Tomorrow is Father’s Day here in America. It is supposed to be a celebration of the men who have loved you, shaped you, guided you, provided for you, and protected you. I never had that….at least, not from a father.
I can literally count the number of times I met my dad on one hand, and I remember each incident being fairly unpleasant.
Once, in third grade, my father came to my school during lunch period. I recall being extremely confused as to why he was there and even more importantly, why he was there without my mother present (she had sole custody). My mom was very clear in her instructions to me growing up, “Every time you are with your dad, I will be there too. You never have to be afraid”. Yet, here he was, standing outside my classroom, greeting me like this was a perfectly normal occurrence. Of course, me being my mother’s daughter (and my grandmother’s daughter…and my aunt’s daughter), I flat out refused to acknowledge him. I went to my teacher and explained that I in fact should NOT be seeing him at all (insert child like defiance here). So, in the heat of the awkwardness, my father was sent away and my mother was informed of the incident. Me? I continued about business as usual, refusing to acknowledge the stares emanating blatantly from my classmates’ faces.
He made one attempt to see me a few years later. We went mini-golfing. My mom was present. After that? Nothing. It’s almost as if he quit me cold turkey. Like he gave up on trying to woo my little heart. No letters on my birthday, no phone calls, nada.
Then in 2012, my family and I took a vacation to the Philippines (where they are all from). Somehow, my father got wind and contacted me via Facebook. He was in Manila and he wanted to see me. I was older and ready to confront him with all of these emotions and questions I had stored brewing in my heart. So he picked me up from our hotel, my mother not included this time, and brought me to a restaurant. I was so focused on the mini speech I had prepared to dole out on him that I was taken aback when he led me to a table that was already filled with people. One woman and two children sat with expectant faces beaming at me. I was confused. Then my father said, “This is my wife, SoandSo. This is your sister. And this is your brother”.
I’m sorry what?! You walked out on my mom and me how many years ago only to find yourself another family to love, to nurture, to provide for, to take care of? I couldn’t believe it. But my inner Codependent smiled and made face and posed for pictures and made promises to stay in touch when all the while my heart was screaming: HOW DARE YOU!
It wasn’t until I started therapy a few years ago that I truly discovered how deeply his absence, his abandonment, his new life and his new family had wounded and scarred me. I was left with a piece of me missing and wanting. It left me feeling worthless and seeking love in all of the wrong places.
So today, when I was thinking about the significance of this weekend, I almost began to feel sorry for myself. My boyfriend and I were at the dog beach with our little puppy, and I was supposed to be enjoying the day. Instead, I kept thinking how lucky all of the families around me were with their daddies and children running around in the sunshine. My hurt heart for a second. But then it was if my Higher Power felt my soul wilting because I looked over and my vision was filled with my Love and our CRAZY dog running around with pure joy. Instantly, I was flushed with gratefulness and an intense kind of love that took my breath away. I got up, dusted the sand and sorrow off of my body, and ran to join my family.
I may not have had a father growing up, but my GOODNESS do I have so much love in my life now. That’s the trick that we often all forget about: in the moments when we feel at a loss, we must look around and take stock of all the things we have gained…whether it be people, wisdom, or experiences. That is the way to combat self-pity and emptiness. Easier said than done, I know, but practice makes progress right?
Keep at that gratefulness, friends. It won’t let you down.
Happy Father’s Day!!!