vallihilaire20080914_0325

daughter to father: you can’t take back what you’ve taken away

I’ve never written about my father in any complete & cohesive way. I don’t think I’ve even written about him in my diaries growing up, well, maybe a little bit but not really.

Anyway, I want to write about him now because I feel like I’ve made peace with our relationship or lack thereof. This isn’t a happy story and I’m writing it not just to document it for once and for all but for other people to understand and maybe learn something.

I wasn’t a planned baby. I was a surprise. My mom was dating my father at a time in her life when she thought she couldn’t have another baby. But I came along seven years after my sister. My sister and I have different fathers but we’re sisters nevertheless, not “half,” just sisters. But I digress, that’s a post for another day! :)

While I wasn’t expected, I was deeply loved from the moment my mom saw me floating around in her stomach on a little TV screen. My mom wasn’t with my father when I was born and so there was no rush to get hitched or anything like that. Which was cool because why force a relationship when it’s not necessary and it wouldn’t have been the natural next step in the relationship anyway had I not come into the picture.

But my father said he’d be there for me. My mom asked him point blank, “Are you going to be there for her?” and he said he would and then he wasn’t. He was at the beginning. When it was easy and I was a baby. But as I got older the visits became less frequent and I can only remember two times that I visited him and the new family he’d created with a woman he’d married in a city a couple hours away.

I remember very vividly driving with him up to his house and him asking me what my birthday was. I was, like, 9 or 10 at the time and even THEN I remember thinking “How can you not know my birthday???? I’m YOUR DAUGHTER!” That might have been the same trip that caused me to come home and tell my mom that I never wanted to visit him again. It wasn’t for frivolous, childish reasons. We never spent time alone together. Quality time. He never asked me about me. He never asked what I was doing in school, what my favorite subjects were, what were my friends like, what I wanted to be when I grew up. All the stuff that I now ask my niece and nephews every time I see them.

Even though I didn’t want to visit him anymore I think I still held out hope that he’d be the father that I’d wanted. One that was interested in me and who I was as a person. I’d still brag that my dad was 6’11″ and handsome. But between the time that I stopped visiting him, say the end of Elementary school, until I left high school I would see him only three separate times. Oh and there were no birthday cards, birthday calls, Christmas presents or notes. And it wasn’t about money — let’s not even get into the fact that he never paid child support — it was about the thought. Be thoughtful. Make an effort.

While he wasn’t someone I thought about most of the time, I was very aware of what his absence could mean to me in my life. I didn’t want to be one of those girls with “daddy issues” and I didn’t want his lack of influence to negatively impact my life. But as much as I was aware and as much as I didn’t want it to it did have some affect on the types of guys I chose — emotionally unavailable, physically unavailable, Peter Pans that never wanted to grow up. As a result, I’ve made a concerted effort to evaluate those choices, to look back at them and try to understand the motivation behind them.

It wasn’t until I had major surgery in 2005 that I ended all communications with him. Which up until that point had been nothing. I had gastric bypass surgery for weight loss (yet another post for another day!). An event that was the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life. It’s not an easy decision to make and it’s not an easy process to go through. It’s so not easy that it necessitated seeing a therapist to get through it. It was at that time that my father sent me an email and an attempt to see me. The subject line read “want to see my daughter” or something to that effect. He said he knew he’d messed up but wanted to see me, blah, blah, blah. I told him that I didn’t want to, especially since I was going to have this surgery and I was already emotional from dealing with that. In his follow-up email he made a criticism that left me incensed and caused me to tell him to never contact me ever again. How can you criticize a person that you have no relationship with, the very person with which you WANT to have a relationship?

Here’s the deal, I’ve been criticized by members of his family for not being open to him. They’ve insinuated that I made it hard for him. Which is, in a word, RIDICULOUS. I am naturally a quiet & shy person. I have to warm up to people, and when I was a kid this was even MORE true. I was so quiet, so shy and not an extrovert. I was called my mom’s “shadow” for a reason! I didn’t start conversations with people easily. And if I didn’t have a good experience with someone and knew nothing about them, I’m not exactly going to run up to them, hug them and say “daddy, I love you!!” Not gonna happen.

