Of all the times that I have forgiven someone who has repeatedly failed me, my father would most certainly be at the top of that list. Yet I continue to do so, as I am forever left chasing this ridiculous idea of what I believe our relationship should be rather than accepting what it is and moving on. To date, the only thing he has ever succeeded at is bringing four children into this world, all of whom he has never been a “father” to. For so long I had unknowingly held onto such deeply rooted resentments for his epic fails in life only to realize how much I have actually learned from them. So now I offer this detailed recognition of the ever so very valuable life lessons his failures have provided me, which are based solely on my relationship with him since I cannot speak for my siblings. With that being said, I only hope this might in some way help other father and child relationships, or at least let others with similar experiences know that they are not alone:
10. He remained in the past:
I think most can agree with how absolutely imperative it is to let go of the past in order to enjoy the present. I also think many can agree with how truly difficult this can sometimes be. It is even something that I often find myself struggling with to this day, but I am continuously striving towards bettering myself to find happiness. My “father,” however, has yet to master the art of letting go. Instead, he foolishly spends his energy on making it appear as though it does not bother him, when in reality he does nothing more than tread water in a feeble attempt to keep from drowning in its all-consuming weight. For that is all that the past will ever be…a lingering dead weight serving only to bring you down if you allow it.
Unfortunately, that is exactly what happened. He allowed his past to bring him down. I have heard stories of his childhood that touched upon his father’s passing at the age of 24, leaving him to struggle with his siblings and mother who apparently then remarried to a man who treated him horribly. He would never admit it, but most areas in which he failed were a direct result of his childhood resurfacing like the loch ness monster rearing its ugly little head. While I do not have many of the details, I am able to speak from my own experiences and recognize when someone has not yet made peace with their pasts. For my father, he often went out of his way to avoid any discussions of his, but it was clear how he felt as he was unable to keep from randomly slipping any disdainful and angry comments into conversations.
In addition to all of that, he never made peace with the horrible things he had done to me or others, which led to his never-ending merry-go-round ride of false hopes. Like when I had moved in with my mother at the age of 7, he disappeared. I mean literally disappeared and I did not hear from him again until I was 21, at which point he began making empty promises for anything and everything. I think in part because he thought the promise itself would make me happy and in part because he believed he would keep them, but he did not and he lacks any understanding of the inevitable long-term damage his failed attempts had caused. In fact, it is even sometimes difficult for me to accept the reality that, while my father never actually laid a hand on me, his actions caused greater harm than even the worst physical abuse I had been subjected to.
Lesson learned: Everything you hold onto, whether good or bad, has a way of seeping into any relationship. So be sure to hold onto the “good” while releasing the “bad.”
9. He always put others, including himself, before me:
Most who know my father are quick to say how wonderful he is and that he would be the first to give you the shirt off his back, which is of course true…unless you are his child. I could easily tell you of the countless times I have witnessed him help friends, acquaintances or even perfect strangers with pretty much anything he had to offer, and of course I can appreciate this as I believe we all should go out of our way to help each other as often as we can. Imagine the world we could be living in if everyone did? At the same time, it is a little difficult to accept when he never went out of his way for me. Every time I needed him I would call and he would fail.
Like when I became homeless in Las Vegas when I was 22. I had nowhere to go and no idea what to do so I called him. His response was the epitome of our relationship “…you are an adult now so you figure it out. Give me a call next week or so and let me know how it is going.” Simple as that. Then after having been homeless there for close to a year and I managed to make it back to Connecticut, he picked me up from the airport and then told me the location of a shelter that opened in the morning as he dropped me off at a 24 hour diner.
Or when I needed a vehicle to get to and from work and school. He was not only quick to say he had absolutely no money, but he did not even offer to help me search for one. Yet, less than three weeks later he not only borrowed money to buy a vehicle for a woman he knew less than a month, but he also came by to show it off and ask if I wanted to go for a ride. And of course, years later he took it upon himself to use my vehicle as his own because he “liked mine better” while I lay in a coma in a hospital after a failed suicide attempt.
When it came to me, he always went out of his way to not have to go out of his way…unless it was beneficial to him. So I stepped out of his way…literally.
Lesson learned: Recognize when a relationship only exists to benefit the other person AND LEAVE IT.
8. He found sobriety:
I understand many might be quick to argue any reason I could possibly have for being upset over his new-found sobriety, but I only ask that you hear me out.
When my father became sober I felt as though the earth had stopped moving, as though my world was finally changing for the better and that I would finally have a “father.” In my naive mind I had convinced myself that he was a good person and that he loved me. I continuously defended his behavior by blaming it on his addiction because it had never even occurred to me that everything he had done (or failed to do) was actually the direct result of who he was as a person rather than what he had been consuming. It wasn’t until much later that I came to understand this was partially because he was what is often referred to as “dry” rather than “sober.” Meaning he was abstaining from drinking or doing drugs, but had done nothing to change his attitude or even attempt to heal the pain he had caused.
