Most of my close friends know that I haven’t talked to my father in about 8 years. There’s a story, but no major life-crushing reason. My therapist at the time suggested that in order to have a relationship with him at all, I needed to have no expectations of him whatsoever. I don’t voluntarily keep people like that in my life. Our relationship was always (and I mean this in a COMPLETELY non-creepy way) more similar to what you’d have with a charming but narcissistic boyfriend than your standard father-daughter one, so I feel comfortable saying I dumped him, and haven’t had much desire to acknowledge him since. That’s pretty much how I roll.
At some point in the past five years, he had a daughter. I found out about her around the way and ignored the information. A couple years ago my stepmother called and wanted me to meet her. I wanted to– really– but at the time I couldn’t do it. I have a lot of shit with my dad. A lot of resentment, a lot of unanswered questions, and a lot of pent-up… well, hate, to be totally honest. I know all too well what it’s like to be a child burdened with a relative who should be there but just won’t, and I couldn’t risk being that way to someone else. I knew that I needed to work through my issues with him, and with her, before I could take that step. If I was going to enter her life, I was going to be IN her life, for permanent for real. I wouldn’t be to her what our father was to me.
And yes, I resented her. Not her, but her existence. It took a lot for me to come to a point of not crying every day over John, to get over the urge to drive to Columbia and throw bricks through his windows. To be able to mention his name. My solace was and continues to be that he is a broken person. He can’t love anybody. He couldn’t be a father because he doesn’t have it in him. He’s narcissistic and worthless. But now he’s driving another little girl to soccer practice? Going to PTA meetings? Is he showing her how to write her name upside down? That was our thing! Why couldn’t he be superdad for me?
I sound like a crazy ex, right?
But honestly, breaking up with the guy I was seeing last year helped me come to some resolutions about my relationship with my dad. A lot of them, more than I care to admit. I knew early on that that relationship was a total rehash of daddy issues — trying desperately to win someone’s affection who was hell bent on blowing hot and cold, on and off, entirely at his discretion. I don’t know why I let it play out, but I think I needed it to. I needed to fail and hurt over not succeeding. I needed to feel stupid and awful that I’d let someone make me feel shitty and unwanted AGAIN. I think it was my mom who noticed during one of my “that n*%$@ ain’t shit” rants that I was using the exact same words I’ve used about my dad in the past. That was pretty deep. It wasn’t deliberate but while working all that out, I suddenly realized I didn’t really hate my dad so much anymore. Of course, I might be simply transferring all my ill feelings to a different target, but at any rate, I feel better now. Less resentful. More like I could hold a conversation with the old man without wanting to shank him first.
So I’m going to meet this new chick. I know she looks just like me. I know she’s been sleeping in my old room, probably in the same bed. I’m gonna sit her down and school her on game — perhaps Chutes and Ladders. We will have an uncivilized chat over hot chocolate and sugar cookies that involves a lot of giggling and loud talking and “we have the same nose!” and “your hair is so pretty!” and maybe we won’t have to talk about the lame dude we have in common at all. And honestly, I hope he’s not a lame dude anymore, because I don’t want her to have a crappy father in her life any more than I wanted him crappy and half in mine. I’m too old to be jealous of a first grader. I just wanna love that kid. For permanent. For real.