I’ve spent the last hour silently crying as J sleeps. I suppose that means it’s time. It’s time I take the advice of my counselor and others who have urged me to start working through this pain I’ve carried for 19 years.
I was thinking maybe I should talk to you, but someone said I should write instead, so you don’t feel like you’re backed into a corner. So you can have time to think before you react. Honestly, though, I don’t know if I am brave enough to give this letter to you.
You’ve been a really good dad. When my big brother was little, you led his boy scouts troop. During my big sister’s formative years, you made a special effort to spend time with her…to pay attention to her…because you heard that middle children often feel neglected. You’ve invested your life into being a good dad and husband for your new family. And now that your other kids are teenagers, you’ve made a point to support them in their hobbies and extra-curricular activities, even going so far as to drive to another state to watch them compete. You’re a good man, and you’ve been a good dad. …to all of your kids but me.
Nineteen years ago this month, when I needed you most, you left. You abandoned me. You betrayed me. You lied to me. My brother was married and my sister was away at college, so that left 13-year-old me to be the adult when mom fell to pieces. Ever since then, I’ve tried to fill the hole you left in my life by adopting other father figures. My music director. My youth group leader. And countless others over the years: professors, pastors, even my husband. But as much as I love and admire these amazing men, no one can fill your shoes.
The thing that hurts the most is that I was the one who defended you when my older siblings shut you out of their lives. How long did my sister avoid you after you chose S and her unborn daughter over us? And hasn’t it only been in the past couple years that my brother finally started speaking to you again? But I stuck by you as best as I could. I fought to maintain a relationship with you and your new family even when I got heat from everyone else. I finally gave up when I realized you wouldn’t reciprocate the effort. You don’t call. You don’t email. You don’t visit. When I fly out for a weekend, your weekly small group is a bigger priority for you than me, your daughter who can barely afford to visit once a year. When I brought O with me last time, you were thrilled to see her, yet you barely even spoke to me. Did you know that I wept in the car as I drove away that night?
I remember the moment when I realized that your new daughter is now older than I was when you left…that she’s had a dad longer than I ever did. I felt like I had been kicked in the stomach. I still do.
Why did you check out when I came along? Why were you there for J and J when they were growing up, but you weren’t there for me? Why are you so attentive to L and B, but you won’t so much as text me? Why do you withhold your love from me, when you so freely give it to your other children?
It’s not fair Dad. I tried so hard to be good enough for you…to earn your love. But it’s no good, and I can’t do it any more. Love me or don’t. I’ve got nothing left.
And yet…. Still…
I love you.