My dad is alive, we have had a long history of ups, downs and periods of talking, not talking, and forgiveness. Currently, we aren’t speaking, this time it is intentional, and I don’t know if I’ll engage him at all. What’s all this about? We only get one dad, and mom, so we should cherish our time with them, right? I would say it depends on the relationship you have with your parents. My first understanding of disappointment was my dad saying he was coming to take me somewhere, and stranding me. He never apologized. Year after year he would skip calling me for my birthday, skip all the holiday calls, and simply stopped showing up, and therefore I gave up on depending on him. My mom loved to remind me that he didn’t care about me in moments when she was admonishing me for whatever thing she found wrong at that time, and I couldn’t have felt more isolated. I learned from my dad to never trust anyone’s word, and that disappointment was inevitable because I wasn’t worth the effort. Awesome.
My sisters and I talk about our different relationships with our dad, and we have all settled on letting our relationship with him morph into whatever it’s going to be. However, I’m very much hyper-aware of my own feelings because my daughter is acutely experiencing a similar feeling with her father. He hardly calls, he doesn’t show up when he said he would, misses her birthday, and holidays. He is absent. She recently had a heart-wrenching series of questions about her father’s love for her; was he mad at her, and what did she do to make him stay away? My heart broke for her because I empathize so acutely with what she’s dealing with. I’m so proud that she can articulate her pain, and while she said she thought I would be upset that she missed him, I reassured her that I could never be mad at her missing her father because I spent my entire childhood missing mine. The difference between my mother and me is the hard conversation I was willing to have, and the room I am willing to give to my child despite my feelings about her dad. She needed me to hear her, and I will continue to hear, and offer her compassion because his absence means I have to step up and back her up no matter what.
It’s hard for me not to feel lonely in this world sometimes, actually, it’s a constant struggle to remember that I am not, and I have to count my everyday blessings. It is tough, and also beautiful to see fathers who still give their grown daughters Valentine’s Day cards, or the dads who picked their daughters up no matter how late or how far away, they had to drive, or the dads who were there to offer sage advice about men, dating, romance, and what to accept in this life. My daughter will have that with her grandfather, her uncles, her godfathers, and the strong village of people who surround her now. I didn’t have any of that. I didn’t have any males who I could call if someone had harmed me, there was no dad advocating for me when my mother didn’t have the time, I didn’t have a father to wait up for me, or pick me up or show up to my track meets or poetry readings. I had such little faith in my father, that I didn’t even bother to have a wedding because I didn’t want to face the disappointment of him not walking me down the aisle.
The everyday effects on me are subtle but significant. I’ve never fully learned to trust and believe what anyone says they will do until they have proven they can show up consistently. I still have trouble sorting out my willingness to dig deep with men because the example of a positive, caring, and faithful man has evaded me, and I don’t know how not expect the worst. I guard myself with sky-high walls, and it’s not because I don’t have massive amounts of love to share, but I just don’t know if my love, my being, my essence could be loved with the same intensity. Being a fatherless girl fucks you up because you search for that connection, that deep desire to connect with someone who loves you unconditionally, and while some women are able to find husbands who make up for everything that was missing, a lot of us do not find what we seek. You can have self-love all day, but there’s nothing that prepares you for a parent who doesn’t want you. It’s a trauma that stains your life and never goes away.