No, that’s not a typo. Most times when we read headlines or posts about issues or problems related to our fathers, it’s about a woman’s problematic relationships with men due to her experience with her father…or her daddy issues.
But that’s not my story. And before you respond with “not another dead-beat-daddy” post on Father’s day, let me explain.
This isn’t about airing my family’s “dirty laundry”, as taboo as that may be.
This is about my daddy’s issues with being my daddy.
And how I finally got my healing.
You see, my whole life changed the day that my father asked me how old I was.
You can read that sentence again if you think you read it incorrectly. But you didn’t.
I was 3 months shy of my 25th birthday and I was finally in a place where I felt I could have “the conversation” with my dad.
I was finally ready to ask him why.
He messaged me on Facebook and asked if he could pick me up from work one day so that we could talk. After a lot of hesitation, I (very) reluctantly said yes.
We took a short ride in a mixture of awkward silence and small talk, until we arrived at the local pancake house.
We both exited his truck, and walked in.
Secretly, I wanted him to open my door like the little girls and their dads do in the movies.
But he didn’t. This was my daddy’s issue.
We entered the restaurant and ordered a meal. I think I asked for chicken tenders, but I was entirely too anxious to eat.
After about 5 minutes, my dad asked me how old I was.
Mind you, my parents married each other (twice…but that’s another story) and my younger brother and I are my dad’s youngest children.
And he didn’t know how old I was.
He guessed 19, and I told him that was my brother’s age. I’m (almost) 5 years older.
I was stunned for a second. And then, it hit me. This was my daddy’s issue.
He didn’t know how old I was, and that wasn’t my fault. He was the parent in this situation, not vice versa.
We continued talking about only God knows what. By this point, my nerves were starting to settle and I was grateful because I still had to ask him why.
Discussions of whose fault it was filled our dining booth, and I did my best to respect him and let him know that I wouldn’t tolerate any disrespect towards my mother. We weren’t there to play the blame game. At this point, that was pointless.
He picked me up so that we could talk, which was something that I wasn’t open to until that very moment. I agreed so that I could finally hear those two words that I never ever thought I would hear from him: “I’m sorry.”
But those two words didn’t come. Not immediately, anyway.
After more conversation about my 5-year-old memories of my parents’ divorce, the time had finally come. It was time to get real.
I told him that my mother was the best mom in the world and that she gave her all to take care of my brother and I.
I told him that as much as I had always wanted to be daddy’s little girl, I had come to terms with that not being my reality.
I told him that I was blessed to be grandpa’s little girl instead, and as far as I was concerned, my grandpa was my dad.
And I told him that I was heartbroken that my grandpa wasn’t here anymore.
My father likened his 20-year-absence from my life to a parent who had been incarcerated. After I explained how a forced separation was not the same as someone who chose to be absent, we moved on.
After about 2 hours of conversation, he asked if I would forgive him.
And then… I broke. Right there, in the middle of the restaurant. 20 years of tears flowed from the depths of my (5-year-old) broken heart.
You know, like that scene from Fresh Prince when Will asks why his dad doesn’t want him? Yeah, I cried like that.
I sobbed and I sobbed and I sobbed.
And my dad just sat there. Straight faced, seemingly unmoved.
After what felt like an eternity, he finally offered me a napkin to wipe my face.
I so desperately wanted him to throw his arms around me and let me be his little (5-year-old) girl. You know, like that one scene in Daddy’s Little Girls?
But I wasn’t talking to Idris Elba and this wasn’t a scene from a movie. I was talking to my dad and this was real life.
And again, he just sat there.
And then, it finally hit me.
This was my daddy’s issue. Despite having 5 children, he didn’t know how to be my dad.
And it wasn’t my fault. He didn’t know how to be my dad and that wasn’t my fault.
At 25, I had done all of the rationalizing that I knew how to do to try to explain his absence and I finally had the answer to my why.
Somehow, I managed to stop sobbing long enough to get out 7 words: “I need to hear you say it.”
He sat, a little bewildered, but he let me continue.
“I always thought that I would have to make my peace with this without ever hearing you say it. I need to hear you say it.”
He responded, “back in my day, asking for forgiveness was saying it.”
“Not for me. I need to hear the words.”
And then he said it. “I’m sorry.”
After a short pause, I told him that I forgave him.
And that was it. There’s no fairytale ending (yet). Nothing has drastically changed in my life after that conversation other than I no longer feel like there’s this weight on my shoulders that’s holding me down.
I’m not asking myself why anymore, or looking for anyone to blame. Honestly, I don’t even blame my dad (anymore). He didn’t know how to fill that role and that’s my daddy’s issue.
I think part of me will always be the 5-year-old broken-hearted girl who my dad abandoned when my parents divorced.
The difference today, however, is that she no longer controls me.
I feel free. And I’m so grateful for that.
This wasn’t meant to be a daddy bash-session, because that doesn’t feel productive (or healthy) for me at this point. This was about my healing.
It took 25 years, but I finally have my healing in this area of my life. And it feels good.
Happy Father’s Day to all of the daddies out there! And to the grandfathers, uncles and coaches who double as daddies to little girls that you didn’t help to create, you are SO loved and adored! Happy Father’s Day to you, too!
If you are still looking for your healing, I pray that it finds you or that you’re able to create it. You deserve your freedom, sis.