Sunday, June 17, 2007
Today, like many other days
"All the girls I know seem to have 'daddy issues'- and so do you" he casually stated.
He, being a very close friend at the time, had hit the nail on the head with this crude statement. Nonetheless, I still acted like I thought he was dead wrong and that I was pissed off.
It actually stung a little. "Daddy issues".
I never wanted to be one of those girls.
Hell, I hadn't called my Dad "daddy' since I was maybe 6 years old.
I don't like having "issues", in general. But, there it was- staring me in the face.
I do have "daddy issues". Big ones.
When my Mom died, I was 20. I didn't know how to balance my checkbook, let alone my life.
I didn't really deal with things the way wish I could have. I handled it through denial and avoidance. I immersed myself in my life in Minneapolis, trying to ignore my life back home.
We (me, my sisters, my Dad) were all in our own very private places, dealing with it the best we could.
My Dad was desperately lonely and grief-stricken.
I didn't know what to do. I was just a kid still. I had no way of knowing the scope of his misery.
Once Mom was gone, the family (both immediate and extended) started to unravel. She was the glue that kept us all together. The one who made the plans. It seemed no one wanted to do it in her absence.
We had a fairly typical family dynamic- Dad was the breadwinner, working long hours, then coming home- having dinner and maybe a beer or two, falling asleep on the couch. Repeat Monday through Friday. Weekends were about projects around the house, projects in the garage, and getting together with friends and family.
For how traditional we were, you would think that I would have known him better.
At 20 years old, with my Mom gone, he seemed like someone I never knew at all. We could have just met the day before for all that I knew about what was going on in his head. Truth be told, I think I was scared of finding out.
My sisters and I were a complete mystery to him as well. Aside from the occasional disciplinary action or photo opportunity, he had pretty much steered clear of us during our teenage years, as any smart man with three daughters should do. We were a swirling mass of hormones, moods and unpredictable needs. We didn't fish and had no interest in woodworking or the inner workings of cars. I always wished that we had a brother, mostly for my Dad. Even when I was young I felt bad for him. It didn't seem fair that he was so outnumbered.
In the years that followed her death, we grew apart. I didn't know how to help him and everything I did seemed inadequate.
When he started dating a few years later, I was happy for him. I didn't want him to be alone.
But it was still hard.
She wasn't my Mom.
She was my Mom's polar opposite, it seemed.
Where my Mom was bright light and laughter, I thought this woman was stiff, dark and humorless.
Where my Mom could appreciate a raunchy joke and often had the vocabulary of a sailor, this woman never swore and had never, ever had a drink. Ever.
I couldn't relate to her, and she couldn't relate to me.
Then they got married.
Then he sold our house.
I think he's still angry that I didn't help him move- he thought I was being selfish and irresponsible. I have still never told him that the thought of going there and seeing our stuff gone, the house empty...well, I couldn't do it.
I wanted to. I really did.
I just couldn't.
The following years have ebbed and flowed. At times, though somewhat stilted and uncomfortable, things have been real good. A few years ago I decided to just let the past go- we all (me, him, his wife, my sisters) had said and done some very hurtful and cruel things that we needed to just get over if we ever hoped to move on.
We even have times that border on comfortable and loving occasionally. I like his wife quite a bit now that I understand her more- we, I think, get each other in a way we didn't before. I see the relationship they have- one based on mutual love and respect- and I am very happy for them both.
Other times, like today, it seems I can do nothing right. Nothing is up to his standards. I may never know what I did wrong that made him so cold and curt with me on the phone today, but you can bet I'll be paying for whatever it was for a good long while.
He has never told me the rules of our relationship, and he never fails to catch me breaking them.
I don't know how I can win this- or really, just break even.
I love you, Dad. You are smart, talented, funny and handsome. You were a wonderful father when we were growing up. You are charming and have always had a way of drawing people in (I like to think that's where I get it from- wink). I couldn't imagine wanting anyone else to fill your shoes, as if anyone could.
When I look in the mirror, I see so much of you in me. I have your nose and unruly hair. I have your freckles and love of whiskey. We both love to make people laugh and go out of our way to show others a good time. We give even if giving means we have none. We both love grilled meat and hanging out with friends at home.
These things I love about us. I'm happy to have these gifts from you.
But this- the judgment, the games, the not knowing what will be all right and what won't-
it's not fair and I'm not playing anymore.
It's exhausting. And I'm done.
I hope you have a good day today. I'm sorry we're there, at that place again, but this time you need to figure it out.
This time it's not my problem.
Happy Father's day, Dad. I do love you. That should be enough.