It used to be a fun time. I'd have the kids make cards and DIY presents for Big Daddy, we'd wake him up and bestow these gluey, sparkly gifts upon him. And then we'd spend the day with our fathers, either stopping by or barbecuing. It was fun.
Of course the stuff with Big Daddy is no longer. For the first year or two I'd make sure the kids had cards for him, but after Secretary clawed her way onto the scene I figured she could take over that one. The kids will spend some time with him tomorrow, no matter who has the kids on Mother's/Father's day they are required to spend the day with the honoree. Which is fine, of course, and is the way it should be. No problem there.
My own father? That's changed too, much to my dismay. I haven't seen nor talked to him in over 3 years. Why? Because of me. I have a checkered past with my dad, and it's a pretty intense, painful issue in my life.
I look back on the early days with Dad and it's classic, KodakChrome stuff. Him running alongside my purple Schwinn as I pedal like a madwoman down the sidewalk. Rushing into his arms when he walked through the front door at 5:00 p.m. Daddy comforting me when I bawled after watching gazelles die on "Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom". Daddy tucking me in at night. All the right kind of memories that a little girl should have of her Daddy.
But then things changed. Mom and Dad split up. Dad had my brother and I for a while, while Mom sorted things out. I remember this little limbo time. I remember Dad making dinner for my brother and I, burgers with the Presto Burger Maker and a side of baked beans. Telling me that wearing shorts to school was not ok with him and me feeling the first hot pokers of parental defiance.
Then Mom got custody of us and things kind of went south. I'm not going to badmouth my mom here, she reads this and sometimes misconstrues what I write (surely it can't be because of my rambling, obtuse writing style, right?) so I want to keep it Mom-friendly. But things between Mom and Dad weren't smooth as silk. I don't think their reasons for divorcing were quite the same as my own, but that's neither important nor is it any of my business. I do remember so much hostility and animosity from both sides. Thinking about this stretch of time certainly drives home how damaging Big Daddy and I and our tumultuous cleaving has been, and continues to be, on our own children. But I digress.
Dad was always there for me. When I went through some Carrie-esque battles with my Mom in high school, Dad took me in. Even built a bedroom for me (literally, put up walls, a door, a closet!) in his basement. He had remarried and my two step-siblings were living with him then. I always felt a bit of resentment towards them, no clear reasons why, most likely jealousy that they got more of my Dad than I did. That resentment continues to this day, although I have pinned it down and kept a heel on it, it still writhes. Freaking mental stuff.
Anyhoo. Dad was always there, even when I was a smart ass, know it all teen and twenty-something. It was during my early twenties that we had our first "fight" which resulted in a years-long silent treatment. I know what started it. It was after my flight attendant stint, and Dad took me out to lunch. Told me in so many words that I had to get my shit together. Apparently, that struck a nerve in me and I took off in a huff, and shunned communication with him. I remember him calling and calling, leaving messages, having my grandma call and talk to me. Telling my boyfriend of that era, Wild Bill, to ignore the calls and messages. (Wild Bill was my fiance' just prior to the Time of Big Daddy. More later. Maybe.)
Somehow we managed to not speak to each other all the way until I was holding my newborn Charlie in my arms. I looked at that face and realized I was looking down at my dad. So I called him. Yes, my dad missed my wedding. He missed my pregnancy, and he missed the birth of his first grandchild. Yes, I know I'm going to Hell. I'll save you a seat.
So anyways. We made up, and life was peachy for a while. My dad's house became "Papa's House" and things were Norman Rockwelly for a spell. Then we had another falling out, this time over something someone said that rubbed me the wrong way. Something that was most likely innocuous, but my insane-o-meter morphed into something more. I remember sending a bitchy, "fuck you and the horse you rode in on" email and the doors on our relationship slammed shut again. I didn't talk to my Dad after that until Big Daddy left me.
And again, Dad stepped up to the fatherhood plate. He and my stepmom took care of me. Sheltered me and the kids during the shit storm. Dad went with me while I interviewed my first attorney, and he paid for half of her fees. He became the pseudo Man of the House, helping me take storm windows down and putting screens up. Remodeled my decrepit bathroom. He was the Dad every girl dreams of.
And then I blew it, again. It was during the second year of my solo parenting career. Easter was approaching. This was when not having the kids for holidays was still a fresh, gaping wound that hurt unlike any other injury thus far. The holidays without them were like huge exclamation points on the calendar, dates that I dreaded. So this particular Easter, the angels were with Big Daddy. Stepmom called and invited me over, I hesitated to confirm. Partly because I didn't know if I'd be up to being around family and other kids when I was alone, partly because I wanted to hole up in my house and feel sorry for myself. Either way, I didn't call back, even though I knew stepmom was waiting to get the numbers for dinner. I imagined she/they were pissed, and I started avoiding their calls. Again.
When I feel stress or other freaky deaky emotions, real or imagined, my response is always the same: I go turtle. Withdraw into my shell and no matter how hard or for how long anyone shakes that sucker, I don't come out. I'm working on it, but it is for sure the number one relationship killer in my life. Anyone else do this? It is without a doubt the thing I hate most about myself. Even more than I can't stand my upper arms or my front butt...it's this coping (or should I say un-coping) mechanism.
So that's where it stands today. My grandma is 91 and has tried to mend this ripped fabric, but it hasn't worked. I sent my Dad a birthday card last year. I told him that I was sorry, and begged for his forgiveness. Told him that I was going through some hard times and that I know what a bitch I was but to please, please just forgive me. When I heard nothing, I gave up. I guess he's had enough, and doesn't want to set himself up for yet another round of "Walk on eggshells around my psycho daughter". And I can't say that I blame him.
I am haunted by the "What If" stuff now. What if he dies, and I don't get to say goodbye? Don't get to say I'm sorry? What kind of person withholds love from their father? My kids don't see their grandpa. They have all lost out on years of memories, thanks to my stupid head games. I have friends who've lost their own Dads, and they tell me how much I will regret this asinine, immature song and dance routine I've choreographed. I know I will. In fact, I already do.
Happy Father's Day, Dad. I love you.