This realization was completely devastating for me as I was forced to accept there was nothing I could do to fix our relationship. I was left in limbo because here was my father finally free from the reign that drugs and alcohol had over his life, which made me so happy. Yet here was my father…the same person he had been while he was continuing to feed his addictions, which was equally disappointing. I finally recognized he would never be honest with me about anything because he was so consumed with his web of lies he was unable to see the truth. He would never stop making false promises because he never had any intentions of keeping them. He would never be there when I needed him most because he never opened his eyes to anyone’s needs other than his own. He would never hug me tight telling me everything would be okay because he had no concept of what it meant to be a “father.” In the end, I would never have the father I had hoped for. Instead, I had to see him for who he was rather than who I wanted him to be and decide whether to accept him or walk away.
Lesson learned: Sobriety does not change a person’s true nature. In fact, it only serves to highlight who someone is, which ultimately brings a deeper, darker, and almost unbearable pain to loved ones…or ones that should have been loved.
7. He had me:
If ever there was a poster child for the need for birth control, my father would be the ideal candidate as he most certainly had no business having any children…plain and simple.
Originally, this was number one on my list for I have had countless days, even years, in which I have been so angry at him for bringing me into this world. His carelessness in unintentionally starting a family left me with such ferociously hungry resentments they inevitably ate away at my soul like an unstoppable flesh eating virus that slowly and painfully killed me from the inside out. So often I had hoped to no longer be here and there came a time when the pain was so excruciating that I had taken matters into my own hands and attempted suicide.
However, I have recently come to find that the more time I take for myself to work on myself, the further down the list this seems to fall. What I am also realizing is my anger is not the result of having been born, but of having been born to someone so undeserving.
Lesson learned: The fact that he is undeserving of me does not mean that I am undeserving of life and happiness, which I have the ability to make entirely beautiful in spite of his failures.
6. He never took responsibility…period:
While growing up, I was very aware of the fact that my father never took responsibility for me, but I was completely unaware of why. As mentioned in item 8 above, I had always attributed it to his addictions and it was not until he came back into my life that I finally learned of the truth…I was not worth it.
In the initial “getting-to-know-you” days, we inadvertently stumbled upon the topic of the extreme abuse I was subjected to while living with my mother’s boyfriend, who would spend each day painting my body with whatever sick and twisted fairy tale he had concocted in his mind. There were days on end that I would be tossed into a closet with the door closing as my body and soul crumpled to the floor because I was too broken and exhausted to expend any effort past what I had already expended on him. I was living in a constant state of terror, a terror that often plays peek-a-boo with my mind to this very day. So here comes my father years later telling me a story of how one day he came to pick my brother and me up for our visit. He had some work to finish up so we stopped there and he let me play with the keyboard to his computer. Upon noticing the serious cuts and bruises covering my arms he made a comment and my brother was all to quick in responding “you should see the rest of her body.” He then said he never should have sent me back, but he did…he always did.
At some point we were removed from the home and my “father” received custody, however, he was unable to handle the responsibility of parenting so several months later we were placed in foster care…which was certainly no walk in the park either.
In my prior post entitled “Yellow…” (https://roadtotranscendence.wordpress.com/2015/07/06/yellow/ ), I detail some of my experiences with this particular foster home. My father would repeatedly arrived late or not at all and then take weeks to call or even have nerve enough to show his face after having missed yet another scheduled visit. I was already living in an entirely tumultuous environment, and his lack of responsibility only continued making matters worse. So much so that I even spent one whole Easter day being punished for his absence. When he finally did pick me up to move me out of there, it was not to stay with him as a family…because by this time he had already remarried and had two more children. Instead, he moved me to Maine to live with his new wife’s sister and brother-in-law, which is where he left me for that following year. Not once did he contact me the entire time I lived with them.
When I moved back in with my mother several years later, he disappeared…for fifteen years. He later told me that he had been told of her passing and the details of the funerl. He apparently made it half way to the Cape only to turn around because he was incapable of handling his responsibility to me, especially with now being the only living parent. So he never had to witness her addiction as it completely consumed her ultimately leaving her at death’s door (https://roadtotranscendence.wordpress.com/2015/05/10/another-motherless-mothers-day/ ). Instead, he lived his life, slept another night and had another beer while celebrating his other children.
Upon re-entering my life he invited me to move to Connecticut to rebuild our relationship, but he managed to abandon me yet again was a no-show for what would have been our very first Thanksgiving together. His excuse? He fell asleep while feeding his girlfriend’s cats…until the following evening. When I was homeless in Vegas, he did nothing. When I returned, he still could have cared less. When I was left in a coma after surviving my suicide attempt he tried placing the responsibility of taking care of me on my ex-husband.
I could literally go on and on with examples of how he evaded his responsibility as a parent or even as a human being. In the end I found he did not love me, he did not respect me, he felt no responsibility for me, so why would he have done anything other than leave me for the world to chew me up and spit me out as it saw fit? Every hardship and resulting memory I have is because of him. There are so many instances in which he could have done something, anything. He could have prevented so many things, but he chose to do nothing.
