The last time I saw my father in person I was ten or eleven years old. I visited him during summers back then, sometimes in Ohio, sometimes North Dakota, and once in a while in Kentucky, where his wife’s family lived. This particular summer, the last summer, I was meant to stay in North Dakota with him, his wife, and their daughter for most of July and August. Through a combination of me not being able to connect well with his wife, their three-year-old daughter having problems with this older interloper calling her father “daddy,” and, most seriously, transgressions on my father’s part*, I ended up calling my mother and begging to come home early.
After that disastrous last visit, contact between us was sporadic at best. He rarely called, even for Christmases and birthdays. He didn’t send cards for those occasions, let alone gifts. He seemed content at that point to write me off as a failed experiment and move on with his second family. For the most part, I was alright with that** but I would be lying if I said I didn’t grow up with daddy issues. Inability to trust men, a certain “moral looseness,” desperate need to be liked, and on and on. A classic case, really; one from which it took me a long time to recover.
But recover I did***, and that’s why today when I found a link to my father’s blog while saying happy birthday to my uncle on Facebook, I didn’t fall apart as I probably would have fifteen years ago. Instead, now I find myself reading through it with a kind of sick fascination and I feel like I finally, finally, finally understand something I’ve known intellectually but not in my heart: there’s nothing wrong with me, but he is a complete screw up. He didn’t leave me and do the things he did because of me, he did them because he’s a total loser who even to this day, at the age of sixty-five, can’t take responsibility for anything that’s gone wrong in his life.
I have three failed marriages and four children(one who hates me, two that are totally indifferent to me and one that adores me because I have not disappointed her yet).
Guess which one I am? The thing is, at this point in my life, I don’t even hate him anymore. The only thing thinking about him makes me feel is tired and, now that I’ve read about his life, vindicated. Perhaps he actually has three indifferent children. Reading through his pity party blog posts has, I think, left me with the ability to shed that last bit of clinging doubt that maybe it was my fault.
So thank you, Uncle G. It turns out that you gave me a gift for your birthday.
*That I won’t go into now but have done on the blog in the past, and may again in the future. But this isn’t about that.
**Because of the aforementioned transgressions.
***For the most part. I mean, I’m a functional human being, so that’s recovery. I’m still shy and don’t trust people easily, but I’m also not living in a shell anymore.