Father's Day is a bittersweet day for me. For the most part, it goes by unnoticed, just another day in my calendar. Because, you see, I don't have a dad to celebrate.
When I was a kid I had a dad - he wasn't he greatest dad ever, but I still thought he was pretty cool. He would spend hours talking to me about planes and various technical things and I would sit fascinated thinking how amazingly smart he was. He was an engineer and a pilot, and he skydived hundreds of times - I mean, rockstar, much?! He would let me play hairdresser with his (very sparse) locks and would take us on fun outings canoeing or to his office, which was like a playground to me at the time.
I still remember the day my mom told me they were getting divorced; like it was yesterday. I was 12 years old, feeling quiet and awkward and I not knowing anyone else whose parents were divorced. As if I didn't feel like enough of an outsider already.
We still saw my dad often at first - we would go to his house every couple of weeks and he even bought my mom a Christmas gift that first year. But things started to change, eventually we didn't go over as often, and then one day he just fell off the face of the earth. He came to my ninth grade graduation and after that I didn't hear from him for two years.
Two years of no phone calls, no cards, no emails. Nothing. He emerged again when I was in 11th grade and my sister and I went to his house. I thought things were going to go back to normal, that we would start to see him regularly again, but alas it didn't happen. I wasn't 13 anymore - I wasn't completely naive, and I started to find things out that I had never known before.
I witnessed the messy court battles that carried on for years between these two people who used to love each other, over various financial issues. I started to learn about the affairs (which, according to my mother, were consistent from the day they were together), the alcoholism and associated drama. Stories of mistresses calling my mother at home, of her dragging my drunken father home from another bender, and of horrible insults hurled. Turns out during his two year "hiatus" as dad, he had moved to Ontario to take a contract engineering job. I was never told about it; I had to hear this from a family friend who worked with him. I heard even later that he came back because he was fired from that job for coming to the site drunk and basically making a scene with his boss.
After his return in my 11th grade year, we only spoke sporadically. I really couldn't tell you how many times I spoke to him or saw him in the next few years, but I could probably count them each on one hand. The veneer had vanished for me - the awe and admiration I had for him when I was a child were replaced with pity and anger. I simultaneously hated him for basically abandoning my sister and I and pitied him for letting drinking take over his life to such a degree.
I still have a mixture of pity and pain towards my father. I have had ZERO contact with him in probably 5+ years, even though he lives right in my city and I could drive to wherever he lives in 10 minutes. That is, I could if I knew where he lived. I have no idea where he works, or if he is even still working (he would be 67 by now). I don't even know his phone number, and even if I did I wouldn't call it. The only indication I have that he is even alive is the occasional call he makes to my mother's place (she still has the same phone number as when they were together, even though she has moved a few times), usually drunk and nonsensical. Sad, sad phone calls where my mother can't bring herself to hang up the phone out of pity.
From what I can tell, he is alone now - no girlfriend (or so I've heard), and certainly no contact with his children (he has two children from a previous marriage to my mother that I am pretty sure do not talk to him either) - and spends the majority of his days drunk.
It makes me sad that such an intelligent, accomplished person could just take their life and completely flush it down the toilet. That someone could be so averse to asking for help and admitting they have a problem, that he continues to blame his misfortunes on others. It makes me sad that I won't have a "father-daughter" dance at my wedding, and I can't help but feel a twinge in my heart when I see dad's and daughters sharing a touching moment - a look or a laugh. I like to joke that the only thing my dad gave me was his nose, and it's not even his best feature.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not trying to rag on Father's Day or be depressing or whine. Honestly I debated whether or not to even post this because I didn't want to give the wrong impression. It's just that all the talk of Father's Day the last week or two compelled me to share my story, even though it's not the rainbows-and-roses type of tale that people like to hear.
I can't lie - hearing all the 'happy dad stories' made me a bit jealous, even though I also felt happiness for the celebration. Sort of like when my best friend got married last year and I felt a mixture of happiness for them, and depression because I was no where near that point in my life.
I just felt that maybe I could add something new and alternative to the mix. I'm sure there are others out there who have not had good dad's, and that can relate to my story.
And perhaps there is a lesson here. I am extremely blessed, and I recognize that. But there is no question that there is a small "hole" in my soul because I didn't have the full support and presence of two, stable, loving parents. I am not sure I will ever be able to forgive my father or if I will ever even get the chance to do this and there are residual affects of his abandonment that I am not sure I will ever be able to shake off completely. My life is fulfilled without him in it, and I am actually grateful for the experience because it made me who I am today, but it doesn't mean I do not mourn for what could have been - for the relationship we could have had, if he had only been there.
So, to those of you that have dads that are supportive of you, are encouraging, show you love and compassion, and are just THERE for you - hold onto them for dear life. Tell them and show them that you appreciate them, because there are lots of people that would love to have what you have. Nobody is perfect, but they should at least get points for trying.
Because dad's like mine exist is all the more reason to celebrate the GOOD dad's out there - the ones who are there for their kids, who support and encourage them, who fulfill their duties.
To all those dad's, I happily and whole-heartedly wish you a Happy (belated) Father's Day. YOU actually deserve it, even if mine doesn't.