There is something that I feel compelled to explain, it is something that I often allude to in my writing, and it is something that I am afraid—if not explained properly—may be misunderstood by my daughter when she is older. Of all the fears I have for when she grows up, the one that I worry about most is that she will somehow think it is normal for a child to not speak to her parent—that she will walk away from me and not look back—that she will reject me. This fear is rooted in the fact that I have done exactly that to my father—I have turned my back on him, I have cut him out my life, I no longer speak to him.
The end of my relationship with my father did not occur at the time of my parent’s divorce, nor in the aftermath when he married another woman just weeks later. It did not happen four years after graduating when I discovered that he had lied about making payments toward a college loan, thereby ruining my credit. It did not happen after he turned his back on me, refusing to accept my anger at his thoughtless and irresponsible behavior. Nor did the end come as a result of him not showing up at the hospital to meet my daughter for the first time, or when for the next six months I spent each day wishing that he would finally meet his beautiful granddaughter. It did not end when, after reconciling, we were seldom invited to his home even though he lived just minutes away. It did not come to an end when he divorced his second wife, nor due to the lies he told about having a relationship with a woman six years my junior. The end did not come even after he announced he was marrying for a third time—and that I would be a sister once again—this time to a boy a year younger than my own son. It did not end because of the months—the months throughout most of my entire adult life—without any communication, the missed birthdays, or the general lack of interest in the happenings of our lives. In the end, there was no one specific falling out between us, no argument or misunderstanding that led me to walk away. Instead, our relationship slowly fell apart under a steady deterioration, a slow chipping away of it, until one day there was nothing left but a façade.
My decision to walk away was not an easy one, and it was not meant as a punishment to my father for any one action. In fact, after so many years, I have no anger toward him for the things I have described—the only feeling I have left is a sadness at the knowledge that I will never have the father that I deserve, and my children will never have the grandfather that they would love to have. This final decision came after I truly realized that keeping up the façade took a toll on me mentally—each visit left me feeling like a shell of the woman I am—leaving me unable to be the mother I wanted to be for my own children.
I take my job as my children’s mother more seriously than I do anything else in my life. As I have said before, the very idea of my daughter walking away from me causes me to catch my breath—sending a silent scream throughout my entire body. I do not know if this fear will ever truly subside. I do know, however, something that I don’t believe my father has ever known: there is no greater gift in life than a child, and in order for a relationship to grow between a parent and a child, it needs to be cherished, to be nurtured, to be cared for. I promise both of my children that I will never forget this lesson that I have learned. My advice to my daughter is to never give up on someone you love, but that it is also important to be able to recognize when the tending of a relationship is one-sided, and that sometimes, difficult decisions need to be made in order to preserve your own sense of yourself.