It occurred to me this morning that I won’t have another dad in my life. Not unless the father of my future partner is still alive and present.
This matters to me.
I want to have a family and I want to be a part of a family and, more importantly, I want to be a part of a family that has its dysfunctions, but isn’t dysfunctional. I want to see a father love his daughter. I want to see a daughter be proud of who her father is. I want to see the relationship I never had. I want to know it’s possible for a man to love his family, to take care of them and hold them dear.
These are all things my dad did, but I went through most of my life thinking he didn’t love us. And while he worked hard and always made sure we had the basics, he was limited in what he could provide emotionally.
I don’t know if he tried, or if he was even aware of his limitations. All I know is that his love was largely hidden, and when it was apparent, when he said I love you or did things just to show us he loved us, it felt unrefined and obligatory.
Mostly, his love came through anger. Anger that came from knowing his life—and, perhaps even my and my siblings’ lives—could never be what he wanted. I don’t know what it meant to him that we lived in a house full of anger and chaos, and I’ll likely never know. While there may be a lot of good in his heart, it is closed off; his secrets will remain his secrets, and the past will be just that. A time not so much forgotten as pushed away, unacknowledged.
I think of the things my dad did for me, and, truthfully, I am quite lucky. I am a better adult because of some of the advice he gave me. I’m grateful for his wisdom. I just wish he had offered me more than life skills and practicalities.
I wish I could carve out a space for my dad and me where we’d be able to share our truths and regrets. A space where we could feel safe enough to explain and acknowledge all that happened in those years. A space where we could welcome love, and feel, for once, as though it is more genuine than obligatory and filled with more truths than fictions. I want a space where all the horrible things we said and did become real and forgiven, and what is left is rich and honest love and the knowledge that the remainder of our years will be lived with a rich and meaningful father-daughter relationship.
But it is not enough for me to want this space. I cannot make it and bring him to it and expect to get all the things I need. I’ve tried and I’ve tried and I’ve tried, and each time I am met with his limitations. I have to assume the love is in there.
While I listen to friends speak of the wonders of their dads, I sit with regret and sadness, and hope that, one day, I’ll be witness to all I cannot be a part of.