looking back, I presume my dad was bipolar. I never knew whether the person who came home at the end of the day was going to like me or not like me. It made me paranoid and nervous that he would find something — anything, who knew what it might be?– that I had done, not done, or whatever. It has taken me years to move past that. Frankly, I still struggle with it.
I tried. I did everything I knew how to do to make him proud and have a good relationship with him. I brought gifts, I acknowledged his birthday, and never forgot Father’s Day. He rarely seemed to like anything I got him. A notable exception was the year I gave him a video camera.
On Father’s Day 2006, I made a deliberate decision to ignore him. I went to a Father’s Day celebration held by someone else. As it happened, it was a family that shared a backyard fence with my parents. I had no interest in seeing my dad and chose instead to focus on my husband.
The reason I remember vividly the year I stopped making an effort is because, just two days before, my youngest son had graduated from high school. My dad was in the hospital but was on the mend and was released the next day. Nevertheless, he told my mother she could not attend my son’s graduation because she needed to stay by his side.
It was then that I realized what a weak and selfish man he really was.
For many of you, this may seem petty. I get that. But it was the culmination of a lifetime of events. He once wrote “Congratulations, you’re one step closer to drop-out status” on one of my report cards. He once started a fight at a birthday party my husband and I hosted for him at our home. One Christmas when we were visiting my folks, he screamed at the top of his lungs at my youngest child because he was singing while he colored a picture and disturbing my dad as he watched a TV movie. Another time he went off because the same child unrolled a roll of paper towels across the floor, and when my mother tried to intervene, he threatened her, causing me to call 911. Thereafter he said he would disown me if I ever did something like that again.I realize this post is a bit of a downer, and that’s not my intent. For those of you who have or had dads who are or were your hero, you have no idea how happy I am for you. What a wonderful thing. You are the lucky ones, and I know there are a lot of you. Hopefully more of you than there are of me. But honestly, Father’s Day always makes me a little sad.
I once read that to mourn what you lack is to waste what you have. I have much, more than I could have ever asked for. A hero for a dad is not among the things with which this life has blessed me, but as I said at the outset, I’ve made peace with it. I have made a wonderful family of my own, and they have brought more joy than I ever thought possible.
So, Happy Father’s Day to all the dads, the dads-to-be, the stepdads, the granddads, and the someday dads. Be a hero. The world needs you.