A Letter to My Father: Two Years After His Death

*** Warning***

Most of the time, this is a humor blog. Or at least, it tries to be. Which is why I feel like I need to give you fair warning about the emotional shit storm you’re about to stumble into. If you’ve come here looking for a laugh, you’d better go HERE instead or check back with me in a couple of weeks when I’m (hopefully) done venting my anger at my dead father, and have once again found my sense of humor….

 

Dear Dad –

Today marks the 2nd anniversary of your death. In the weeks leading up to this day, I’ve been bracing myself for the suffocating wave of grief that crashed down on my head at this time last year, but it never came. Much to my surprise, rage was there to take its place. It started one night, about a month ago, when I sat down to watch a film called Broken (insert bitter irony here) starring Tim Roth.

 

 

 

 

If there really is an afterlife, maybe you watched me that night from whatever dimension you’re in, sobbing alone on my couch as I watched the beautiful relationship between a father and daughter blossom behind the screen of my TV. Could you feel the unbearable longing deep in the center of my chest as I watched those two characters take part in something we never had? Did you feel guilty as I played and rewound the touching father/daughter parts of the movie dozens of times? God, I hope so. I know that sounds pretty harsh, cruel even. But right now, I really don’t care if I hurt your feelings.

 

Missing you was the only constant in my life that didn’t change when you died. For the first eighteen years of my life, you were never there for me. Ever. You were always quick to explain those years away – citing the divorce, the physical distance (between our homes in Illinois and New York), and Mom’s anger towards you as the reasons behind your absence. But now that I’m a parent, I know something I didn’t know when I was a child – there’s nothing that can stand in the way of a parent who truly wants to be with their child. NOTHING.

 

A quote I read by Jim Rohn pretty much sums up my feelings about your side of the story: “If you really want to do something, you’ll find a way. If you don’t, you’ll find an excuse.” And Dad, you were all about excuses when it came to your children. You know what I think was the real truth behind your absence? I think you felt little kids were tedious and boring. So you bided your time until your children were old enough to have those grownup conversations you loved so much. Then we could talk for hours like old friends, while bonding over cigarettes and beer.

 

Never quite worked out though, did it? Sure, we had plenty of chats over cigarettes and beer, but the bonding always felt forced and uneasy. Part of me was afraid to drop my guard around you because I never knew if the next thing out of my mouth would make you disappear back into the void. So I became the consummate daughter for you – quick to laugh at your jokes and put you up on a pedestal…. never realizing that it’s almost impossible to bond with someone when they’re towering high above you.

 

But underneath my meticulously made smokescreen, lurked a girl who was anything but perfect. You never met her. She’s the messed up result of a lifetime of paternal neglect that your once-a-year visits did little to assuage. Your absence made me who I am today every bit as much as Mom’s presence – maybe even more so.

 

Here are the parts of me I was too scared to show you….

 

– The child who desperately sought out the attention of other fathers to fill the void you left behind. Even if those fathers were total assholes, I still clung to every scrap of affection they showed me. All my earliest memories of rough housing, playing, and cuddling were done with those men – I don’t have a single one that includes you.

 

– The teenager who always dated older guys because I was looking for a father figure, rather than a whirlwind romance. And when I didn’t have a boyfriend, I used the male friends that I surrounded myself with to fill the empty space. Sadly, teenage boys make pretty crappy fathers – they’re much more interested in getting into your pants than healing your inner child.

 

– The grown woman who has to combat pangs of jealousy every time I see a father carrying a small child up on his shoulders or being affectionate towards them, because you never laid a finger on me unless it accompanied a hello or goodbye. That woman cries too easily over stupid, cheesy songs like Butterfly Kisses and melodramatic Hallmark commercials designed to sell greeting cards. She also resents the hell out of you for all of the above.

 

I wonder what would’ve happened if I had the guts to show you all of that, or worse, the anger and frustration behind it all – kind of like when America Ferrera (playing Carmen) tells off her dad in the movie The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants….

 

 

That phone call was the exact one I wanted to have with you a million times, but I could never manage to gather up enough courage for that kind of confrontation.  I imagine there must be an awesome feeling of freedom that comes along with getting really pissed off at someone, and at the same time knowing that they’re still going to be there to love you afterwards. I never trusted you enough to test that freedom. If I had, do you think we’d have enjoyed the same storybook ending as the father and daughter in The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants?  Yeah, I didn’t think so either.  Because unlike the sappy chick flicks I perpetually fall hook, line, and sinker for, life doesn’t have happy Hollywood endings. Apparently, when it comes to emotional pain it doesn’t have any ending at all.  Kind of sucks.

 

I have to say though, I prefer this newfound anger to the overwhelming grief I had been feeling these past two years since you died – it’s easier to manage. There’s a lot less crying involved. Probably because I’m no longer pouring over old photos, or listening to the songs on the radio that remind me of you. When I took my favorite picture of us off of my bedroom dresser the night I watched Broken and threw it in a drawer, it almost felt good…. or at least justified.  I have the feeling I won’t be taking it back out anytime soon.

 

I don’t know what the next year of grieving will bring, but for now you can keep your shiny pennies and “signs” from the other side, if there is one. There’s no comfort in knowing that you’re there for me in death when you never were in life. But feel free to sit back and watch the real me for a while, because if reincarnation exists, I might prevent you from fucking up the daughter you have in your next life.  Just promise me that before you choose to dive back into the mortal melee again, you’ll do yourself and her a big favor – learn how to hug.

