Monday, June 18, 2012
Father's Day is traditionally hard for me. For a whole host of reasons, but mainly because I didn't grow up with a father. Not really. I had my grandfather, who was amazing and awesome, and he loved me and I loved him. But he wasn't my father. And I had my stepdad, who's also amazing and awesome, and he loved me and I loved him, but he wasn't my father either. I had a father and he left. So having a day to celebrate his role was always confusing to me. Some years, I'd throw myself into celebrating the "dad-like" men in my life, but it wasn't the same. Some years, I'd get a card and present for my mother, but that wasn't right either. And some years, I'd just chill out, it wasn't a day I had to do anything in particular. The only bonus to NOT having a dad around was that I didn't have to worry about what to do on that day. The only hitch was that it still kind of was a day when I knew that I should be doing something, and his absence was always that much more difficult on that day.
My father recently moved back into the area, and is tentatively trying to rebuild relationships. It's not going well. It's hard, at the age of 38 (on a side note, am I really 38?), to add "my father's daughter" onto the labels I usually attach to myself. I'm good with being my mother's daughter, she and I have always been exceptionally close, and our relationship has grown up with me. With us. But my father has no experience with the me of now. He's missed my childhood, he missed my teen years. He never saw my first apartment, never met any of my boyfriends. He didn't attend my high school graduation or help me decide between working full time or going to college. He wasn't at my wedding. He wasn't there when my first baby was born. He wasn't there at my son's bris. And I don't think he'd remember my baby's name without being prompted. He doesn't know who I am anymore, if he ever did. I can't be his daughter, how can I be his daughter when he's missed everything about me? And yet I am. I know that. I wish I could run away from that reality, I really do. But I can't.
But regardless of what's happened in the past, he's here now, and I'm perplexed. Because I believe that when someone loves you, you have an obligation to be kind. And he does love me. On some level, and I don't necessarily think he's good at it, but he does. And he wants to have a relationship, so I'm trying. At least in theory. But it's hard. I don't know how to do this. I'm not entirely certain I should be doing this, there's a whole lot of conflicted emotions going on right now. Be kind. If there's a life philosophy I live by, it'd be that one. Be kind. So I will try. But being kind can be defined a whole bunch of different ways - am I being kind to him? The father who walked away and is horribly, horribly sorry and wants nothing more than to make up for it? Or should I be kind to my mother? The mother who did so much for me, the one who sacrificed and suffered and raised four children on her own? Is it kind to have her watch him build a relationship with me now? Or should I be kind to me? The child who grew up too fast, trying to be that second parent for siblings that didn't understand any more than I did? The woman who still has such a tangled messy relationships with those siblings, mainly because I wasn't really a second parent, and failed in that role. I don't think they've forgiven me yet. I'm not certain that I have either. For well or ill, I tried hard for a long time to be that second parent, and I think I convinced a lot of people, including my siblings and myself that I was. But I wasn't, and in the end, chose to sacrifice them for my own life. Chose to put myself before them, my children ahead of theirs, and our relationships have never recovered. I've lost, for all intent and purpose, two brothers as a result of that choice.
Having my father here is ripping a lot of scabs off of wounds that I would prefer to leave alone. Should I give myself a break? I don't want to deal with battling divorced parents, I don't want to deal with siblings who have expectations I can't meet anymore. I like being who I am now - I'm a wife, a mother, a cousin, a friend. A sister for my sibling who does still talk to me, a stepsister for my stepsisters (who have no expectations that I'm going to do or be anything other than just me), a daughter to my mother, and a stepdaughter to my stepdad. I don't want to be cast in this role, the one of the oldest child trying to make everyone happy. I did this before, as a child. I don't need to relive this part of my life. And yet... he's here. Wanting so much more than I can give, and bringing up painful memories of what things used to be like.
I don't know what to do, and honestly, having a whole day devoted to celebrating fatherhood seems monstrously excessive, when I think about it.