Dan, a great fur dad.
Father’s Day has always left me feeling conflicted. I still remember standing in front of the Hallmark Cards display, trying to find a card that wasn’t sappy to send to my dad when I was a kid. None of the cards dripping with praise fit. Those basic non-emotional cards were so hard to find.
My father was a complex man, a Lieutenant Colonel in the Army who fought in three wars. How does that not change someone? I never lived with him since my parents divorced when I was a toddler, and our interactions were pretty much contained to his awkward annual fifteen minute visits and rare phone calls instigated by me, usually when I was calling, terrified to ask for his help. My fingers always shook as I turned the rotary dial of Mom’s phone.
He was cold and rigid and always seemed to know just the thing to say to cut you off at the knees- especially to a young girl desperate to connect with him and somehow earn his approval. I was afraid of him, but at the same time I hero worshipped him. I also knew that he had hurt my mom, and I was protective of her even as a young girl. Such a strange mix of feelings.
From the vantage of age and experience, I think of how awkward it must have been for him to come to our house on Westwood Lane. I also know that he had another side, a softer side. My mom loved him until the day she died and cried every time he visited. He had no relationship with me really, so he was just there, duty bound. I think of how I might feel if I had been placed in the same situation.
It’s been easy to judge him all these years, but he was a human and made mistakes- just as I have in my own life, as we all do. I have long forgiven him, but my heart will always hurt on this day. I see all of the beautiful photos posted today of daughters with their fathers, and I realize that I don’t have one photo of Dad and I together- not even a baby photo. It’s almost as if he never existed in my life, until I look in the mirror and see him there, hear him in my laugh.
I was fortunate; I had an amazing mother who did her best to be both parents to me. I had loving and devoted uncles who taught me that men could be gentle and kind. I had band directors who gave their time to me, believed in me. My clarinet mentor taught me what fierce devotion a father can give. Now I have a husband who I have no doubt would have been an amazing father. There are wonderful fathers everywhere, and it makes my heart happy to see that.
I don’t live in regret. I do hope that someday I will see my father again. If I do, I will hug him and thank him for giving me life, for making me strong because I had to be. And I will tell him that I always loved him, no matter what.