An Open Letter to The Father I Can Not Love

Up until the age of five, you were my entire world. The sun and the moon, the grass and the trees, the only one I wanted to see. I loved my mother, but you were my favorite. The one that always kept me laughing and had the hugs I craved. I was your favorite little girl, a great replacement for the son you had always dreamt of. The girl who loved to watch WWE wrestling and reenact the chair smashing moves, the girl who was more interested in playing spider man with you than Barbie with my mom, the girl who helped you skin a deer on the back porch, the girl who at the age of four shot a groundhog dead with your pistol under what seemed like the most careful supervision. You were who I wanted to be when I grew up.

 

When you went on that hunting trip in 1998 and my mom secretly moved herself, my brother, and I to a new house in a nearby neighborhood I viewed her act as the ultimate betrayal. I thought she was purposely severing this special and all important bond simply to hurt us. As I sat on a blanket soaking in the sunshine of a beautiful summers day with my infant brother and watched her move all of our things from the house with her own brother, I kept waiting for you to come home; you to say, “Sorry I couldn’t help you guys with the packing and moving, but I’ll meet you at the new house!” You never did, only spiraled deeper into the alcoholism that my five year old mind could not yet comprehend. My mother robbed me of all joy. She moved me away from my happiness, my idol, my best friend. I thought about you daily and waited for your call.

 

In 1999 I remember sitting outside of your house with my mom in her teal Dodge Caravan bursting with excitement to finally see my daddy. It became clear, after what seemed like two hours, that you weren’t going to show. We went back to our new home.

 

As you and my mother waged a war against each other, being the oldest child, I was often left a casualty from the misplaced bludgeons. The stories of your alcoholism, laziness, poor upbringing, and statements calling you my, “sperm donor,” colored my pristinely clear vision of you. When I would get to see you, I would excitedly tell you stories about my life, which greatly included the presence of my mother and her new boyfriend. You got angry and felt hurt, and no longer wished to hear me speak. I wanted to share every part of me with you, but you wanted to preserve and nurture your own heart at the great cost of mine. And yet again, you were gone.

 

Was it that you didn’t know how to be a father? Or could you not handle those eyes of mine with colors that shifted with my mood, so perfectly mirroring the woman of whom you still greatly loved? Or was it your pride that needed to be saved, not bearing to hear the stories of your wife’s new boyfriend and his delicious homemade spaghetti and meatballs that your daughter raved over for days?

 

In 2002 or 2003, you had finally decided to reignite the relationship with my brother, Mitchell, and I. Mitch, having only been an infant and not quite understanding that you were his father rather than the live in man who was raising us, was nervous and confused. I, on the other hand, was filled with joy to finally have my daddy back. The first few months were incredible. I counted the days till our next visit where we would play paintball, go to parks and festivals, play with your girlfriend’s dogs, and just enjoy each other’s company. I didn’t mind sharing what little time we had together with my brother, because I was so happy for him to get to know the world’s greatest dad.

 

But as our visits continued, you drew away from me as if I were filth. Instead of taking me to Home Depot and teaching me how to do projects around the house you would take my brother and leave me home. As I was sitting on the floor in the living room between your then fiancés legs as she would try to fix my nappy African hair that my white mother still could not understand and maintain, you were choosing ceiling fans with Mitchell, joking about different heavy fixtures falling and crushing me to my death. As I was sent to the nail salon with said fiancé, Sally, to fix the nails that had broken whilst hiking, you were picking up paintball supplies and ammo with Mitchell remarking on my resemblance to Gollum from Lord of The Rings, and again fantasizing of my death. While you, Sally, and Mitchell, spent a weekend doing activities like bike rides, yard cleaning, picnics, and dinners, I was sent to my room for two and a half days with no food or companionship, forced to watch the fun through my windows. While Mitchell was sent to spend time with our step siblings you would sit me down at the kitchen table and interrogate me for hours on end about what my mother and step father, Dan, were up to; forced to say I didn’t love them, forced to understand that they were very bad people. And if I defied? If I said I loved these people that loved and cared for me? Clumps of hair were torn from my head and thrown to the floor in order to teach a memorable lesson.

