Let’s Be Honest – Fatherless
Each month, I try to write from my heart, no matter how much it scares me. In countless ways, I have benefitted from the courage of other women who tell the truth, and I strive to be one of them too. I am propelled by truth, bolstered by it, committed to it. Even when it is painful and uncomfortable, which is how my column feels this month. Because this month, it’s Father’s Day. And I am Fatherless. Chances are, many of my readers are too.
This column is for us.
This is where I completely take off my “therapist hat” and move fully into “human: not otherwise specified” mode. I am struggling to explain the relationship that I had with my father when I lived with him. In short, he was terrifying. It was heartbreaking to be his daughter. He was absent and disinterested in ever knowing me. When my mom finally packed us up and left him, I felt nothing but relief. The end of their marriage signaled the beginning of the years of healing that I would require to rebuild myself after living in such an abusive and toxic situation for the entirety of my childhood.
When I think of Father’s Day, I feel (and always felt) confused. I watched my friends, with involved, loving and concerned fathers, with amazement and disbelief- sort of the way you watch a contortionist do logic-defying tricks with their body. I mean, it looked very interesting, but I couldn’t reconcile how something like a father could ever equal love. Which made every single Father’s Day craft equally as confusing.
To be Fatherless is to be left in a state of confusion and longing. For some of us, we long for what we had and then lost – like a Father who has died or from whom we are estranged. For others, being Fatherless is searing rejection, abandonment or living with unspeakable abuse and horror. Still, for some, it’s a dark void of the unknown – simply not ever having had the experience to begin with. In any case, there is grief and loss. Some of us feel this more sharply than others, but I think, in some degree, we all feel something.
So, what about us? What the hell do we do for Father’s Day? Honestly? I don’t know. I don’t know what we have all been through, but here is one thing I know to be true:
On Father’s Day, if you’re in the unfortunate club of the Fatherless, I want you to remember that it is not your fault. It is not your fault that the adult in your life left you, or died, or was never there, or abused you. If you’re a woman who has been left Fatherless, you’ve no doubt heard the term, “daddy issues”, as if bearing the brunt of your father’s absence or abuse was somehow your fault. It’s not. It never was. And we have to reclaim that for ourselves as we reclaim that healing.
I am hopeful. As you can immediately tell from the bags under my eyes and the crumbs on my shirt, I am a parent, which means I pay attention (sometimes) to parent-things. What I see, every day, is an army of beautiful, loving, delighted Dads there for their children. To these men, we celebrate you, we love you, we need you and we thank you. I believe that times are changing. I believe in fatherhood, and I wish, so desperately at times, that I could have experienced it. But I didn’t, and if you didn’t either, you are not alone, and even though it might have felt like it, you never were. Onward.
May you be happy.