Written by: BetteJo from A Bead a Day
“I will still be your father. I will come and get you and we will go places and do things together.”
He may have said more but that is all I would remember. I would remember it always as a promise, as the promise. It may as well have floated in sparkly gold letters above my head – it was the promise my dad made me, it would be the promise he would break over and over again.
I loved climbing into my dad’s lap, asking him for bone jarring pony rides or trying to pull out the gray whiskers he would let grow on the weekends. I would sit on the toilet seat and watch him shave at the bathroom sink with something akin to adoration, thrilling in the chase when he would try to gently slap a little of his spicy aftershave onto my cheeks.
My daughter had games she played with her daddy, and many naps taken in his arms. He would take her shopping or on errands with him, or swing her up onto his shoulders so she could be so-o-o-o tall. Saturday morning cartoons were a shared treat for all of them, Daddy and his son and his daughter. They would pile together on the couch and laugh at Pee Wee’s playhouse and tickle and giggle.
I worked the night shift at the time so weekend mornings were Daddy time, as were weeknights. For a few years he was the one to bathe them and spend that snuggly, warm, sleepy time with them before tucking them into bed each night. It seemed ideal that my kids were having so much of their dad’s influence and hands on parenting instead of getting almost all of their nurturing from me. Mom is great after all, but Mom and Dad is better.
There were spaces of time after my parent’s divorce where my dad would call and come by and take me to a picnic, or back to his house for the day. Mostly though, I saw him on weekend mornings when he would come by and hand me the check for my Mom through the screen door. He wouldn’t stay, wouldn’t come in, just give me the check and leave. It didn’t take long for the checks to start coming in the mail and the calls to be fewer and farther between.
It also didn’t take long for the knowledge to settle deep in my heart that I didn’t really matter to my dad. I did not recognize the knowledge, certainly did not verbalize it, but lived with the certainty of it as if that was the logical result of my not being good enough. Because I must not have been good enough if even my daddy couldn’t love me, right?
I married a man who was nothing like my father. I wanted to spare my children the pain and anguish of an absentee dad who was not about to take responsibility for any emotional wounds he may inflict upon my kids. Our kids. Right?
I asked my 21 year old daughter yesterday, whether or not she had responded to her father’s invitation to his upcoming wedding. In her completely logical but heartbreakingly accurate assessment she said;
“I feel no pressure, socially or otherwise, to RSVP to my father’s wedding invitation.”
She continued in her matter of fact way.
“I can’t feel pressure to do something considered to be polite and proper etiquette when he couldn’t be bothered to do something as correct and basic as - to parent.”
I can only hope she will not continue the cycle and unknowingly marry a man just like her father, like I did, after all. And I hope she can forgive me for it.
BetteJo is a single mom of 2 grown kids who beads and blogs and tries to keep putting one foot in front of the other on a daily basis. She usually succeeds at this. Doing it well, not so much.