This is something that I’ve been thinking about a lot lately, but I’ve been hesitant to write about it here. I know that I could be all, my blog, my thoughts, no soup for you about it, but the truth is that I’m not sure of my ability to put what I want to say into words. Also, I think that you’re used to coming here to read about the times I’ve made a complete ass of myself, and I live for nothing if not creating blog posts out of mortal embarrassment.
Anyway, I guess the easiest way to begin is to tell you that I’ve been to three weddings this summer. The first was my best friend Liz’s, the second was Matt’s sister’s, and the third was a close work-friend this weekend. It’s not so much the actual weddings that bring up these thoughts that I want to write about, but the fact that weddings are typically a time when families come together.
This summer, I have watched Liz’s dad beam with pride and give a warm, heart-felt toast. I watched Matt’s dad join his daughter and her husband in marriage as he struggled to hold back tears. I watched my work-friend’s dad squeeze her tight during the father-daughter dance. And as much as I was involved in watching these things, as happy as I was for all of these families in these touching moments, I couldn’t help but (selfishly, perhaps) feel a profound sense of loss.
I will never have these things. My father will never walk me down the aisle, we will not dance, and if someday I decide to have children, they will not know their maternal grandfather.
You can say that this is the choice that I made – that it was my choice to cut my father out of my life almost two years ago. That if I so chose, I could have those things that I felt so heartbroken over. I’d argue that you were wrong – but you could say those things to me.
I used to think that the best thing that could happen would be for my father to have a sudden, shocking realization of what a terrible person he’s been. I imagined him coming to his senses, turning his life around, and trying, desperately to make up for things. I’ve wanted so badly for him to just recognize his actions – to feel remorse and yes, hurt. It is not nice of me to admit just how much I have wanted him to hurt, but it is the truth.
When I made the decision and finally took the action to stop having any interaction with my father, I felt immediately like a giant weight had been lifted. You see, even though I’d always hoped that my father would hurt for the things he had done, I think somewhere, deep down, I always hoped that if he just hurt enough , just felt enough remorse, maybe I could end up with the father I’d always wanted. And that’s why finally severing the ties felt like such a weight had been lifted – because I could finally admit to myself that he will never be the person I want, or need, or hope for him to be. He will never change, never truly regret, never be able to erase the indelible marks he has left on me.
It was such a relief to stop hoping. Hope is uplifting, it is empoweing, and it what keeps us going – until it is so futile that it is simply a drain on our mental resources. The only problem is that in giving up this fervent hope, I didn’t get to give up the guilt, or the longing associated with it. Sure, I might not have hope of my father ever being a person that I would want to have a relationship, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t long to have a father who I could talk to, be a daughter to, and yes, walk down the aisle with.
I have been so lucky in so many ways. I think of the way that Liz’s family has treated me as one of their own – of the example they set for me of what a family could be, should be. The kindness that they continue to show me to this day… and there truly are no words to say what that has meant, and what kind of influence I know it has had on my life.
I think of how lucky I am that Matt’s family has been so wonderful to me. Even when they drive me nuts, they do it in the way only your family can. I knew the first time that they made fun of me that I was in for life.
I know that there are people out there who are so much worse off than me – people who have lost loved ones or who have never known their parents or whose parents have done things to them much worse than anything I have ever experienced. Maybe that is what makes it hard to write about these things – it’s easy to complain about the little things; but take a hard look at the big stuff and your brain can’t stop trying to convince you that it’s not that bad, you can survive it, look at how much worse it could be.
I started this post over a week ago, but I never published it because – well, I’m not really sure why. But, I came back to it today because this morning I opened up my e-mail to find a message from him. The subject line of the e-mail is ‘Olive Branch’ and the text is basically him asking me to let things go and to tell him what he has done that has made me so angry as to stop speaking to him.
There are so many things that I could write in response. I could tell him to stop this charade of being the bigger person in extending an olive branch. I could tell him, simply, to never contact me again – ever. I could tell him that using the anniversary of his own father’s death as a reason that I should speak to him, lest I regret it someday, is a cheap trick. I could list the things he’s done that make him a horrible person in my mind. I would start with the times (plural!) that I was the one who had to call the police on him – as a child of less than 10 years old. I could recount the time that I heard my mother actually tell someone that she had walked into a doorknob to explain her black eye. I could tell him that of all the emotions that he has made me feel, it is not love or affection that top the list, but fear and hate.
I don’t know what I will do or say. I really don’t. I know that this is eating me up inside. It seems that the ability I had to cope with all of this as a kid is somehow failing me as an adult. It is coloring every aspect of my life, from my relationship with Matt to my ability to talk to my mother and brother, to my own thoughts about having children someday.
I thought I was stronger than this. I thought I could make it go away, and in fact I thought I had done just that by stopping all contact. I guess it’s not working…