Dear Dad

Relationships

Dear Dad,

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.

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The Fallen Hero

Relationships

J and I talked about she-who-must-not-be-named today.  I asked him why it was so easy for him to talk to her…  How he could so easily share the real parts of him that he is so reluctant to reveal to me and to other people in his life.  Why was she different, I wanted to know.  He’s told me multiple times that it’s not just me.  “I have a hard time being authentic with everyone, Sophie, not just you.”  Well, why was it different with her?  How could he let it happen?  And how can I know that it won’t happen again?  In answer, he said that it’s easier to be authentic through the written word.  Something about not being face-to-face with someone makes it easier for him to feel safe, so he feels freer to be authentic.  As to my other questions, he didn’t have a good answer.

I feel like something is irreparably broken in us now.  It’s not bad like it was right after her, but I also know that things will never be how they used to be.  The broken part – the part that I worry will always be with us – is that I can’t look up to him with the same doe-eyed trust.  Regardless of the forgiveness I have given him (and must continue to grant him on a daily basis), the betrayal happened.  It will always be there between us.  I will never be the same, and I expect that he’ll never be the same person to me.  I don’t think I’ll ever be able to look at him like he’s my hero, my protector, my champion, the one upon whom I can depend when everyone else fails…  Not anymore.  Back before the betrayal, it wasn’t a great marriage relationship, but regardless of what the world threw at us, we had each other.  Now?  Now I feel like I have to face the world alone.  J may be there near me, but I can’t rely on him the same way as before.  Now I have to learn to be my own hero.  I wonder if that broken part can be healed.  I think maybe not.  …kind of like when someone you love dies…  Life is never the same again, but you learn to live with a new normal.  Maybe I just have to mourn the loss of that blind adoration and trust, and learn how to live in our new, fractured normal.

It feels a lot like when dad abandoned mom and me.  I became a different person at that moment.  For better or for worse, I’ll never be the same.  Neither will he.  I guess that’s how it is with J and me, too.