 

In 2005, you came to pick me up from soccer practice and it wasn’t your custody scheduled day. Fear had consumed me. I decided I couldn’t see you any longer. I couldn’t keep feeling this hurt. I couldn’t keep allowing myself to be crushed by the man I had held on a pedestal for the past thirteen years. Every name you called me, every time you laughed at my tears, each time you chose my brother over me simply for being a boy, every time you screened and ignored my phone calls, every time my mom had to hold me as a cried myself to sleep wondering why you didn’t love me, every time you cackled at the idea of my death….

 

Every time, every single time, was a tap of the hammer, slowly chiseling away at the porcelain pedestal with my beating and fragile heart encased inside, until I was finally left with just you, a skeleton of me, and the wreckage of our past on the sidelines of a middle school soccer field.

 

I told you it was over, that I would no longer visit you. I stood with my coach, and he held you back from me. He took me home. My mom held me yet again through tsunami sized waves of tears, trying to heal my broken heart with the power of her own love for me. You called and said I was lucky there were witnesses.

 

In 2008, you filed for full custody of both Mitchell and I, not for the love of your children, but the lust for revenge on the woman that broke your own heart ten years prior. The court sent you and I to counseling, and after we were held back from a fist fight, the therapist said we should never see each other. Mitchell told the courts he didn’t want full custody with you, only split. He did this after I told him that there was not a chance you would love him less for telling the truth of what he wanted. You never came to pick him up. Neither of us have seen you since.

 

Saturday, February 20th, 2016

9:30 AM – I’m in the shower getting ready for a day of work, and briefly think about contacting you. This is not an unusual thought, it crosses my mind nearly once a month. I let the thought leave me and think of my plans for after work.

 

12:30 PM – A man walks into the bar that I serve at. I get the chills because he looks like you, but vaguely different. This man seems shorter, thicker, older, and this man has a rather large circular bald patch on the crown of his head, where you only had a thin patch. I stare with disbelief for minutes on end at the resemblance of you and this man. I see Sally, your now wife of ten years, and I can no longer pretend that this is simply your doppelgänger. This is you. My heart rate jumps to 130 beats per minute, I am sweating through my uniform, tears are rapidly falling down my cheeks, I lose my voice completely, and as I turn around to run I notice I’ve been double sat.

 

I run out the back door of the building and call my mother. My vision is blurry, I can’t think straight, and I’ve forgotten my cigarettes inside. Has he seen me? Did he find out my workplace because of Facebook? Why is he here? Has anyone helped the people in my section??

 

My boss lets me leave and I spend the day thinking about you and what this all means. Was this a sign from the god of my understanding that I am supposed to face my fear and talk to you? Or is God telling me to stay the hell away?

 

As it has all simmered down, and I can now think rationally, I truly believe that I have nothing to say to you that would be constructive. I would only want to hurt you. Being an alcoholic, I know that this disease makes us do crazy things, and I am strong enough now to forgive you for your mistakes… But for what? For a relationship? For your peace of mind? For mine?

 

Sometimes I imagine you walking into the AA meeting I secretary for, us locking eyes and seeing that we are one in the same and we were both genetically blessed with this cursed disease. That we can have a healthy friendship in the safe environment that is the rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous. However, this horrifically panic riddled moment at work showed me that the reconnection of my dreams is only a fairy tale.

 

Though I no longer have nightmares or flashbacks in regards to you, no matter how many years pass, when I see your face or hear your name, I am suddenly that scared little girl wishing for the love of her life to reciprocate those feelings, wishing that you would stop hitting her, starving her, and hoping she would die.

 

I used to feel unworthy. Your words and actions led me to believe that I was a subpar human, a little girl in a world that craved boys, you made me want to kill myself just like you killed the fantasy version of me in all of your “funny” anecdotes. You taught me that men were incapable of love outside of themselves. I believed that men only did nice things as a front to get what they wanted.

