Just a warning, this post is pretty personal. And not very peppy. If you're coming off a Father's Day-brunch high, maybe skip this one. I love you and I'm glad your dad is awesome, but honey, some people's aren't and I wanna write about it.
I wasn't going to post this here, but then I thought, I can't be the only person who feels regret on Father's Day. I can't be the only one who had the opportunity to talk to their father today, and didn't.
After the twenty-four hour long stream of Instagram posts involving baby pictures and loving shout outs to heroic and wise dads, I was feeling a little left out, a little guilty because I don't join in these festivities. I have friends who miss their departed dads every day, friends who adore their dads and seek out their opinions. Sure my dad isn't a prize winner, but he wasn't abusive, either. Just selfish and ill-equipped, I suppose. So much so that as an adult, I find it easier to live my life without contact with him.
The night before last, my mom found out her birth father had died. She found this out in a letter from the tiny Austrian town my mother was born in. The extended family and friends of deceased persons are mailed these black-edged, professionally printed pages; growing up, there was an ever-growing stack of them on the side of the fridge, mostly with first names and faces of people I didn't know or didn't remember. But this one is for my grandfather, a man I met two or three times. His widow neglected to find a way to breach the time difference from Europe to California to tell my mother that her father had died on May 29 and was buried the following Friday, and mail takes weeks. Reconciled only in the past fifteen years or so, my mom is mourning not his loss exactly, but the fact that they can't get to know each other better now. She regrets the time they didn't have together.
Whereas I regret all the times he let my mom and I down, all the hours I waited longingly for him to come for me, sitting by the window with my little suitcase. I regret all the times I spent with my dad and couldn't find a way to look up to him, to respect or feel safe with him. Whether he was setting me in the bed of a pickup truck surrounded by barking dogs while he conducted a leisurely drug deal or picking up pretty young hitchhikers and making me move to the backseat while he creepily hit on them, or whether he was burning a hole in my favorite clothes by using them as a lampshade or leaving me sitting on the front lawn of my middle school until dusk because somehow it was hard to fit picking me up from school once a week into his busy schedule.
Forgiveness is supposed to be the key to moving on, to letting go of the past. Unfortunately, I haven't been able to forgive so much as try to forget.