Father’s Day is a difficult day for me. My daughter’s dad has always been absent, and my own father is dead. Even in the years before dad’s death, Father’s Day was always a challenge.
My father beat me. There was emotional manipulation as well. Even when he was sick it continued. The last Father’s Day he ever had I tried calling. He didn’t answer. I then tried calling from a private number. There was a change in Dad’s voice when he realised it was me. We hadn’t spoken much for years. I can’t remember exactly why we fell out, but a lot of it had to do with my refusal to go along with the way he thought I should live my life. Dad wanted me to do things his way. I tried and it almost destroyed me. So I stopped. I started being myself. Living my life by my own values. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. That Father’s Day phone call he ended by telling me to ‘come back to the family’. I knew what that meant.
Dad always said that if you lived under his roof you had to abide by his rules. Fair enough especially if he was paying the lion’s share of all the bills. But I wasn’t living at home. It had been years since I was financially dependent on anyone else. I paid my own rent. I was an adult dealing with the consequences of my decisions. There was no one there to bail me out. Coming back to the family meant obeying him in everything. Doing my life his way. Living the way he lived. I wasn’t up for that. What I was up for was having an adult relationship. Agreeing to disagree. Knowing that respect is how you treat someone. It is possible to have clashing world views without being disrespectful.
In the end, when Dad told me the cancer was back and it was terminal, I had to swallow years of pain. Putting aside all the things I wanted to say I went to visit in the hospital. I had moved across the state so there were countless phone calls. We had more contact in the last few months then we had in the last five years. When he died my heart was shattered. Because no matter how bad things were, I always had hope they would get better. Death took that hope.
I don’t believe my father was a bad person. People are more complex then just good or bad. That’s part of the reason we clashed so much. Dad had a very straight forward view of the world, it was all black and white. My world was full of greys and colours, ideas that fell outside of the conservative realm. My dad was outspoken and stubborn. So am I. Throw in some generational trauma and there’s going to be fireworks.
Recognising that my father was human helped my healing. Learning his backstory also helped. But it didn’t change my personal history. I still have the memories. My heart is still scared of opening to men. My anger simmers a little too close to the surface some days. I still wear the scars from my youth.
That’s why Father’s Day is difficult for me. For years I’ve sought to recognise the men in my life that have been positive influences. The ones that showed me a man can be angry without hurting anyone or anything. That men can be caring. I don’t do that anymore. Instead I let myself feel whatever it is I need to feel. Last year I was incredibly sad, I grieved for my father. This year there’s been a ball of rage sitting on my chest for most of the day. Anger for all the years of hurt, for the childhood memories that no one should have. My older siblings would tell you a different story about our father. It’s just not my story. My story is one of heartache, broken dreams and a desire to not just be loved but liked by her father.
Happy Father’s Day. Especially to those that wanted something better but never got it.