I will start by saying that I am genuinely grateful that my poor experience with my father has not tainted me or made me bitter. As a result, I can appreciate others with unique and loving relationships with their fathers. It brings me profound joy to see others share how much they love and care for their dads on Father’s Day. On the other hand, I don’t have that same adoration and loving connection.
My father passed at the top of 2021, and I honestly wasn’t exactly moved much or thrown off by the news. I processed it for a bit and had to give myself grace for not feeling all that much for someone I honestly did not know who I should have known, quite frankly. I know this may sound callous. I understand that isn’t a normal response for others, and so many subscribe to the “that’s your parent, how could you feel that way” kind of response. If you haven’t dealt with certain things in your life, you wouldn’t know how someone could and would respond that way. It becomes less about the “respect your parent” gaze and more about simply recognizing that another human had no regard for your feelings. When this person happens to be your parent, it only worsens, and they are less worthy of that respect and honor that many like to lean on. This is why I chose not to share it publicly. I knew I wasn’t in the space to hear “I’m sorry” and “My condolences” and be made to feel weird or wrong for my somewhat unphased disposition.
I won’t go into much detail, but here is the gist. I hadn’t seen or heard from my father since I was a tween. Before that, he popped in and out of my life as he pleased. I was an empathetic, fragile, quiet, and reserved kid. I know now that I’m huge on energy and am an empath. I didn’t have the language or confidence to express what I felt as a kid. To be honest, I just didn’t get a good vibe from him. I was forced to be friendly and attempt to build a relationship with him while I was young. Still, it always felt challenging, overwhelming, and unfair. He was not someone I knew, was around often enough, or felt comfortable around. He wasn’t there much, and there was minimal effort on his part. It felt like I couldn’t make a significant bond, which felt like my fault (which, of course, as an adult, I realize was, in fact, not). My experience of the parts of him that I got was kinda lousy. My version of him was a narcissistic personality with no sense of accountability.
I don’t know what he went through or anything about his story, so I remember that he is just a man and perhaps moved through life the way he did as a response to hurt from past trauma or not. I think maybe he picked up on my BS meter, lol. I grew an intolerance for inconsistency and big ego; perhaps he refused to face that and me even in his last days. I’m sure there are and were terrific qualities about my father. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to know him or what those qualities were beyond being charming and likable in social settings. In High School, I learned to stop beating myself up and realized he opted out of the opportunity to get to know me. So I opted to go on with life to heal, release sorrow, and grow. This is my experience of him, and I’m sure others may have an extremely positive experience and memory of him. I’m giving myself the space to say and acknowledge that mine was not and is valid too.
There is no one way that a parent-child relationship looks or goes. We all were fed a basic concept of what our family should make us feel and how it usually looks. When people are vulnerable enough to share their hardships with you, be mindful and listen to them. Instead of pushing for things to go a certain way, allow people to have their feelings and responses without imposing. I can tell you now no child, no matter how old, wants to hear that the ownness and work are on them to get a parent to function as a parent. So many of us have been the bigger person or taken the high road our whole lives. Our hardships with family, in some instances, are what taught us how to preserve our energy and protect our mental and emotional health. As a collective society, we should acknowledge others’ experiences and be more aware of our response to those that deviate from the “norm.”
Through all of my past and continuous healing, I’m still grateful. My father had a hand in bringing me into this world. My struggles, breakdowns, breakthroughs, and journey because of our strained relationship made me who I am. I learned one lesson from my father. I learned very early on that sometimes things are what they are, and you can’t force anyone to do right by you. We can’t always make sense of the unfair and damaging things that happen in our lives, but that doesn’t define who we are and who we choose to become.