 

Today, because of the alcoholic gene that you have passed to only me and the totally god sent gift of sobriety, I am able to love. I love myself, everyone around me, and life in general, without fear or anxiety. I was taught through the alcoholic men in the rooms that males too are capable of true and pure love. I used to date men that mirrored you and your inability to connect, now I am with a man that proves his love from hour to hour in the most selfless, generous, and kind ways. Today, people don’t worry about me trying to harm myself. Today, I no longer need to gain approval from you (or anyone else) in order to feel and realize the volume vastness of my emotional success. I know that I am enough, and that I am a whole person, not despite of, but specifically because of my serious lacking of any positive male role model.

 

I want to thank you for ceasing the fight for custody when you did, for teaching me the invaluable lesson that love must come from within and that I can’t depend on someone else to take care of my emotional needs. Thank you for giving me the wisdom to walk away from any relationship that does not suit me, or more importantly, one that’s riddled with abuse. Thank you for teaching me how not to raise a child, and the importance of a parent’s unconditional love. I’ve learned just as much from you about what not to do in love as I have from AA about what I should do.

 

Today, I am grateful for the struggle that was our relationship and I am grateful that you are an alcoholic that could not give me the love I so clearly deserved. Today, because of all the pain and suffering, I am trudging my way to a very happy destiny.

 

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13 thoughts on “An Open Letter to The Father I Can Not Love

  1. Thank you for sharing so openly of yourself, your vulnerability and strength. it stirred so many emotions in me both as a father of three (two of which are little girls) and as an addict. my worst nightmare is how my addiction might negatively impact my kids especially at moments where i am struggling with resentments towards my wife/their mom.

    the part that hurt the most is “preserve and nurture your own heart at the great cost of mine.”. in my most challenging times with my wife, I am consumed by wanting to preserve my heart and unaware and not present to the impact of that on the heart of my children.

    so again, thank you for coming across my life and allowing me to come across yours. Thank you for allowing your pain to teach me something and possibly save my kids some of the pain you’ve experienced.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Therapeutic is the perfect word for this piece. For years I’ve left the situation between my father and I in a box, not ready to examine or explore how it all made me feel and why it impacted me so. Writing this helped me finally understand the underlying fears and resentments that I wanted to desperately to ignore. The realizations made have given me a tremendous amount of peace.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Tight hugs for you! Alcohol destroy the part of the brain that handles emotion. I can imagine the pain you have gone thru with your dad.Those who are afflicted seems uncapable of caring, loving and attending emotional needs even of themselves on their active drinking.What can you expect.They cannot give something they do not have.We need not blame them, they didn’t know it either, they didn’t know that they were afflicted of the disorder long known to mankind. It is a disease of denial. Also they can’t think clearly, the damage of alcohol to their brain cells made it difficult to do so. Lucky for those who abstain. Like you, I also learned to be greatful to this disease because it taught me a lot of thing and it helps me live life to the fullest, one day at a time.Keep writing. By the way I would love to give you a free copy of my book. Just contact me if you like.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Being an alcoholic in recovery made it easier to forgive. Not only am I taught through literature and my support network how to forgive, but I am shown through my own experiences of active addiction how self-centered I was and how repressed my emotions were. I can only pray that he someday receives the gift of sobriety that has been so graciously given to me and that he can live a life of freedom.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Thank you for writing words that still escape me about my relationship with my father whom I cannot love. His emotional abuse and childish responses to my emotional needs left deep scars that still ache on certain days. I too trudge the road of happy destiny in spite of the beginning part of the journey. Thank you so much for such an incredible piece. I’ll probably include this when I speak tonight because it is so moving and has resonated through my entire being tonight.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. thank you SO much for your experience STRENGTH and hope!!! I am currently caregiver for past 10 years of my abusive father, now struck with Alzheimer’s/Severe Dementia and in a nursing facility for the past 3 days. Love/Guilt/Pain/ Sorrow, all in one big flashback meatball!! You reminded me of the Great Gift of my 15 yr. sobriety and my Relationship with my Higher Power. I thank you from the bottom of my heart.:)

    Like

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