Monday, October 22, 2007

Daddy Dear, Rest

I found a letter he wrote to me in 1980. I’m not sure why I deemed this one special enough to save. It wasn’t the only letter I got from him. There were a couple before and a couple after this one. After having read it over several times, nothing special, particularly endearing, clever or even true pops out at me. It starts with a “hi honey” and ends with a “love dad.” The stuff in between was mostly forgettable.

His letter to me in 1980 was in response to a letter I’d sent several months prior. He makes mention of this. I gather that in my letter I mentioned the plan to “hook up” with the man who would become father to my son and daughter, he makes mention of this as well, advising me to “be careful.” This communication in 1980 would have marked the first such communication in several years—on either side. I was trying to get past an intense hatred I felt for him. I don’t know what his motivations were. He said he loved me. I had a very difficult time believing he felt anything akin to love towards me.

Since 1980 there have been perhaps ten letters between us—his to me were usually in response to one of mine to him, always several months or years after the fact. Since 1980 I have seen him twice, talked with him on the phone perhaps a half-dozen times—the last time maybe 3 years ago. He did call and leave a message on the machine a year ago. When he didn’t call back like he said he would, I called him—got his machine, left a message of my own. I’d resigned myself to his silences leading into this exchange of messages. I’ve had to all over again. The silences really don’t bother me that much anymore. I prefer the silence over the lies.

In the years since 1980 I’ve come to feel something other than intense hatred for him. In all likelihood it wasn’t even hatred I was feeling. How could I hate my father? I didn’t even know him, not really. Further, what I’ve come to realize over that time-line was I don’t want to know him. Really, I don’t.

Still, he’s been on my mind a lot lately. Perhaps the letter, perhaps the birth date that recently passed, perhaps my younger brother—his spitting image—kicking up dust these days, is bringing him to my mind, perhaps.

The last time we talked he told me he loved me. I still have a hard time believing that sentiment. How could he love me? He doesn’t know me any better than I know him. Further, the realization has finally settled into my head, my bones, my soul-he doesn’t ever want to know me. Really, he doesn’t.

Mom always accused me of being said I was just like my father. I guess, in this, she must be right.


  1. I believe the opposite of love is not hate; it is indifference. However you feel about your father, I'm sure you have your reasons. Mine's been dead for 16 years, and I still haven't sorted it all out, whether I miss him or am angry, or perhaps both.

    It seems your dad doesn't know or care or can't, for whatever reasons, fathom that his idea of love packs all the sincerity of a pilot hoping we all had a wonderful flight, knowing how less-than-thrilled we are to have to get on the plane in the first place.

  2. I'm not sure I could tell my own (emotionally distant, sure, but present nevertheless) father about "hooking up" with anyone, so that part rocked my world, brave girl. But this is a lovely reverie on a difficult topic, which is quite a trick to pull off—though I guess I don't have to tell you that.

  3. Like my own father--who is trying so terribly hard now as he winds to the end of his life. Never there, never knowing me in any real way, always judging. But, you know what gets me here? That you're even letting what your mom said resonate at all. You are've created your own person. I'm sure many reading would echo that what we see here is the development of a highly successful person--despite them both.

  4. Maybe he does love you, but in the way he knows how.

    Maybe best to just accept it, you know?

  5. The relationship I had with my mother was the stickiest, most confusing one of my life. If nothing else, I learned that I didn't want Liv to ever be ambivalent about us.

    Do you feel that way about your children? Like the lesson learned was more what NOT to do than what TO do?

  6. Deborah, I echo what others have said. Despite them, you have become a wonderful woman. I'm sure that they love you in their own way and though that may seem strange as you don't really know them or they you, sometimes silence, as you wrote, is golden.

    Obviously those gaps that they may have left within you are being filled now by your partner, your kids and the many friends you've gained along the way.

  7. I can't decide if I think it's better for an absent father to keep in touch sporadically or to separate himself from his offspring altogether. On the one hand, it's reassuring to hear from him because at least he's making an effort but on the other hand, the effort that he's making usually does more harm than good considering the lack of consistency. Which leads me to believe his contact is out of selfishness or guilt. Neither of which are worth any communication at all.


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