*This post was originally published on June 15, 2014
Growing up, I remember being so excited about Father’s Day. I treated this holiday as an opportunity to display my artistic prowess, as I was determined to construct some masterpiece that could only be concocted from the mind of a 5 year old daddy’s girl. These makeshift construction paper cards usually involved heaps of glitter, macaroni and stick figure iconography planted next to an illegible yet endearing, “Happy Father’s Day". After school, I would hand the card to my father, feeling so proud to gift him my creative acknowledgment of his deeds.
Time has since passed and these days have become few and far between. See, it was not until my parent’s separation that a rupture began to form between my father and I. Through time he became less prevalent in my life and our relationship proved to be a back and forth pendulum between verbal, physical and emotional abuse to downright neglect.
18 years’ worth of a tumultuous relationship between my father and I have resulted in increased apprehension and disassociation with this day. My preteen years marked the beginning of my annual father’s day routine of either seething anger, a draining sense of self-pity, or some indescribable emotion nestled somewhere in-between. I did not have the means to express myself, so I would turn to self injury believing that if I offered my blood to God then everything would be made better.
I tried to avoid everyone and everything around me. The string of sappy Father’s Day commercials, the mandatory phone calls to estranged uncles who are out enjoying their time with their children, the influx of paragraph-long Father’s Day sentiments plastered on my Facebook newsfeed. It was too much. I would lock myself in my room to keep from going outside - I couldn't bare seeing children holding the hands of their dotting father's without wondering:
Why isn't that me?
Why am I not good enough?
What could I have done differently to make him stay?
So what do I do now on this day? Now that my father has since passed, and I am left singlehandedly carrying the wounds of our severed relationship.
Though I do not plan on participating in this day of commemoration with some eulogy in honor of my father, I must say it would feel equally limiting to only focus on the ways in which my dynamic with him was unhealthy. So for sake of my wellbeing, I'd like to rest somewhere in the middle.
This time around, I have marked my intention towards being critical about the relationship that I had with my father. By critical, I mean acknowledging the complex nuances of our relationship and not just subscribing to the one-dimensional “he was not there” mantra.
This time around, I have set the intention of letting go of my devotion to the pain that I have appointed as the hallmark of this day. I acknowledge the fact that my ill-feelings towards this day came from a sense of believing I was deprived of a father. I couldn't see much purpose to Father’s Day beyond it being a day devoted towards acknowledging all the ways in which my father was not there. It is a day in which I consented to wallowing in self-pity but now I am deliberate about crawling out of it.
I commence this day with the question: What resiliency have I gained from all that I have endured?
Though I do not recognize the relationship I had with my father as a healthy one, I can surely acknowledge him as the catalyst for me embarking on my self-love journey, and for this I am grateful. Yes, the reality is – much closure is still needed between the two of us and I anticipate spending a lifetime working towards this. For me, I am not just set on mending wounds from my childhood - I am also attempting to establish a healthy spiritual bond with my father as I proceed further into my adulthood. I anticipate a lifetime of cherishing my closeness with my mother, brother, and grandparents – all of which became strengthened once my father left the picture.
So indeed, I have something beautiful to show for myself after all of this internal calamity. I give reverence to the moments in which I have received guidance and assistance from all those who stood in as surrogates when my father could not be there. Lastly, I acknowledge the ways in which I have filled the shoes of my father by loving myself in ways he never could.
My father is gone but I am still here.
The verdict is this