My father has the complete inability to put himself in my shoes. He can’t empathize. He doesn’t get it. Children aren’t property, children are a privilege. I wasn’t a doll he could choose to play with when he felt like it and then put away when he was tired. He was the adult. As an adult, as the parent, it’s YOUR responsibly to build your relationship with your child. It is not the child’s responsibility to work on their relationship with you. Do you really expect your 8-year-old daughter to call you and say “Hey, we need to get together for lunch! How’s next week?” That’s not how it’s supposed to go.

I know that I’m an adult now and I can forge that relationship with him but I don’t want to. That ship has sailed and he’s had enough chances to figure out how to talk to me. He’s had 32 years of opportunities. I don’t forgive him and I don’t hold on to anger towards him. I’m not worried about him. I don’t have to give him a break. I’d probably feel differently if at any point in my life he’d made an actual effort, but it never happened.

It’s funny, in writing this I just realized something else. When I was single and looking for a great guy to date the one thing I always wanted was someone who would want to be with me because it’s ME, because they liked who I was and wanted to know who I was — my likes, my dislikes, what my favorite drink at Starbucks is (so important!) — and I’m realizing that this probably stems from the fact that my father knows none of those things about me. He never had to send me money or buy me stuff. He just had to care enough to want to get to know me. He would always say that he loved me, but he never actually showed what that meant. That’s all I ever wanted.

4 Comments

  1. Shelly
    August 16, 2012 at 9:32 AM ·

    My dad chose at several times in my adult life to blame me or my circumstances at the time on the reason he would spend months to years not talking to me. That was fine but not talking to my children thats totally wrong. This last time, almost three years ago, he iced the cake with me. He cut my kids down in a conversation that had nothing to do with them. I had lost my job and called him crying, not for money, for moral support and all I got was his negativity. He of course was angry called me a loser and my kids too and started calling my kids fat and lazy. My two oldest daughters had jobs in high school and out for years, stable, His own wife cant keep a job and worked for her brother whenever she wasnt “ill.” Thats a story in and of itself. He chose to not talk to me but my kids they did nothing wrong. i told them what he said. My oldest is married and he was invited to the wedding and came. He didnt come to my middle daughters baby shower and still has yet to see the baby who is dying. My yougest daughter made an effort on her own to talk to him and he acted as though it was an effort. My advice, fuck him and the boat he rode in on. I hope he has a nice long unhealthy, unhappy life. Karma will get him and if not he will die alone. They have no friends. I heard he is moving from Ohio where we grew up to Florida. Good bye, good riddance. My mom asked if I missed him. If you had asked me this years ago I would have said yes. Miss him, hardly. I dont miss his negative ways, his comments or his advice which he himself doesnt follow. I am far from perfect but as his daughter shouldnt he have been a father, a grandfather at best? If he dies i wont be at the funeral. I have a father on paper and thats about it. Funny he has been going around to people and telling them he is a great grandfather. well to whom I dont know not to my daughter and his wife has no kids. He loves the attention and the people saying oh congratulations. I made sure to tell the right people he is not and he never will be to our little Lila and none of us want him in our lives. I have lived a nerve free non negative life for the past three years and it doesnt bother my kids, we are great!

  2. lisa S
    August 16, 2012 at 9:34 AM ·

    Thank you for posting this. I have given it to my 16 year old daughter to read to know she isn’t the only one in the world with a father that hasn’t been in her life, especially when he has a new girlfriend. He too lives close by (25 minutes) and can’t make any effort to see her or even a text.

  3. Claudia Kaupp Brundage
    August 16, 2012 at 12:39 PM ·

    wow what a great article…first I did not want to read it cause I am more interested in your NASCAR posts but then I was nosy. And I am so glad I read it.
    Not that I am an expert or something but I found this great writing.
    You are so brave to tell soo much about yourself in one article…even though it does not relate to me or my life I still found it very inspiring…

  4. mary kowalczyk
    August 17, 2012 at 8:18 AM ·

    your story moved me so much that i got tears in my eyes. I my father was in my life but had to work long hours so it was me and my mom most of the time alot of people questioned my fathers presents in my life alot of times they thought that my father wasn’t real because they never saw him at school events and that would make me lash out at people. Once i got to high school it got a little better but still there were alot of people that still didn’t think he was really my father when i was on the football team for my senior year they only said my mom’s name and left my dad out that really made me upset that i almost cryed. Just because i have my mother’s last name doesn’t mean anything he is still my father. They did finally get married in 2003.