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February 13th

Page history last edited by PBworks 13 years, 9 months ago

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"February 13th" has become my shorthand for The Day My Father Walked Out, which was actually in 1998, when I was 19. I tend to write about it every year in some fashion, if only to keep some kind of count of how many years it's been since I've seen him (by his choice. To date: ten).

 

 

I was nineteen when he left--and have not seen him since, by the way. Not for seven years. My sister’s had dinner with him a few times; she was twelve when it happened and was always sort of a daddy’s girl, but I think she’s given up on trying to get through to him, with the way he stands her up and never calls back. I just--kept to myself. I didn’t want to see him. But he never tried to see me. I think he sent me roses for my birthday that first year, which was so completely in the “too little, too late” category that I didn’t even want to hear it. So I’ve had a hard time dealing with the whole thing, because even when I was a child I thought of him as this sullen shadow in the corner that might explode over nothing at any moment. After I got over the initial shock, and the terror that we were going to lose the house, and after my mother had finished grieving and moved on with her life, I realized that it was for the best, and was in fact probably the best thing that had ever happened to us as a family, that this vast cloud of fear and resentment had been dispelled. I don’t miss him. I don’t want him to contact me.

But at the same time--I feel this grief and this anger that I can’t explain. I can’t figure out how to get over it because I can’t figure out what it is. I mean, intellectually I know that none of it was my fault, and that his sins don’t reflect on me as a person, and that his not even trying to see me has nothing to do with how good a person or a daughter I was or am, I know all these things. If I passed him in the street on a good day, I’d probably give him the evil eye of all time; on a bad day, I’d probably end up in county lock-up for assault. And yet I feel shunned, somehow, like I’m not good enough to keep in touch with. I feel like I’ve been disowned, and it hurts, and it makes me angry, and it makes me want to catch up with him just long enough to yell, “Nuh-uh! I disown YOU!” And I mean, how childish is that?

There is a large part of me that is grimly pleased that I’m finally on my way to being successful, and my father’s name will not be on that book. Because everything I have become has been either without him or in spite of him. He always wanted sons. I know that. He didn’t know what to do with girls--made us play softball for years upon years and made us miserable doing it. He didn’t have a son to carry on his name. And guess what? Now that he has a daughter who could have “carried on his name” on a completely different level, she’s not going to use it. It’s a weird, spiteful little thing to take pleasure in, but once I was able to justify the pseudonym on practical grounds, I jumped at the opportunity to officially cut him out, cut him away. So if you’ve been wondering - that’s what that’s about, and that’s why.

 

 

There were other things I found out when she came back from that dinner, like the fact that my father, who I always knew as a stony, silent man, used to sing along to the oldies station when it was just him and my sister in the car. "He was actually a lot of fun around me," she said, somewhat puzzled. I knew that my sister was simultaneously his favorite and the black sheep, but I'd always had the feeling that I was sort of the one the family's hopes were pinned on; I was the oldest, "the smart one," the one who never got into trouble. So when we were in the car alone, like when he would drive me to school, and I would talk at him and try to get any reaction out of him, anything, just to make things more pleasant, and eventually give up because he wouldn't even answer the simplest attempts at conversation, I assumed it was because he was just Like That. It didn't make things less uncomfortable, but I thought, if he can't talk to me, this must just be what he's like. And then you find out that he's an entirely different person when you're not there; that you're not worth talking to, whether thirty minutes pass or eight years; but that somehow, he expects you to do all the heavy emotional lifting anyway, all over again. But for what? So he can ignore you again? Does he even think of it as "ignoring"? What does he feel? Anything? And all you learn from it is that the anger can scar over and become painless to the touch but there are some things that you might never understand, and some questions that might only get larger with the passage of time.

 

 

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