I’ll admit, this is written for somewhat therapeutic purposes. At the same time, I know hundreds of my readers come from broken, fatherless homes. For us, fathers day is a reminder of what we’ve lost. So, forgive me for the raw emotion- the frustration, the bitterness, the grief. This blog is nothing if not painfully real.
Nothing rips open wounds for me quite like Father’s Day.
I can handle being single on Valentine’s. I can cope with the ache of being childless on Mother’s Day. But I’ve never quite learned how to handle Father’s Day.
The pain is visceral. For a while, I tried to muscle through it, numb it, or find a plethora of other ways to cope with it. Then, I realized, it’s grief and loss, and no matter how many years go by, the betrayal, the abandonment, the loss will always be there.
One does not simply un-lose something.
When you left, I cried- a lot. Twenty-three years later, I’m still crying. When I was little, it was because I missed you. I didn’t understand where you had gone, or why. I sent you cards and letters. I would sit on my bed writing them with tears in my eyes (kinda like now), begging you to come back, apologizing for things I never did wrong, promising to do better. You never responded. You were simply gone.
I was a Daddy’s girl, and you knew that. I still don’t understand how you could leave that.
I feel like I lost half my heart that day.
The next ten years of my life were horrible, absolutely horrible. I was so angry, hurt, and confused. People kept telling me God was a good father and could take your place. But ‘good’ and ‘father’ didn’t belong together. I didn’t want God or His ‘fatherness.’ I put up walls, threw out defenses, and seethed in anger. Seethed.
I needed you.
I needed you when the kids made fun of me from not having a dad. I needed you when he asked me to take off my clothes. I needed you when the men online told me I was beautiful- I needed to hear that from you. When they asked me for pictures, I needed you. I needed to know, not just hear it but truly believe, that I was worth more than this.
I needed you.
While you went and married wife after wife (what are you, separated from number 8? Or is it 9?), the children you fathered floundered through life on their own. I watched as my brothers struggled to grow into men. No one wanted us, dad. No one wanted to deal with the kids who didn’t have a dad. We got written off.
We were statistics- and in many ways still are. We have been punished for your choices while you go and continue to make them. It’s not right.
We figured this out without you- this faith thing, this life thing. But we are not the better for it.
I still can’t bring myself to love God like a father, perhaps because I don’t even know how to love a father. I don’t love you, at least not as a dad. Maybe I should. Maybe I’m supposed to. People keep saying that I should ‘honor my parents’ even when they aren’t great parents. You are less than ‘not great’ though. You were, and continue to be toxic.
And I grieve- I grieve being left. My dad will never walk me down the aisle. My children will never know their grandfather. I have panic attacks when I think I’ve been left behind. No matter how much I try to talk myself out of them, they still come. I’ve been dealing with them for years. You know how stupid I feel trying to explain that to people?
Please, I really need you to tell me if you are going to be late. It’s hard to explain but if I think you have forgotten about me, I start to panic. My heart will race and I’ll have a hard time breathing. I can’t really control it. I just freak out. So, even if you’re just stuck in traffic, if you could just text me to let me know or call me, that would be great. My dad left me at piano lessons the day he left so I guess I just lose it if I think I’m being left behind. I don’t know.
I hate being the girl with ‘daddy issues.’
Father’s Day isn’t a day to celebrate fathers. It’s a reminder of everything I can never have, because of your choices. In some ways, it would have been better if you had died. It would be easier to cope with than the idea of being actively abandoned. Sure, you have my picture on your kitchen table because you Facebook stalked me and found it, but really, that picture is like pornography. It’s just a picture. You have it there to ease your own conscience, so you can brag about me, and be proud of me.
You don’t even know me, and that’s not my fault. That’s all on you. You had the opportunity to know me better than anyone in the world, and you walked away from it.
I watch my guy friends with their babies- there is nothing more beautiful. I cry every time I see it. When my friends share pictures of their husbands with their children, it melts my heart. That’s how it is supposed to be. And I think the hidden mother’s heart in me knows that.
But right now, I lead with the broken daughter’s heart. I’m reminded that there was once a day you held your firstborn for the first time. You probably cried. You probably thought you could never love anything more. That’s what I hear my friends say.
Then, you left.
I have seen so clearly the impact a bad or absent father can have on children. It’s a trainwreck. It’s an absolute mess. Praise God for bringing men into my life- real fathers- who have helped heal some wounds. They have helped me feel protected, cherished, and respected. They have helped me grow, and understand boundaries. They have helped me see my worth. They give really good hugs, and are so protective of me, always willing to offer advice and come rescue me from a bad date.
As great as they are, though, they will never be my father. That was your job, and you didn’t even try.
So, I spend my Father’s Days praying for the dads around me. Praying that they won’t make the same choices you made. Praying that they would stay as true as they can to representing the love of God. Praying that their children don’t have to grow up without dads. Praying that their daughters would understand their worth and not have to find it the hard way.
Basically, thanks to you, I spend Father’s Day begging God that no little girl I know ever has to have a dad like me.