For When Your Dad Isn't Coming Back
Today is Father's Day, and I have some words.
This is a hard holiday for me. My father and I have been permanently estranged for the last 13 years, and that number will only increase. I desperately believe in reconciliation... when both parties want it, but my father did not and does not.
Sorry to be such a downer.
When I got married 15 years ago, I wrestled with who would walk me down the aisle - my mostly absent father or my step-dad, Jon. I wanted it to be Jon, but I couldn't do that to my dad. No matter how much damage he had done in my life, inviting him to my wedding and making him watch another man give me away felt cruel.
But I also had a gut feeling he wouldn't always be in my life, that I'd look back on wedding photos and see a stranger. That wasn't a memory bank account I wanted to open.
So I walked down the aisle alone. It wasn't ideal, but it seemed doable. Appropriate even. I had done a lot in my life on my own (or so I thought), so why not walk toward the greatest earthly covenant on my own two feet, without another person to lean on, to give me away?
It felt natural and woefully unnatural at the same time. It still does, especially on Father's Day.
I love seeing friends celebrate their dads. I love knowing that my kids will never experience the heartbreak I do because their dad is baller. I ache for those of you who desperately miss loving, amazing fathers who have passed away. Every story counts.
And I also know some of you are like me. Your dad is gone, even if he's still living. Maybe he was abusive and you've set boundaries, or he just plain up and left. Whatever the reason, however emotionally healthy you're being about the whole thing, it totally sucks... especially today.
People say that no relationship is too far gone, and while that may be true, hear me, sweet friend, when I say this:
You can wish him well without wanting him to come back. It doesn't make you a bad daughter.
I have hope, hope that my father will eventually turn his life around and get help for his addictions and illnesses. Maybe he already has. I can hope that for him without being part of the process. Our relationship is over; his past decisions have been too destructive, but that doesn't mean I don't have hope for him and for his future, even though it's without me.
So if Father's Day hurts because your dad is absent, know you're not alone. I see you and hate it for you. But I also hope for you as you struggle to hope for him.
You can miss the idea of a father without missing your actual father.
You can wish him well without doing it to his face.
You can hurt on Father's Day while knowing the separation is best.
Just because he's not coming back doesn't mean hope has to leave, too. Hope for his best. Forgive if you can. Trust the necessary distance.
You're still a good daughter.