The story I tell my friends about my father is an entirely different story than the one that my family talks about. And that’s because you don’t talk about it in my family – not even a whisper.
It’s hard to explain what it’s like missing an absentee parent, but nonetheless it’s something that happens. Often. At the most inopportune times.
My father was, how should I say, less than the father he should have been. Between working every day of the year – holidays included – being unfaithful to my mother, and ensuring we would never see a penny upon his death, there wasn’t much time for us – his children. I never truly ever had his full attention.
My father was from Italy, and I lost count of how many times I brought a children’s book to my father asking him to teach me Italian and he said he was “too busy” doing whatever the fuck it was he was doing on the computer in his office the entire time he was home from work. And that’s the thing that sucked the most.
When he was at home… he wasn’t really. The term “later” was coined around my house more often than it should have been. I was naturally a daddy’s girl to begin with, so the reality of my situation was harder for me to understand than my brother. He just gave up trying, while I never quite got the hint. But I suppose that’s they way it is when you’re 7 years old and can’t figure out why your father won’t make time for you.
The story I tell my friends is a stark contrast to reality.
Nobody wants to admit they have less of a parent than they were supposed to have. And nobody wants anyone else to know the reality of his or her situation.
It’s always hugs and smiles and don’t let anyone see you cry. Saving face was a particular strong suit of my mothers.
No, when I tell the story I make him a superhero. I tell people he was the world’s greatest dad, and when I talk about him being from Italy you could never tell he was a bad guy, because I do it with so much pride. I practically beam with the stuff. Yes, I talk about all of those times he was there for me or that one time we couldn’t stop laughing – but it’s all a lie. And it’s hard to explain to a mother scorned why you can’t stop talking about your deadbeat father.
Well mother, let me explain. All of those tears you shed because my phone background was a picture of him holding me as a baby – the only recent photo I could even find of us together… happy – it made me just as sad. I invented the father I wish I had because I never had that. I never had a father who was there for me and I never had a father who ever truly made me feel loved. And when he died it was impossible for that dream to ever become a reality. So when I ask questions about him or talk about him or make him a background on my phone or make an Instagram post, it’s not because I love you any less. In fact, I love you quite more than you’ll ever know. But, he was still my father.
So how do you miss an absentee parent after they’ve died?
How do you explain to the parent you do still have that yes, while you do hate them for everything they did or didn’t do, they’re still your parent. My father is still my father no matter what he did before he died. I’ll be angry with him for the rest of my life. But that doesn’t mean I’m not allowed to feel his loss.
That doesn’t mean I’m not allowed to miss him.
And this is the misconception I feel the other parent doesn’t quite understand. So, it’s hard to miss someone who was never really there to begin with. And it’s hard to explain what that’s like to someone who’s never felt that. And it’s even harder to feel those emotions.
I don’t want to be holding a grudge for the rest of my life. Why would I want to drink poison and expect the other person to die? My hating them will do nothing. It won’t change anything. And in my case, he’s already dead, so what good will it do me? My brother? My mother? The answer is it won’t.
Missing someone who was never really there to begin with is a difficult thing. So, if you happen to invent a parent you never had simply because you are trying to fill some type of void left by reality – then for fucks sake do it. Don’t let anyone try to take your feelings and mold them to fit their own standards. I don’t plan on pretending my father was a stand up guy with my own family. But what I don’t plan on doing is letting the entire world know how shitty my home life with him was.
So to me he’s a superhero. He just got stuck at the Laundromat washing his cape. He’ll be back soon – could be a while – but I know it’ll be soon.