My dad came over today, and for the first time in a very, very long time, I sat with him—not because I wanted to, but because he actually asked me to sit and listen to him speak after I had already declined. He wanted to vent. I tried to get out of it but with no success.
You may be thinking I’m exceptionally rude, but I’ll tell you I’m just tired. I’ll tell you that a lifetime of disappointment and letdown from my father has made me this way.
He starts talking about this situation he’s found himself in and it’s all too familiar since I hear it all the time. He goes on and on, and suddenly, I feel I haven’t understood anything at all. I find myself lost in his face. Studying the valleys of wrinkles drawn on his forehead. Noticing for the first time maybe ever, that I have his eyes. I don’t ever look into, or even at, his eyes.
I don’t ever look at him—really look at him.
I was so deeply embedded in just studying his features and how he’s aged, that his words were playing like an old track of a familiar song you play in your car as you get lost in your thoughts, and before you can sing along, you realize the song is done.
My dad has broken my heart many times before, and I’ve put up a wall of armor that I no longer open—because of that, I don’t really look at him when I see him. I’m always looking past him, through him, beyond him. Whatever will make the interaction go by faster and less painfully.
Until today, until he came and sat and spoke, and I was forced to listen. And I fought back my tears more times than I’d like to admit during the conversation.
You see, growing up, I wanted so badly to have a present father like everyone else, and I did for a very short part of my childhood. But as I grew older, he became less and less present, and eventually, I just got accustomed to the way it is. His absence became more comfortable than his presence, and soon enough, his presence would be distressing and dismaying.
Until I became a mother. Until I had a family of my own.
I craved the relationship a girl has with her father. I wanted nothing more than to sit next to him and enjoy a cup of coffee on mornings with my kids running around playing. I wanted my children to run to him and miss him, which they do, but I wanted so much to enjoy it and encourage it and be part of it. I wanted them to have what I wanted so badly but only got a very slim glimpse of, and because of me, because of the limits I’ve set, they too only get a glimpse.
All this came to me as I was studying him. Lost in the valleys drawn around his eyes, the ones I hadn’t noticed before. Lost in the pain in his eyes of wanting me to be his daughter again. He is right in front of me, yearning for this relationship to come to life, but I’ve ventured so far away, farther than I think I’d be able to find my way back. I’ve built up the wall so high and so unbreakable, I wouldn’t even know how to navigate it no matter how hard I tried.
And so I got lost in scenarios where I could have had a father because at that moment, I wanted nothing more than to just touch him, to know the moment was real. And in reality, he was there, in front of me, he was real. But I was too hurt.
The little girl in me was and still is broken.
The daughter in me feels abandoned still. The wife in me struggles to be completely vulnerable and the mother in me wallows in incessant guilt.
For a split second, I consider showing my love, which is undoubtedly there but buried deeper than the roots of a shepherd’s tree, but it’s too painful. The idea itself splits me down the middle leaving pieces of me scattered with every possibility on either side of the divide.
And with that, I put the matter to rest, at least for another while, until I can see past the pain when I look at him. Until the mother in me can comfortably encourage this relationship with her father and her children. Until the wife in me can let her guard down. Until the daughter in me can pick up the phone to genuinely check up on my father without huffing and puffing. Until the little girl in me can admit to loving her father. Until I can look at my father again without hurting.