My relationship with my father is complicated at best. There were several periods of time in my childhood that I had no idea where he was. I remember several occasions when I sat by the window for hours waiting for him to show up. One of those times was Father’s Day. I had made him a #1 Dad photo frame with a picture of us in it. He never showed up, and it was months before I saw him again. I still remember the day I threw the frame in the trash. I spent many years in my teens hating my father, or at least thinking that I hated him.
There was an incident on my 17th birthday. My dad called me almost every year on my birthday at the time I was born. I sat around the dining room table eating dinner with my family and my boyfriend, and I watched the seconds tick by, but there was no phone call. I was heart-broken. A week or so later, my aunt, who has never been one to stay quiet for long, called to find out why. A fight ensued as he claimed to have called me and said that we just never answered the phone. I don’t know what to believe to this day. Maybe he dialed a wrong number. I don’t know. What I know is that this stupid incident caused my father and me not to speak for over 5 years.
I tried. I even called him once, shortly before my 18th birthday. He made the mistake of saying some nasty things about my mother. I told him to go to hell, and I hung up on him.
I wrote him so many letters over the years. I poured my heart and soul out into them. We’d see each other at family events . . . funerals, weddings, and the annual Christmas party. We’d sit just a few feet away from each other and pretty much pretend that the other didn’t exist.
When I got engaged the first time (I was engaged twice . . . to the same man), it was shortly before the family Christmas party. I wrote my father a letter telling him what was going on in my life and pleading once again to have him be a part of it. My hand was shaking as I handed him the letter. He didn’t take it. Instead, he grabbed me and hugged me and told me how much he loved me. He cried. I cried. My entire family cried. We calmed ourselves with cigarettes and tried to catch up on each other’s lives as much as possible.
It’s been 10 years since that Christmas party, and they have very much mimicked my childhood years. My dad will be very involved for a while. He’s helped me move, given me money, taken me to dinner, and called just to talk to me. He’s also done the disappearing act quite a few times.
I was waitressing at a restaurant not far from my dad’s house when I was pregnant with my daughter. When I was about 5 months pregnant, my dad said that he was going to stop by for a late lunch. I had to work, but he figured he could sit at one of my tables and we could chat in between me taking care of other customers. Normally, a lunch shift would keep me working till about 5pm. If they cut me any earlier, I’d trade off with someone else who wanted to go home. This day, they cut me around 2pm. My dad was supposed to show up at 3pm. I shocked everyone when I took the early cut. I was so excited because I could sit down and eat with my dad instead of just serving him. I felt like I was 10 years old again. I finished up all of my tables a little before 3:00 and sat outside to wait for my dad. At 3:30 I tried to call him. At 4:00 I tried calling again. Between 4:30 and 5:00 I called a few more times. No answer. Finally, at about 5:15, I walked to the bus stop and went home.
I was mortified to go to work the next day. It was that same feeling I’d get when kids in school would ask me how my weekend at my dad’s was. It doesn’t matter how old I am, I still feel like a child when it comes to my dad.
And then my daughter was born . . . and 5 months later, my sister was born. This started a whole new wave of emotion from my dad. “I have two miracle daughters. I’m going to do it right this time.” At one point I even told my dad, “You got a second chance, don’t fuck it up.” But the same patterns continued.
Now my dad is working on a building 2 blocks away from my daughter’s school. Every morning on the bus she looks out the window to see if she can see grand pop. Every morning after I drop her off, I walk down the street and look up at the building to see if I see him . . . and if I do, is he close enough for me to say hi?
We talked a few weeks ago, when I called him to say Happy Birthday. He became weepy again, told me that he loves me. He said that he wants us to be close. He wants us to get together more. He wants to take my sister, my daughter, and me fishing. And on and on and on. And I cried. I told him that I would love that, I would really, really love that.
I hung up the phone and sat on the couch and cried some more. I told my boyfriend what had happened. He said, “But that’s a good thing.” I told him that I was scared. I explained that I had been through this so many times before. I just can’t help that little girl feeling of “I want my daddy” every time this happens. I want to go into this with my head instead of my heart. I just don’t know how.
And so here we are, 3 ½ weeks later. We haven’t gone out to dinner. We haven’t planned any fishing trips. We did talk on the phone once for 40 minutes. I called him. But I still look for him every morning. Twice in a week’s time we’ve had morning conversations . . . me yelling from the street, him yelling from the second story of the building he’s working on. Before I got his attention each time, he seemed to be looking for me. I don’t know where this is going to go. I don’t know if a few months down the line, we’re going to be right back to where we were before. I don’t know if this will finally be the time that we build a relationship. What I know is that the mornings that we yell our conversations at each other, while people walk by and stare at us like we’re crazy, make me feel good for the rest of the day. This morning, after we talked for a good 10 minutes, and I started walking towards my train, he turned and apologized to the other guy on the job for the impromptu break. He said, “That’s my daughter.” And it made me smile.
I’ll take the little things as they come. Forget tomorrow and next week and next year. My dad and I may not have a typical father/daughter relationship . . . we may have a boat load of dysfunction . . . but I believe, I know, that my father loves me. And I love him. Sounds so simple, but it’s a really big deal. What will be will be. I’ll enjoy whatever moments that I can!