Noun: A man in relation to his natural child or children. Verb: Be the father of: “he fathered three children”.
This is one definition of father. In my mind, and possibly yours too, a father is far more than simply providing a bit of DNA. It is the essence of fatherhood which I have been missing for more years than I can remember. This year, I mourn the loss of the father (though step) who was ever present in my life from the moment he joined our family until the very end. At the same time, I struggle with the emotions left behind of the one who lives nearby who could not be more distant and uninvolved.
It wasn’t always this way. The father I had growing up was the best father a little girl could ever dream of. He was warm and kind and everyone loved him. He taught me many things including how to ride a bike, catch a ball, be kind to others…and much more. But this seemingly perfect father of mine divorced my mother (and/or she him) and in the years that followed became more and more hardened and distant – as if the divorce was from his children as well.
Deep down, I want to believe that he’s simply stuck emotionally and that, although he loves us, he has lost his ability to express this love. Even when I have been able to convince myself this, it is still difficult.This year, I found the arrival of Father’s Day particularly challenging. I kept trying to fix it but only got more and more stuck. After dedicating my yoga practice to him, I experienced class through watery eyes – ALL of it (from Child’s Post to Savasana). Afterward, I went to the beach for respite and reflection and got even more stuck.
Even though I repeatedly told myself that I was in a better place than the my own children because my dad is alive. Unlike my children, I am able to work on redeveloping this relationship. They , however, are not. But no matter how hard I tried to get past my stuckness, I seemed to be getting more and more stuck. And when I shared with friend my emotional scars, she only made it worse by sharing hers.
When Father’s Day finally came, I did not make the time to visit my dad, although I could have. In the back of my mind, I had convinced myself that it was easier to be mad at myself for not visiting then be hurt because my efforts were unappreciated since these holidays are “just another day” to him. But I was wrong.
At the end of the day, I wept tears of shame for my poor behavior. When morning came, I sent him an email apologizing and sharing my favorite memories of him from childhood. It was honest and all I could muster.
Much to my surprise, his response (although including “it’s just another day”) was a message of warm thoughts, deep concern, and love. Imagine that…LOVE…from my dad. Who knew?