Day 22 — Something you wish you hadn’t done in your life.
It was 2003 and I’d sent my dad a Christmas package with a quilt I’d sewn him. We’d baked cookies, made marshmallows, granola, canned treats from my garden. You name it. It was the overachiever package I’d always wanted to send my deadbeat dad.
He’d sent me a letter telling me he’d love to see my kids and I. We’d been talking on the phone and getting to know each other. My husband urged me to be cautious but I threw myself into being a perfect daughter. I sent the package with signature confirmation. He signed for it.
He said he didn’t get it & he never answered another phone call from me.
I sent him a letter I’ll never completely forgive myself for.
My dad was a beautiful man with buckets of charisma and charm. He skated through school on the hard work of my mother then coasted into financial gain the same way. He cheated on her and let her leave with me and nothing else, when I was a year old. My mother single-handedly raised me with sporadic child support sent only by the second woman to make his life easy: my brilliant step-mother. Incidentally, the second women left holding unsupported children after he tired of being a family man.
I sometimes wonder how many other siblings I actually have because I wouldn’t be surprised if there were a few more unaccounted for. There are four of us bound by genetics, daddy issues and a love for each other that makes it all worthwhile. His absence left us vulnerable to the worst life had to offer, but the gift he gave us in each other can’t be undone by his failing as a parent. We’ve forged a bond as siblings in spite of him and it’s given us the small sliver of a dad we can at least refer to when our children ask why they’re short a grandfather.
He didn’t deserve any one of us but since when does anyone really get what they deserve?
I wrote him a letter after he lied to me and let me down for the last time. I told him about how vulnerable he’d left all of us. About the molestation he didn’t protect us from and the rape he didn’t even know about. Other men had given all three of his daughters away on their wedding days. Strangers knew more about his children and I told him in painful detail just how well.
I gave all the hurt and heartache back to him and told him I hoped he’d die alone, like he deserved.
Nearly a decade later… my brother called me as I was getting ready for work one night.
B- Hey. I have bad news. Dad died.
Time really does stand still in those moments. I never had much of a chance to get to know him but when he died, all those chances did too. I grieved the loss of him much harder than the absence. He was under 60 years old but living a hard life. Only my brother ever had a relationship with him, so none of us really knew where he was in the world.
He died alone in some generic apartment in California. He was found by the apartment manager, after a week or so. No next of kin was listed so he sat unclaimed in the morgue until they tracked my brother down.
He died just as I’d told him I hoped he would. Though sad, none of us girls were very excited to have to pay for his remains. My beautiful brother took care of it and spread our dads ashes in Mexico, somewhere he’d always wanted to go.
I regret leaving him with my broken heart and not a loving example of who I really am. I’m sorry that he died feeling hated by me and not knowing that I loved him in spite of all the reasons I shouldn’t. I wish I’d been forgiving instead of vengeful and though he deserved to hear the painful details of the children he harmed, it served no purpose. Sometimes it’s ok to swallow your hurt feelings. Some harsh words aren’t meant to see the light of day because ultimately it never works when you return pain with more pain.
I wish I could have loved him more and wounded him in return, a little less. It’s taught me to choose my words more carefully and say only the things that need to be said. It’s lit a fire under me to be a better person and a more present parent.
I wish I could tell him all the incredible things I am because his absence gave me no other choice.
He deserved to hear the good stuff too.