For the first time in 5 years….
Today is a big day: it is the first time I will talk to my dad in 5 years.
It’s interesting how life changes and how relationships evolve.
My relationship with my dad has certainly not been typical. He has been in and out of my life since I was born. Five years ago, I told my dad there wasn’t a place for him in my life anymore unless he made some changes. Other than telling me once between that moment and now to “have a nice life,” in an email, I haven’t heard from him. He hasn’t heard from me either. The reasons behind our divide are for a different day- more so book length than blog length.
Five years ago, I believed unequivocally that there were certain things that were absolutes, certain things that could never be forgiven, or at least not forgotten. I believed then, that some reasons were good enough to kick someone out of your life. In some ways, I still totally think that is true. No one else can tell you what the threshold in your relationships should be. And, I do still think some reasons are beyond valid to no longer have someone in your life- safety issues or the need to remove a negative emotional influence- just to name a few. People have come and gone in my life for a variety of reasons- some of which I maintain were for the best, and others I am not so sure anymore.
I believed that my reasons for no longer wanting a relationship with my dad were more important than the reasons I still wanted him in my life. I saw them as completely intertwined. I couldn’t have a relationship with him because the reasons would always be there- and maybe that is true- but I have come to a point in my life where I think it is at least worth a try.
A lot has happened in the last five years. My dad missed almost all of my marriage, the birth of my incredible daughter, my coming out, my college graduation, the start of my writing career, all of my graduate school, the hospitalization of my husband, watching my mom go through open heart surgery, four moves, a variety of pets coming in and out of my life, the loss of several friends, and the addition of many more. He missed the moment that I realized what I wanted to be when I grew up, the moment I realized I wasn’t a Christian anymore, the moment I opened my own business, taught my first class, read my writing in public for the first time. He missed the first time I was brave enough to record my signing voice, my being medicated for anxiety, my being healthy enough to get off of the meds, the first draft and first round of edits of my book, the fact that I even wanted to write a book. He missed me going through major surgery, my managing a hotel, becoming a foster mom to juvenile sex offenders, and a few other odd jobs along the way.
He missed simple moments too- how I would listen to Alabama on repeat on the days I missed him, how eventually I had to delete Alabama because I couldn’t listen to it anymore. He missed my wishing that at least one person in New England knew how to make potato salad the way he does. He missed the moment I realized I was a good cook, and the moment I realized that I got that from him. He wasn’t in the car the first time my daughter asked me if I had a dad, or the first time I tried to explain to her why he wasn’t in my life, the first time she said his name and the first time she understood that he was the man in our photo albums.
I think it is the moments with my daughter that he missed that hit me the hardest: the first time she walked the first time she talked, all the special first moments she has had so far, the ones that make us rush to the phone to call my mom and aunt and my husband’s parents. He missed all those moments a grandparent should know about. He missed those moments in my childhood as well. But, this time is different. He had a choice to see those moments in my life- I didn’t give him the choice to see them in hers. Wondering if I made the right choice to not have my father in my daughter’s life is something that is constantly in the back of my mind. She doesn’t know him and she is surrounded by incredible grandparents and tons of aunts and uncles and friends who adore her, so it is not that she feels his loss. But, someday she might. Someday she may wish to know him. She may wonder why I kept her from him, and she may even be angry with me for it. I don’t know.
Part of my reason for wanting to talk to my father again is for my daughter, but a large part of it is for me.
I miss having a dad in my life. My father was by no means a model parent. But he had his moments. He had moments where he stepped up in ways I have never forgotten. When I made one of the biggest mistakes of my life and most of the people around me were disgusted with me, my dad literally picked me up off the floor and held me until I stopped crying enough to hold myself up. My dad was the first person I told I was getting married, and the only one of our parents to be truly excited for us that we were getting married. He accepted my husband into the family and made him feel comfortable. He did the dad thing even from a distance- he liked the boys I dated, but hated them the second they did anything to hurt me or even hinted that they could possibly hurt me in anyway.
I used to think it was too late for my dad and I to have a relationship. I made the assumption that because he wasn’t there for the majority of my childhood that I missed my chance for a dad. It is only in the recent years of my adulthood that I have realized you are never too old to need a parent. There are a lot of moments he hasn’t missed, a lot of opportunities to still be there. I could certainly use a dad as I navigate the world of getting a divorce. I could use a dad to talk to about freaking out about taking the LSAT. I could certainly use his help with the logic problems section. I would love to have a dad to talk to about writing my book, about my job search, and I would love him to walk me through some of his recipes. I would love the opportunity to call him when Aimee learns something new or says something adorable (or not so adorable). I would love to have him around for the moments I don’t know are coming.
It wasn’t one thing that made me finally reach out to my dad. A series of events and several changes in the way I view life led me to reach out. So one day a few months ago, without expectation of the result, I emailed him. I was delighted to hear that he had missed me and did want to try again to have a relationship. We have sent a few emails back and forth, and I think he even subscribes to my blog. His wife follows me on Facebook and hopefully updates him on my life.
When I walked away from my dad there was a lot of “collateral damage.” I lost my relationship with two nephews, two nieces and three step-siblings and a step-mom. I think about my nephews and nieces a lot- I hope they know that I still care for them and that I never wanted to lose them in my life. Maybe someday they will be a part of my life again too. Only time will tell how things will go. I am working on taking things one step at a time- I am not very good at it- but, I am trying.
So, for today, my one step is to call my dad. I’ll let you know how it goes.