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.

The Man in My Dreams

Relationships

A few years ago I had a sucker punch of a dream.  I was in my kitchen with C having a conversation while I stirred something on the stove.  J was in the adjacent room with C’s wife having a dialogue of their own.  When I turned back from tending the food I was cooking, C was just inches away, looking down at me with a very vulnerable expression of desire.  Very slowly, he leaned down and kissed me gently, slowly, tenderly, sweetly.  And yet it was a kiss promising something more.  And in my dream, I kissed him back as J stood 20 feet away.

I woke up with a start.  I had just dreamed about a married man, and me, a married woman!  I had never thought of C that way until that moment.  And I was left with my own yearning.  For C, yes, but mostly for the feeling of being wanted.  I don’t remember the last time that J expressed that kind of desire.  It’s humiliating to admit it, but I can’t recall the last time J made love to me.  Not since 2011, that’s for sure.  It’s almost surreal to realize that for the entirety of 2012, my husband didn’t reach for me.

I have a lot of jumbled feelings.  C really does move something in me that I don’t feel for J.  J doesn’t want me.  I must be undesirable.  What man would want me, much less C.  Besides, he’s married.  And oh yes, so am I.  I recognized that the feelings I was experiencing for the man in my dreams could become a real problem.  I had to tell J about it.  And I did.

“Babe, I need you to understand that I am having some very real temptations.  Please.  I need you to have sex with me.  Soon.  And with some regularity, because I desperately don’t want to betray you.”

No dice.  No passion.

“Babe?  I have something to ask you, and I want you to know that whatever your answer is, we’re in this together.  We’ll work through this.  Okay?  Ready?  Alright, here goes: Are you gay?  *pause*  No?  Not gay?  Are you SURE?”

Oh.  Then it must be me.  It’s true.  I’m undesirable as a woman.  My own husband doesn’t want to bed me.

And what about my confusing feelings for C?  I knew it was a bigger problem than I had realized before when I asked myself what I would do if he really did express sexual desire for me.  Would I say no to save my marriage?  Possibly not.  Would I say no to protect his children from the pain I felt when my own dad had an affair?  Oh dear, probably not even then.  Would I say no because I love my God and want to honor the moral code He gave His people?  To my shame, I couldn’t conclusively decide either way.  The only thing, at that moment, that would keep me from giving myself to him (aside from the fact that he probably has no desire for me and would almost assuredly never ask such a thing), is that that he is a pastor of my church – the church I love – and I simply could not be the one to cause such a scandal.

Oh dear, this IS a problem, I realized.

I came clean (again) to J.  Luckily, the event that caused me to spend a lot of time with C passed, and I found that the less time I spent with him, the less sexual tension I felt around him.

Now that I’m not in the middle of a mind/body tug-of-war, I can better analyze how I felt and why.  I realize now, that the sex bit really is only part of it.  I mean, he’s not smashingly handsome, though he does have his own charm.  He’s not very tall (so he wouldn’t have to lean down to kiss me – funny how dreams aren’t so very accurate in some things).  He’s got rather large canines.  Don’t get me wrong, he’s not ugly.  No.  He is attractive in his own way…  His grin is infectious.  And the tattoos that peek out from under his shirt sleeves drive me a little crazy because I want to see what other mysteries his body holds hidden underneath those clothes…  But really, it’s his mind that does me in.  His charisma.  His intelligence.  The way he laughs so very frequently.  The way he makes ME laugh so frequently.  The way he uses big words that I understand and J doesn’t.  The way his face seems to light up when I say “Hey C?”  The way he makes me feel important.

That man is poison to me.  As horrible as it is that my dad betrayed mom and me….  In a way, I’m thankful.  Because I know that the danger is there.  No one is immune.  Anyone can fall.  And because I am able to recognize – in advance – that C is dangerous to me…  Because of THAT, I am able to guard my thoughts, my actions.

There is power in secrets.  By telling J of the dangers C poses to me (to us) without even being aware of his magnetism, there is a degree of safety.  There is a freedom in telling the truth.

Alas, I wish there was a “getting laid” in telling the truth.

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.