Lesson learned: Take responsibility for your actions…all of them. If you do not want to be responsible for the potential result, then find a different course of action.
5. He was never there for me:
When I was 16 I began writing him letters. I never really told anyone because I had been in foster care and group homes for so long that I had given up on having any sort of family and I felt I would be completely embarrassed if I had to admit that he never responded…yet I still yearned for him or, again, my idea of who I thought he was or should be. At first I would simply write to say hi as I was curious to hear what he had been up to, but mostly to see if I would get any response at all. At some point through the course of writing him I became desperate and begged for any response. I then begged for him to come get me and I hoped for him to save me. Of course I never received a response so I naturally assumed he had never received them, because I could not conceive it possible that anyone would or could ignore their own child’s pleas for help.
Unfortunately, he not only received every single one, but he read them and he threw them away because (imagine this) he did not want the responsibility. He even had nerve enough to tell me how upset he was to read the last one in which I wrote that I would never speak to him again if he did not respond…he never responded, but I still spoke to him.
Like so many other times throughout my life, I needed him more than anything. I had come to a point of pure desperation for even the smallest shred of hope. So many things could have been different for me had he just shown up, had he just cared, had he just been there for me…but he never was.
Lesson learned: You cannot rely on someone to be there for you or to save you. At the same time, be sure to appreciate the ones who are…and return the favor.
4. He did not protect me:
It would have been impossible for me to track all the beatings, bruises, abuse, misuse and misconducts that I was repeatedly subjected to. It would be equally impossible for me to tally up the number of instances that were the direct result of my father’s inaction. Like that time he sent me back in spite of having seen my arms covered in bruises. The punishments I received for his failure to show up for scheduled visits. The endless times my stepmother, among others, would beat me and he did nothing. There were times that he sat in the next room or right above me while I was in the midst of being abused and I honestly believe he knew, but did nothing out of his inability to take responsibility.
As a father he should have stopped these things. He should have never sent me back. He should have protected me. Unfortunately, he has never been a “father.”
Lesson learned: A title means nothing, actions mean everything. Never say what you intend to do, just do it (sorry Nike!).
3. He misunderstood my strength:
In some ways I believe this to be another excuse for his inability to take responsibility for anything really. Time and again he would pay my brother’s phone bills, loan money to people, offer a place to stay or help a friend out, but never me. He then tells me he never does because he knows I am capable of taking care of myself. That I did not need him. He could not have been more wrong and right all at the same time. Turns out I didn’t, but I was not aware of that at the time. I was only able to stand there completely dumbfounded, because all I heard was that he was not going to be there for me.
Lesson learned: Being strong does not mean that love and support is not needed.
2. He never acknowledged my feelings:
Any time I attempted to tell him how I was feeling, his only response was “I don’t know what you want me to do about it.” Or “I cannot fix the past.” Nothing more. There was never any part of him that wanted to hear of my experiences because he knew he was the cause. He would brush my feelings off as being completely insignificant because he lacked the strength to face them. In fact, his lack of interest or concern only served in causing me to believe that my feelings were completely wrong, so I hid them. I kept them deep inside until I could no longer ignore them and they silently crept back into my life like an unwanted visitor that you are unable to get rid of. You do not want to be rude, but your only thought is maybe they will go away if you ignore them…yet they remain.
The thing is, I did not want him to do anything about it. Nor did I ever expect him to be able to change or “fix” the past. I simply wanted him to acknowledge it. I wanted him to understand it. I wanted him to use it as motivation to be there for me now. Unfortunately, it is true what “they” say…you do not always get what you want.
Lesson learned: Feelings do not disappear…they must be respected, acknowledged, accepted and processed in order to move on.
1. He never said he was sorry:
I am sorry.
Such a seemingly simple phrase. A phrase that single-handedly holds the power to destroy or heal. For all the things my “father” has or has not done to or for me, all I ever really needed him to do was to say these three words…and meant it. He could have whispered them, mouthed them or even written them. In fact, I would have forgiven everything in a second if he would have even just shown the slightest bit of remorse. I would have forgiven, moved on and loved him like any daughter loves her father. This never happened. Instead, he muttered nothing more than emptiness which caused those powerful three words to become so weak and cold coming from him. For that reason alone, our relationship remained the same…empty, weak and cold.
Yet he still asked for forgiveness…in fact, he expected it. So I gave it to him, but in an entirely different way. One of the most difficult things I have had to do is to walk away from my father. At the same time, it has also been one of the most empowering because I have given myself the opportunity to turn his failures into my positives forgiving him while no longer allowing him to hurt me. I know now exactly who he is, which I have come to accept. At the same time, I have recognized and accepted that he is someone that I do not need or want around me, so I have removed him from my life. Funny thing is…I have never felt more at peace than when I came to that decision.
Lesson learned: “I am sorry” is the most powerful phrase that can be said, use it…and use it often, but always be sure to mean it.