I have dreaded Father’s Day for as long as I can remember. It’s a day that causes me more anxiety than Christmas, milestone birthdays, and high school reunions combined. It’s the special occasion that has never been all that special to me, yet I still feel obligated to acknowledge it.

So, each year around this time, I make my way to the greeting card aisle in the grocery store, searching for a Father’s Day card for my dad. I always feel awkward in that aisle, surrounded by towers of greeting cards that don’t actually apply to me. Or to my dad.

And this year was no different from the past 25 or so. I perused the selection of greeting cards while anxiously biting my nails. I was fully aware that there would be no card to accurately describe the relationship I have with my father, or lack thereof. But I looked for one anyway.

The familiar pangs of resentment caused my stomach to churn. My shoulders folded in over my chest as I was reminded of my father’s absence in my life. I cringed as I read the sentiments that in no way describe my relationship with my father or my feelings about him.

I picked up the cards one after another, and read the generalized statements that are meant to evoke feelings of love and gratitude.

Best Dad Ever. 

Thanks for always being there for me, Dad.

My Father, My Hero.

To Daddy, Love Your Little Girl.

Dad, you taught me everything I know.

And one after another, I slipped them back into their designated slots, for the only feelings that were brought to the surface were disappointment and heartache.

Father’s Day cards tend to depict a father who has been involved in his daughter’s life. Who has taken pride in nurturing her heart and developing her interests. These cards bring to mind images of a father teaching his daughter how to ride a bike, or shoot hoops, or change a car tire. I imagine a father holding his daughter’s hand, or dancing with her, or sharing an ice cream cone on a hot summer’s day. But I can relate to none of that.

I do not have one treasured memory with my father, nor can I think of one thing he taught me. While growing up, he made it clear that I would never be a priority in his life. He made it clear that simply by being born female, I was a disappointment.

My father has never shown love to me either in word or action. In fact, the only memories I have of him include harsh yelling that made me want to hide and criticism that caused my self-worth to crumble. Where were the greeting cards that dealt with emotional abuse and abandonment?

As I continued to wander the aisle, I was consumed by hurt and emptiness, the only feelings I associate with anything related to my father. I wondered if there would ever come a time when Father’s Day would not be overshadowed by pain. I wondered if my emptiness would ever be filled.

While I stood there contemplating the questions that had yet to be answered, my thoughts were suddenly interrupted by the sweet voice of my six-year-old daughter. With a sparkle in her eye and a smile on her face, she reported that she had found the “perfect” Father’s Day card for her daddy. My husband.

She handed me the card to review, and I agreed that she couldn’t have picked a more perfect card. It read, in part, “I might be little, but I can still tell what a wonderful daddy you are . . . you hug, you swing, you play, you sing . . . and that’s why I’ll love you forever.”

And in that moment, I found something to celebrate about a day I have dreaded for so long. I realized my daughter will never know the pain of an absent father. She will never know what it feels like to be ignored by the man she adores with her whole heart. She will never know the heartache of being unloved by the man who is supposed to love her the most. And she will never wander the greeting card aisle in search of something that doesn’t exist.

My thoughts transitioned from self-pity to gratitude as I recalled numerous memories of my husband playing with my daughter, talking with her, hugging her, and kissing her. He has yet to fail her, and I am confident he never will.

My husband has shown his devotion to my daughter by giving her time, affection, and love on a daily basis. She will never know what it feels like to be abandoned by him. And with that realization, my heart began to heal.

I have mourned the absence of my own father for long enough. And now, it’s time to celebrate the presence of the other father in my life. The father to my daughter. His arms are always open to her, his love is freely given to her, and his affection for her never seems to run out. He has proven his worth as her father and in doing so has shown her just how worthy she is.

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