 

Still yours,

Linda

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14 thoughts on “A Letter to My Father: Two Years After His Death

  1. Well he did one good thing. He indirectly showed you what qualities to look for in a father for your children. Love you.

    • Eileen –

      True, Kevin is a good father. And even though I shredded my Dad to ribbons on this blog post, there were still parts of him that I loved dearly and appreciated. But obviously this piece of writing wasn’t about that. It was about sucking the poison out of a wound, and hopefully helping it to heal…. not sure how well I did on that last part.

      It was also about honoring this point in my grieving process. The one thing I’ve learned about grieving is that it morphs on an almost daily basis, and every part has valuable lessons for us to learn. The last two years were about sappy poems and angel wings, and this month, I’m mad as hell. Don’t know what tomorrow will bring….

      Love,
      Linda

    • Thanks! I think we all have our parental baggage that we lug around. My Dad suitcase just happens to be a bit on the heavy side. This was my attempt to lighten my load a bit 🙂

      Sounds like you’re toting around more than a carry-on bag too – Care to share?

  2. Hey Linda,

    Thanks for the warning. Lots of emotions in your letter and must be a serious decision to put your past out there.

    Hope writing the letter liberated you, at least releasing somewhat the negative emotions. Salvation lies in the acts of recognition and reconciliation.

    Wish you well.

    Terry

    • Terry –

      Yes, I debated this blog post for the last month. With rare exception, I like to reserve this little spot in my universe as my happy place – which hopefully by extension has become other people’s happy place too. I love making people laugh with my writing. But when I’m incapable of doing that, I think sharing something painful that other people might relate to can be a different sort of cathartic release.

      OR I did nothing but pointlessly depress almost 1,500 people on a random Tuesday. Could’ve been worse though – could’ve been a Monday 🙂

      Take care,
      Linda

    • Lesley –

      Thanks for being so understanding about all of this ❤ I know it wasn't easy to read about the man you loved getting shredded to ribbons, especially while you're still grieving the loss.

      I don't know why all of this emotional anger resurfaced when it did, but I do know that it needed to be vented, otherwise any hope I have for healing would be out the window, and I'd be stuck crying and grieving over him forever.

      I'm not sure where to go from here, but I'm grateful that you're willing to stick with me to find out where my journey takes me. XOXO

      Love,
      Linda

  3. Linda, As with all things, life is not fair. There are many ups and downs in it. And, there are always 2 sides to every story. So, when you are ready, and if you are up for it, let’s talk about things some more together rather than here.

  4. Linda, did you write this blog post for me? I’m sure you did because you knew subconsciously it would help me. Ah shucks, you’re so sweet. My first dad was like your dad, if you add a whole lot of violence and sadism in it. But, when I was 10, my stepdad came into my life and I knew what it was like to have a dad. Make no mistake–there were no Hallmark moments either, as my dad was a farmer who was tough and proud and didn’t say girly things like “I love you”. But, I can tell you that there wasn’t a day that I didn’t know he did. It’s been six months now since he passed suddenly and the grieving hasn’t gotten any better. But, thanks to your post, you have given me the first real smile in the past few months because you have reminded me how lucky I was to have him in the first place. I know I won the lottery at aged 10 and sure wish you could have too. My thoughts are with you. BTW, as horrible as dad #1 was, I still have moments of missing him. Yep it’s fucked up but welcome to the world of being a child. Sometimes it just sucks. Keep writing girl. Ya know I love ya.

    • Hey Bels –

      Sorry for my delayed response. After writing this post, I had to step away from it for awhile and take a breath. I just went back and reread it today, and I’m happy to say that I have NO regrets about posting it. Everything I wrote needed to be written, and your response proved that it also needed to be read…. at least by some.

      It makes me SO happy to hear that this post reminded you of how lucky you were to have found your stepfather! It sounds like he was a really good man. But I’m sorry that you’re still knee-deep in the grieving process. That first year is hell to get through, and as far as I know, there’s no way around it. You just have to put on your boots and wade through all the emotional shit. Hopefully you come out clean on the other side 🙂

      Be well, my friend ❤

      Hugs & tequila shooters,
      Linda

  5. I’m sorry. The best and worst part of family is loving them because they have the capability of hurting us so deeply. Just remember all the good ways your family has shaped you too. My cousin and aunt are going through a terrible time due to divorce and a visit over Christmas reminded me why I moved away from my family in the first place. But it also prompted me to tell my mom (who I’ve had my ups and downs with over the years) how much I appreciated that she is so in tune with what upsets me, she usually calls me back to apologize first.

    • Thanks for the thoughtful response, airym. One of these days you’ll have to tell me your first name – you’ve been one of my most faithful commenters from the beginning and I feel like I shouldn’t be using a screen name after all this time 🙂

      Sorry that your Aunt and cousin have to suffer through the pains of divorce. It’s no fun for anyone, least of all the kids. And don’t even get me started about dealing with family chaos around the Christmas. I’m pretty sure family holiday dinners are the reason alcohol was invented.

      But I’m glad that you were able to voice your gratitude to your mom for being so mindful of your feelings – sounds like a great lady! I think we all screw up as parents, but what separates the good parents from the bad, is being able to own up to our mistakes and show our kids that we care enough about them to apologize for what we did. Every time we say we’re sorry, it’s one less therapy session that’ll be needed in the future 🙂

      Take care,
      Linda

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