Since I was a little girl I can remember wanting to make my dad proud. Most days, when I am rational and functioning and confident, I know that deep down I have made mine proud...but I haven't had those feelings in awhile, at least not in regards to my dad.
Father's Day used to be filled with waking up early and taking Jessi down to the beach to find some special shell that dad would think was cool or helping him out in our yard...maybe even building something. There was this one time where I was working with him on a picnic table under our house. That table still stands at that house. He and I built that together...like so many other things.
As a kid I was always close with my parents - they were cooler than most of my friends actually. My dad would take me around on his sales calls with local restaurants and would let me jabber on about whatever it was that I used to jabber on about. I have flashes of these memories now, which is better than where I was at even a year ago. For a long time, I didn't have any memories from before that night.
If there is such a thing as backwards denial, I think I had that. I accepted that things had changed but denied that things were ever normal, good...healthy.
Even trying to find a photo of me and my dad when I was kid has been a challenge. My mom sent me an email for Father's Day - one I am certain was hard for her to write for me considering the pain she has experienced over the years. She was searching for a photo that I don't think that I have ever even seen but she couldn't find it and it troubled her. Kind of sad, really. But I appreciated her effort and her words.
As a kid, I always wanted to help him work on things. I always wanted listen to his CDs that he kept on a shelf that I could never reach. I remember one time I did get up there and I listened to some Eric Clapton LIVE album. I loved Eric Clapton.
It's not his fault, or mine, or my mom's or anyone's fault. I think that as children, my dad spent so much of his love on Jessi because she really needed it. She was up against so much at school, with other kids, with the world...I was doing fine so I didn't need the attention in his mind. But I kind of did.
I remember this one time I ran away. A selfish and childish thing that really scared my parents. I still feel bad about that night. I didn't really run away, I just went and sat on a dock off of Bay Drive for a few hours and then sat on the back deck of our house where no one ever really went because it faced the highway and was there before we put the pool in...I sat there for hours. I remember it was around 9 or 10 and my mom and dad got into this awful fight on the front porch (this was when I realized I had done something really bad and...cruel.) My mom was saying something about how I was really gone and how worried she was and how they (her and my dad) never paid attention to me. She was crying and genuinely scared. My dad....he was angry. I remember him saying "Let her leave." and I can't really remember what else but I remember having the feeling that he didn't care if I came or went...something I know now as an adult that he said out of anger and likely, fear.
It was a crappy thing to do. I still regret it and at the time I know that I did it because I just wanted someone to care about my presence. I wanted attention. I was selfish and stupid and in this moment - I was cruel.
When we moved to Arkansas when I was in high school, the big reason I wanted to go out there with Dad was because of the adventure of starting over and also the fact that I'd get to be with Dad without Jessi. It's not something I have readily admitted to anyone...ever. But I did. I just wanted to be with Dad. Us against the world.
Things weren't what I thought they'd be but they were okay. I don't know. I don't really want to talk about those years. The last years when our family was a family or some version of one, anyway.
Week 2 of my freshman year of college was the first time he called me to say "goodbye" I wondered if anyone else in our family got that call. I suppose that should say something. I remember him crying and apologizing and I remember standing in the Wal-mart with my new friends from college not understanding why I was getting this call and why my dad would want to kill himself. Not understanding why I was his "last" call. For a long time I blamed myself for all of it because I was the reason he felt like a failure. I still blame myself for a lot of things but I try to separate it all.
As I got older and things happened between my parents and what I considered a family just no longer existed anymore, I think Dad started spending all of his love on Kristen, my older sister who never got to have Dad when we were younger because of reasons I still don't know or begin to assume or understand. I just know that she didn't get the years we did when we were kids. It has brought me a lot of joy to know that Kristen has built a relationship with Dad - it tells me that my dad is still there. I'm glad she gets to have Dad now. Truly.
There have been times off and on where I felt like we might be able to have a relationship but our conversations always went back to Jessi and I felt like all he wanted from me was information on Jessi and wasn't really invested in me and who I was as my own person. He has always wanted to protect Jessi and to make sure she felt loved and supported...I know that is where his intentions are - not from a bad place... though sometimes they were not the best expressed. But it was never because of me and who I was as his daughter. That's what has hurt the most.
I guess what I have been wrestling is that I don't think Dad ever really had the chance to be my Dad. I was never on that priority list or I was but I was 2nd or 3rd. It's left me with so much doubt about my worth. About my role in everything. About who I am and why I wasn't ... enough.
I know the cliche advice about rising above and not letting your circumstances or past impact who you are today, blah blah blah. I do. I get it. I work every day to let it go and to move on. But Father's Day is hard for me and I know I am not alone.
I'm not angry at him or Jessi or Kristen or anyone. But I am angry.
I'm angry that I was just never important enough to be a priority to him. Or maybe I was and he just didn't think I needed him...but I did and I do.