This year for my birthday my father sent me a card. It was one of the only cards I had received and it touched me deeply. My father and I have not had much of a relationship over my lifetime. After I was 5 years old I did not see him again until I was 10. This was an impressionable time…those coming of age years when you start wanting independence and to find out who you might be in this world. I am going through that with my own daughter right now and it is challenging. I often wish I had his strength to deal with it. He had the patience of a saint with me as I struggled. He never yelled and never seemed frustrated with me. He just kept moving forward and trying new things.
When I was 12, my mother got back together with her second husband and we moved here to New York, away from my father. This was a decision left up to me at 12 years old. What the hell did I know? I knew that I enjoyed his company more than anything in the world, but that my mother had always been there for me for everything. It was too hard to choose. I broke his heart and left for New York. From that point forward, we had a spotty relationship at best. I struggled most of my life with the fact that I loved him so hard and fiercely and that he didn’t love me back in the same way. There were sections of life we communicated more than others, but they always tailed off into long silences that left me feeling like an abandoned child. I even sought therapy for it, but it didn’t really work that well. I always felt like he was missing my life. I was angry about it.
Last year on my birthday my Aunt Joyce (my father’s sister) died of cancer. I saw him at the funeral for the first time since his mother died 2 years before. He met Michael and they had quiet conversation as men sometimes do. It was about fishing. They were both content. Afterwards, Michael told me that he thought my father loved me deeply, but he would never be able to show it from all that has happened in his life, from all the loss he has had, but that somehow I would have to come to terms with the only kind of love I was getting was a quiet, gentle love. I had to be ok with that or I would have nothing.
After my aunt died, people in our lives just kept dying and I had no time to heal or to even think about building a relationship with my father. But this year, on my birthday, I thought about it long and hard. I realized that I had been pig-headed and wanted the relationship to go the way it had when I was 10 years old. I wanted that man back. I wanted that hands on love that was so strong and influential to me. I realized this year that it can’t be that way and having an all or nothing attitude….a my way or the highway will get me absolutely no relationship at all.
I have always admired my father. I can see now that I am much like him in so many ways and that he planted the seeds of who I would become in those informative years. It took me 30 years to get there, but I did. I owe a lot of gratitude to him for it. And Michael reminded me to think about how it must feel for him to know that he has missed over 30 years of his only child’s life, to have not been there for the important things in life, to have missed watching his only grandchild grow up. I had never thought about it that way. I was selfish and worried about my own feelings.
Today I wrote him a nice letter and I am including him in my life if he wants to be there. My daughter is writing him a letter even though she doesn’t remember who he is, which is sad to me, but she needs to do it. I’m here to say, it’s never too late to love someone. It’s never too late to open your heart.